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BWW Interview: Matthew Sklar & David Klotz Talk About Scoring THE PROM!

The co-composers share what it was like to create a film score remotely, in quarantine, from two separate coasts.

BWW Interview: Matthew Sklar & David Klotz Talk About Scoring THE PROM!

Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of "The Prom" is on its way to Netflix, premiering tomorrow, December 11th!

THE PROM features a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, James Corden and Nicole Kidman.

Ahead of the release, BroadwayWorld had the opportunity to speak to Matthew Sklar and David Klotz, the co-composers on the musical film.

Matthew Sklar is a two-time Tony and Emmy Award-nominated composer for his work on Broadway's The Wedding Singer, nominated for five Tony Awards including "Best Musical" and "Best Original Score"; and NBC's stop-motion animated TV special Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas, starring Jim Parsons. Other notable credits include the critically acclaimed Broadway musical The Prom, nominated for seven Tony Awards including "Best Musical" and "Best Original Score"; Broadway's musical Elf, based on the beloved holiday classic; and more. Sklar is also the recipient of the highest honors in the theatre industry, including the Dramatists Guild Frederick Loewe Award for Dramatic Composition, the ASCAP Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award, and the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award.

David Klotz is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning music editor for his work on shows such as HBO's Game of Thrones, starring Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington; FX's American Horror Story, starring Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange and Evan Peters; and Netflix's Stranger Things, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Gaten Matarazzo. Aside from his co-composer credits, David Klotz also co-wrote and performed the theme song to the 2001 Robert Rodriguez blockbuster hit Spy Kids, starring Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara; as well as produced and arranged a cover of the 1984 classic hit "The NeverEnding Story" on Season 3 of Stranger Things. Other notable music editor credits include Ryan Murphy's Netflix series Ratched, starring Sarah Paulson; Hollywood, starring Dylan McDermott; Fox's 9-1-1, starring Peter Krause and Angela Bassett; FX's Pose, starring MJ Rodriguez; and more.

Read the full interview below!

I see "The Prom" as a sort of love letter to musical theatre, celebrating all kinds of musical theatre subgenres. There's a current of nostalgia running through the score of "The Prom" - as in the songs themselves - for a golden age of musical theatre, and specifically the golden age of the movie musical. Can you tell me about scoring something that was both so broad and so specific?

Matthew Sklar: The show took eight years to figure out how we were going to tell that story, and with those songs, and really pay homage to the history of musical theatre - which is certainly where I live. When Ryan Murphy decided to make a movie out of it, it was such an amazing opportunity to expand upon that, and make it a big movie musical. We don't get too many of them these days! It was such a wonderful opportunity to expand on the songs, and - the big thing that was really different from the Broadway version is that, in the Broadway version, we only had nine musicians in the pit, and for the cast recording we were able to get an extra six. So that's fifteen musicians in total. And when we recorded the songs for the movie, we had, I think, between eighty and ninety musicians.

So it's just such a huge difference in the colors you can use. Because the scope is just so much larger for movies, and that's such an incredible opportunity that doesn't come along very often.

We were working on the score - in a movie musical, obviously the songs have to be the main event, and there are eighteen of them. So, while the score was being discussed - it has to frame the songs without having the same weight as the songs, or it would kind of just feel all big, all the time. And nobody knows Ryan Murphy's aesthetic better than David.

David Klotz: Yeah! We decided early on that the score should be very minimal. We wanted to give the ears a break in between the big numbers, and we also found it was effective for the emotional scenes to have the score be sort of smaller instrumentation. And Ryan really responded to that. He really liked how we were able to take some of the melodies from the songs and find places where they could be effective in the story.

Walk me through a day of what it was like working on this score. Were you able to be together in person?

David Klotz: No, actually!

Matthew Sklar: Quite the opposite! By the time we were in post-production, the pandemic was in full swing, so it was a really remote collaboration. I was on the East coast, and David was in L.A., and it was a wild experience. It was all emails and phone calls and sending MIDI files and audio files back and forth.

David Klotz: Yeah, and it's funny because we did our scoring session in London. They were up in London, and I was in L.A., and Matt was in Jersey, and we were trying to get it done. I still haven't met Matt in person!

Matthew Sklar: We've talked MANY hours on the phone, but we haven't met in person! Only in today's day and age could that happen.

David Klotz: It was a challenge! But I feel like we got everything done that we wanted to accomplish. I'm really proud of the score. And I loved that we got to take the beautiful melodies that Matt wrote for the songs and incorporate them throughout the score. One of my favorite moments was when the character Principal Hawkins meets Dee Dee in the hallway for the first time - we get a hint of "We Look to You," sort of his love letter to musicals and his idol. I think that worked really well, and Ryan loved how those moments worked, too.

That song hit me so specifically right now, and I feel like it's going to hit audiences hard. You couldn't have known while writing that it was going to be so resonant to a global pandemic, but how do you think that knowledge will affect the way it lands?

Matthew Sklar: I was blown away when I saw what Ryan did with it. It's so beautifully shot, and how he and the design team created this gorgeous fantasy version of Broadway, and then made me miss theatre so much!

