BWW Interviews: Scott Coulter on SF Symphony, James Bond and More
Singer Scott Coulter joins Sheena Easton at the San Francisco Symphony July 23 for a concert of favorite Spy film music. The concert will include both instrumental-only and vocal-accompanied hits from James Bond, Austin Powers and more. Other summer film-themed concerts this month include the new Star Trek film and Back to the Future July 16 - 20. Coulter talks about his cabaret career and what to expect from The Spy Who Loved Me concert in our interview below.
Hi Scott. Thank you for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld San Francisco.
It's my pleasure. Thanks for chatting with me about the show.
I'm sure our readers would be interested in your cabaret and theater background. You recently performed some of the music from the new musical Ever After before the show opened. Tell me a bit about your background.
Ever After is the Marcy Heisler/Zina Goldrich musical based on the film of the same name starring Drew Barrymore which just had its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse. I loved it! It's been my great privilege to travel the world singing with Marcy and Zina for the past sixteen years. We've had some wacky adventures and I'm so happy for all the wonderful things they're doing today.
I moved to New York in 1993 after graduating from CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). I did a lot of theatre the first year or two I was here, including the original production of "Floyd Collins" in Philadelphia and the tour of "Forever Plaid" where I got to sing "Cry" every night. While I was on the "Plaid" tour I was flown back to NYC to audition for the Sam Harris role in Grease. I felt so great about that audition. I knew I had booked it. I couldn't wait to get the call. It never came -- not in any form. I never heard from them at all. I decided then and there to start making things happen for myself and not depend on permission from others.
I wrangled a few of my CCM friends and we mounted a musical revue at Don't Tell Mama that ended up winning a Bistro Award a few months later. At the Bistro Awards I met Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich and they asked me to come sing with them. While singing with Marcy and Zina I met Stephen Schwartz who asked me to start singing with him. We've been doing Stephen Schwartz & Friends in various forms since 1999. It's the gift that keeps on giving. One thing keeps leading to another. I can trace it all back to the moment I decided to stop waiting for permission and just started singing.
I've been fortunate to work with Scott Siegel for many years on his Broadway by the Year series and other shows. I'm now a producer of original programming for 54 Below and I'm loving that gig. I've got a great group of folks I work with pretty regularly there and we've created some exciting things. We're doing a tribute to Tina Turner on July 29th and a tribute to Meryl Streep on August 23rd. She's sung in so many films that we're going to do a night of musical Meryl.
Tell us about you as a director and what you're involved with right now.
I just finished the 2015 Broadway's Rising Stars concert. It's an annual concert at The Town Hall in NYC that stars recent musical theatre graduates from around the country. Putting this particular show together is always a highlight of the year for me and the cast this year was off the charts in terms of talent and spirit.
My solo show You've Got a Friend: Carole King, Neil Sedaka and the Music of the Brill Building has been doing great business around the country. And I've created/directed several symphony concerts making the rounds this season (The King: The Music of Elvis, Blockbuster Broadway!). However, the project I'm most thrilled about is a show I'm putting together with the ASCAP Foundation to honor Jerry Herman. The show is called Jerry Herman: The Broadway Leagacy and stars Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte, Klea Blackhurst, Ron Raines, Jason Graae, John Boswell and myself. We're presenting it with several symphonies during the 2015-16 season and each concert will feature young singers from the area colleges.
Your concert with San Francisco Symphony will focus on films like James Bond and Mission Impossible. Do you have any favorite spy films?
I do. I'm a huge movie buff and embrace all genres. My favorite spy films would include the Jason Bourne trilogy (with Matt Damon), True Lies, The Recruit, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Munich and The Lives of Others. The Lives of Others is not a typical spy movie but it counts in my mind and it is one of the best films ever made. Oh, and Goldfinger, of course.
How about a favorite film score or theme from a spy movie? Both to listen to and to sing.
One of my oldest friends was a film score fanatic when we were kids. He had the album for every score you can imagine. His favorites were the scores of Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry. Apparently his tastes rubbed off on me. I would say the John Barry Bond scores are the best of the genre. My favorite spy song to sing is "Nobody Does it Better," which was written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager.
What makes music from action-spy films so intriguing? Is there a particular trait about these film soundtracks that you enjoy?
The score to an action film has so much to do with the thrill of the whole enterprise. A film without a score would lose a great deal of the excitement and suspense needed to take us on the ride. What I love is how diverse action-spy music can be while accomplishing the task.
Have you performed these songs in your cabaret career? Or is this something new for you?
A little bit of both. While I've done several of the songs in this show before in various cabaret/concert evenings, the kick is that Sheena Easton is doing a lot of them this time around. Isn't that great?!? I love that. A lot of the solo stuff I'm doing is new to me -- like "A View to a Kill" which sounds fantastic with a full symphonic treatment. Ryan Shirar did all the orchestra charts and he did a fantastic job.
You will join Sheena Easton (who sang "For Your Eyes Only" in one of the James Bond films) for the concert. What is it like to work with her? What can readers expect from the two of you in the concert?
Well, it's a dream come true really. I'm a huge fan of hers -- that voice! So getting to work with her is a total joy. She could not be nicer or more generous to work with. And to hear her sing "For Your Eyes Only" is beyond thrilling.
We cover a lot of musical styles and sound in this show. It's not all James Bond-type spy music. There are all kinds of spies, you know, and the music reflects that. There are several Academy Award-winning songs -- including "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy and "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair -- and there's a great medley of songs that the NSA listens to when spying on others. I love that one. While all the solo numbers in the show are terrific -- some fun, some dramatic, some brassy -- I love the duets. I don't want to give anything away, but the show's title might give you an idea of the finale.
Just for fun: Did you ever wish you could be a spy?
Ha! You know, I did. I still do some days. I'm fascinated by the whole idea of spies and secret agents and double agents. I'm not sure I have the nerves and the cool factor required, but I think it would a the most exciting way to make a living. Years ago I read Robert Littel's "The Company: A Novel of the CIA" and wished I had been recruited to the spy life.
The San Francisco Symphony presents The Spy Who Loved Me July 23 at the Davies Symphony Hall. Visit http://www.sfsymphony.org/ for tickets and information.
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