Angela Sclafani & Benjamin Velez To Receive This Year's Fred Ebb Award For Excellence in Musical Theatre Songwriting

By: Nov. 11, 2019
Angela Sclafani & Benjamin Velez To Receive This Year's Fred Ebb Award For Excellence in Musical Theatre Songwriting

The Fred Ebb Foundation (Mitchell S. Bernard, Trustee) in association with the Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) will present the fifteenth annual Fred Ebb Award for aspiring musical theatre songwriters to Angela Sclafani & Benjamin Velez. The award, named in honor of the late award-winning lyricist Fred Ebb, will be presented by Kate Baldwin on Monday, December 2nd from 6-8pm at a by-invitation-only ceremony in the Penthouse Lounge of The American Airlines Theater.

The Fred Ebb Award recognizes excellence in musical theatre songwriting, by a songwriter or songwriting team that has not yet achieved significant commercial success. The award is meant to encourage and support aspiring songwriters to create new works for the musical theatre. The prize includes a $60,000 award. In addition to the monetary prize, the Fred Ebb Foundation will produce a one-night-only showcase of the winner's work. The Fred Ebb Foundation is funded by royalties from Mr. Ebb's vast catalogue of work. Past winners include John Bucchino (2005), Steve Lutvak & Robert L. Freedman (2006), Peter Mills (2007), Adam Gwon (2008), Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich (2009), Douglas J. Cohen (2010), Jeff Blumenkrantz (2011), Sam Willmott (2012), Michael Kooman & Christopher Dimond (2013), Chris Miller & Nathan Tysen (2014), Stacey Luftig & Phillip Palmer (2015), Thomas Mizer & Curtis Moore (2016), Shaina Taub (2017), and Will Reynolds & Eric Price (2018).

The selection panel is comprised of Foundation Trustee Mitchell S. Bernard; actress Montego Glover; lyricist and composer Sheldon Harnick; music director David Loud; and actress Kirsten Scott. Each year, the Foundation also makes a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Angela Sclafani is a New York City-based composer and performer. As a creative and multi-hyphenate artist, she is often synchronously performing, writing, and co-producing her projects. Because of her versatile work in both the theater and music worlds, Angela has had the opportunity to perform with renowned artists such as Todd Almond, Courtney Love, Shaina Taub, Heidi Rodewald, & Years and Years. Her work has been performed in venues such as The Beacon Theater, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, 54 Below, Ars Nova, and Rockwood Music Hall.

In September 2019, Angela's new song cycle, PASSION PROJECT (vol.1), premiered at The Green Room 42 under the direction of Mary Birnbaum. The cycle contains love songs from incredible unheard women to the objects of their careers. The first volume of the continuing series featured performances by Tonya Pinkins, Desi Oakley, Grace McLean, Katie Thompson, Arielle Jacobs, Lexi Lawson, and more. Angela's first musical, The Other Side of Paradise, premiered in Ars Nova's ANT Fest in 2017 under the direction of Hunter Bird and is still in development.

When not busy with her theatrical projects and acting gigs, Angela writes, performs, and records her original music. She has independently released two EP's, Your Ghost and Blossom, and frequently performs live at the notable singer-songwriter venue, Rockwood Music Hall. Angela's music combines confessional lyrics with passionate and emotional vocals, often echoing the work of singers like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Bonnie Raitt. This year, her original song, "Your Ghost," received first place in the Great American Song Contest's Adult Contemporary category and was praised by judges for its "engagingly original lyrical story, inventively appealing imagery and smartly crafted melodic design."

Angela is a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist and a 2017 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award Semifinalist. She has developed work at The Orchard Project Greenhouse Residency, Fresh Ground Pepper's BRB Artist Retreat, and Musical Theatre Factory's 4x15. Angela was also featured in Rattlestick Playwrights Theater's New Songs Now series as well as NYMF's Intersecting Chords concert. In support of her creative endeavors, Angela was named a 2018 Richie Jackson Artist Fellow and was awarded the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust Grant. She graduated from NYU Tisch with a BFA in Drama.