The fact that we can't go right now - watching the movie makes you feel like you're in a theater. It's the next best thing - the closest thing that we have right now. And, you know, when Chad [Begeulin] and I wrote that song, it went through a few versions. We had a totally different version of it in Atlanta, and it had totally different lyrics. It was called "We Look to the Stars." And we kind of rewrote it and wanted it to be more directly pointed towards Dee Dee, and not singing more in general.

So we made it more specific, and I changed a lot of the accompaniment. In Atlanta, it was very twinkly, a lot of high, celestial kind of things, and then we grounded it. We wanted it to feel more grounded for Broadway. Our amazing music producers for the movie were able to take what we did on Broadway and create a brand new orchestration. It's this gorgeous string arrangement of the song, and it's so emotional, and so moving.

David, this is your first time co-composing a feature film. You've primarily worked as a music editor. Could you tell me a little bit about what that transition looks like for you? How does one role differ from the other?

David Klotz: I've worked as a music editor. I've sort of worn a bunch of hats in the music department for many years over many, many shows, primarily as a music editor. I've been in the passenger seat with many composers over the years, so it wasn't a big stretch for me to compose music. I've written a lot of music for other projects and things. But this was an exciting first film to work on.

I've known Ryan and his camp for many years on all the shows I worked on. So that was helpful for me - going in knowing what they liked, and what they would respond to. I feel like I had that advantage from the start.

Matthew, this is your first collaboration with Ryan Murphy, but, David, you've worked with him on pretty much everything. Can you talk a little about your relationship?

David Klotz: Ryan is amazingly talented. I've been on since "Glee," which was the first project I worked on as music editor. I've learned a lot over the years, in terms of what his musical tastes are. I think he has really great instincts. He knows what he likes, and he knows what works. I think that's why his storytelling is so good. He just knows the right choices, and it's always been a pleasure to work with someone who has that strong opinion about things.

Can you tell me a little about what you learned from each other in this collaboration?

Matthew Sklar: Well, David is super talented. He's a really great collaborator. He's really kind. It's been a pleasure to work on this with him. He knows this world better than I do, so I sort of follow his lead. He's just great.

David Klotz: I would say the same about you, Matthew. I totally agree. You know the other world that I don't know! Actually, I learned a great deal - pulling apart some of the songs, the melodies. It was really fascinating to see how you work. I absolutely love the songs for this - they're gorgeous.

And also, sometimes I would write a cue, and I would send it off to Matthew, and he would say, well, we can re-voice this differently. He'd send back a MIDI file, and I'd be like, oh my God, that's brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?

I learned so much from Matthew in that regard, too.

Matthew Sklar: Aw, thanks, man.

How did you each find yourselves where you are in this business?

Matthew Sklar: I started as a rehearsal pianist with the dream of being a Broadway composer. I worked my way through pit orchestras and regional theaters. I got very lucky - I was a freshman in college and I landed a job as a sub keyboard at Les Mis on Broadway. I was going to school at NYU, so it was just a subway ride away.

I got a very early start. And then I met Chad, my writing partner, who writes lyrics for most of the things I work on, while I was in college. And we just kept writing, and trying, and doing workshops and readings, and ultimately we got a show on Broadway. Then we got another, and "The Prom" is our third.

And then Ryan Murphy showed up and decided to make a movie out of it! I've kind of climbed up the ladder from being a rehearsal pianist, really. I still feel like one.

David Klotz: I started the same - right out of college, I was answering the phones at a film studio, and the head of music walked in. I asked her if I could be her assistant, and then I was, and sort of learned everything from that point of view about what it was like to make music for movies. I watched all of the roles. I saw what a music supervisor did, a music editor, a composer, a scoring mixer. It was fascinating. I kind of wanted to do it all.

But, for the longest time, I got lucky, and I landed in the role of a music editor, and that's been a fantastic career. I've worked on a lot of great shows, from "Game of Thrones" to "Stranger Things," and the feature film "Iron Man." I've worked with all sorts of amazingly talented composers and musicians. All along the way, I've been writing my own music, and I still keep doing that. I hope to keep doing more of it, as well!

Matthew, you co-wrote this "Wear Your Crown" end credits songs. Can you tell me a little bit about that process?

Matthew Sklar: So, the movie ends - the story ends - with "It's Time to Dance," from the Broadway musical. It's a huge finale, like a five-minute song, and it goes to all these very emotional places. It ends very triumphant. And Ryan wanted to, for the end credit, kind of continue the story a bit, but also have a celebratory sound that had a completely different musical vocabulary than what had just come before it.

He said he wanted a real pop song. And Adam [Anders] and Peer [Astrom], who produced all of the music for the movie, are amazing pop song writers. So the idea was to make a combined theatrical pop song. So, they asked that Chad and I work with Adam and Peer to create this song.

So, Adam and Peer created the really cool track. They worked on the hook. And Chad and I worked on the verse and the bridge, and then Chad made that little rap section that ended up being done by Meryl Streep.

Ryan wanted the women of the cast to sing it - a real empowering song about pride. What I love about it and the way it fits with the picture is it allows you to sit in the feeling of joy that you just had when our two girls have their big moment. You get to sit in that feeling of joy for another three minutes.

And it also feels like you're in the middle of the greatest party that ever happened. I really love how it works - I thought it was a really great way to end the film.

David Klotz: I can't help but start dancing every time it comes on. I love it so much.

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