Benjamin Velez is a composer/lyricist born and raised in Miami, FL. He is a Columbia graduate, where he wrote the 114th Annual Varsity Show, and a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater workshop since 2010 (Harrington Award in 2012). His work has been developed at Musical Theater Factory, Ars Nova, NAMT, NYMF, The Civilians, 4@15, Joe's Pub, and The Public Theater. Benjamin was previously a Fred Ebb Award finalist (2012) and a Jonathan Larson Grant finalist (2017). His musical Afterland with collaborator Katie Hathaway had readings at both the Yale Institute for Music Theater (2014) and the York Theater (2016), both directed by Mark Brokaw. He was a 2017 Sundance Artist at the UCROSS Foundation, and a 2018 artist in residence. His musical Starblasters had a reading at Dixon Place in 2018, directed by Daniel Goldstein. His musical Borderline, with book writer Aryanna Garber, was the 2018 Weston Playhouse New Musical Award winner and was developed during their time as 2018-2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellows. Most recently Borderline was workshopped at the 2019 O'Neill Musical Theater Conference this past summer, directed by Jaki Bradley. His new musical Kiss My Aztec, written with John Leguizamo, Tony Taccone, and David Kamp, and directed by Tony Taccone, had its world premiere at Berkeley Rep in June 2019 followed by a run at the La Jolla Playhouse in fall 2019.

As a writer, lyricist, composer and director, Fred Ebb made incalculable contributions to the New York theatrical community. Mr. Ebb is a Tony®, Grammy®, Emmy®, Olivier® and Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award winning recipient. Fred Ebb's first professional songwriting assignment came in 1953 when he and Phil Springer were hired by Columbia Records to write a song for Judy Garland called "Heartbroken." Mr. Ebb was introduced to composer John Kander in 1964 by music publisher Tommy Valando and became one of the most legendary songwriting teams in American history. The first successful collaboration was on the song "My Coloring Book," recorded by Barbra Streisand. Their second theatrical collaboration, Flora, the Red Menace, created a star out of Liza Minnelli in her Tony® Award-winning Broadway debut. In 1966, their collaboration Cabaret, opened and received seven Tony® Awards including Best Musical and Best Score. A 1972 movie version of Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight awards and was nominated for nine Golden Globe Awards and won three including Best Picture, Musical or Comedy. The same year, the songwriting team wrote a number of songs for Minnelli's television special "Liza With a Z," which received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program - Variety or Popular Music. In 1975, the two wrote the Broadway musical Chicago, directed by Bob Fosse and starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. The musical was successfully revived 20 years later at City Center ENCORES! and subsequently transferred to Broadway where it is currently the longest running revival in Broadway history. In 1977, the team collaborated with Martin Scorsese on the movie New York, New York; the title song was introduced by Minnelli and later recorded by Frank Sinatra becoming the unofficial theme song of New York City. The Minnelli Broadway vehicle The Act also opened that year. After a four-year absence, Mr. Ebb and Mr. Kander returned with Woman of the Year (1981), The Rink (1984), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1985) and Steel Pier (1997). They were honored by the Kennedy Center with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Miramax's 2002 feature film Chicago was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture and was nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards and won three, including Best Picture, Musical or Comedy.

At the time of Mr. Ebb's passing, he and Mr. Kander were at work on several new musicals. Curtains, starring David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk, debuted at CTG/Ahmanson Theatre in 2006 and came to Broadway in 2007, receiving a Tony Nomination for Best Musical as well as a Best Score nomination for Kander & Ebb. In 2007, All About Us was staged at the Westport Country Playhouse. The Scottsboro Boys opened on Broadway in 2010 and received 12 Tony Nominations, including Best Musical and Best Score, and in 2016 concluded a run in the West End at the Garrick Theatre. Rob Marshall and Sam Mendes's Tony Award winning production of Cabaret returned to Broadway in 2014, with Alan Cumming reprising his role as the Emcee and Three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams in her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles. The Visit, starring Chita Rivera and George Hearn, received a staging at DC's Signature Theatre in 2008, a concert staging in NYC in the fall of 2011, and a production in Williamstown, starring Chita Rivera and Roger Rees and directed by John Doyle. In the spring of 2015, The Visit opened on Broadway and received five Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Score for Kander & Ebb.