Interview: Tor Hyams and Lisa Rothauser Preview 'The Songs of Tor and Lisa'

By: Feb. 05, 2016

"The Songs of Tor and Lisa" is about to hit the Feinstein's/54 Below stage on February 8, 2016, but before that BroadwayWorld sat down with Grammy-nominated songwriter? Tor Hyams and veteran Broadway performer Lisa Rothauser to chat about their upcoming concert.

The concert "The Songs of Tor and Lisa" will debut Tor and Lisa's favorite selections from the dynamic duo's four-year collaboration in musical theatre. Featuring performances by Brandon Victor Dixon, John Cariani, Leenya Rideout, Drew Gehling, Josh Grisetti, CJ Eldred, Oliver Thornton, Ryan Speakman, Emily Kratter, and more Broadway superstars TBA, this one-night-only event will showcase music from four of their original musicals currently in development (Stealing Time, Auburn, LIFE. WTF?, and The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You) and a few songs too early to tell WTF they are.

Tor and Lisa chat with BroadwayWorld about what fans can expect, working with some of Broadway's finest and SO much more! Check out the full interview below!

What will "The Songs of Tor and Lisa" showcase?

Tor: We are actually presenting songs from 4 different projects we are writing in various stages of development. One project is Stealing Time, which is our first musical. One project is from a show we are writing with John Cariani. Then there is another project called Auburn. Then there are a few tunes we like to put in the "What if?" category, which is we just imagined part of a show, but we were just excited by the idea of "What if?" So there's that. This cast and working with them is just incredible. We literally were just working with John Cariani and Josh Grisetti doing "Broke." They are just SO funny! The level is out of control. Lisa has more experience working with that because she was in The Producers and stuff like that, but for me it's just a treat.

Lisa: Yeah they are top of the line. A+ talent. You can just count on them to always be in and funny and know their stuff.

How did you guys choose what songs would be featured at the one-night only concert?

Lisa: Originally this sort of came about because our agent wanted to put us out there, which is why we are calling it our 'Coming out party' as writers. You know, we aren't spring chickens but we are sort of new to this business and so we wanted to most importantly showcase the widest range possible of what we are capable of writing and just put our best foot forward. Instead of doing an entire night of one shows stuff, we really felt like we wanted to represent everything that we are about and the various styles we can write in. That's why we pulled a little bit from everything.

Tor: Yeah and also we honed in on the idea that we didn't want to make it about a particular show. We really wanted to make it about the breath of our writing skills like Lisa was saying. With all the variations we are able to achieve because one of the things we are trying to do is kind of make ourselves available to other projects. Just to say, 'Hey, we have this book. We need lyricists.' So we want people to hire us and do stuff like that because it's great writing your own projects, but it's even greater to be paid to write someone else's. We imagine. I will say this, we have been engaged to write some other stuff, but it has kind of been funny, quirky, alternative stuff. We just finished a project with Howie D of the Backstreet Boys. Where we wrote basically a children's musical, a TYA musical, and there is a very prestigious theater in NYC that wants to develop it. So, I think we can stretch and we want people to take notice that we are fun, funny and we can also be serious and poignant. It's fun, but also stressful because a lot of shows you handle two or three known people and we have pretty much everyone who is known. None of them are diva's they are all here to do the work, they are super respectful. Obviously Lisa and I are fun, but I think it's also the songs. They dig them and to me that is everything right there. If the talent loves the music it's great.

Lisa: First of all, the talent would never do it if they didn't love the music and that is the bottom line. No one at this level would ever say, 'Yeah I'm just going to do it!' without hearing what it's first. Every single person asked what it was and wanted to hear the song first and that really is a testament to us and we were really thankful that they were endeared to it and they thought it was of the quality they wanted to be part of and that is another notch on our belt to keep going because this business is hard and it's hard to keep going when you think nothing is really happening, but then you get these things that happen and people who believe in you and it just makes it worth it.

The cast for this is spectacular! How did you reach out to all them?

Tor: We reached out to everyone. We kind of ear marked the exact person we wanted for a particular song or our dream person for a particular song. We got really lucky. We pretty much got everyone we wanted. Obviously, Lisa and I didn't know everyone personally, but you know you go through people and we did A LOT of networking and it took a lot of time. I didn't know Josh Grisetti personally, but my friend produced his last concert 54 Below so we gave him a try and he was very attracted to work with John Cariari. He's a big fan of his and funny enough John has been a fan of Josh. So we will be the first people responsible for pairing them in a show.

Lisa: It's truly spectacular the two of them.

Tor: I swear someone is going to write a whole show around those two gentlemen. So, it's really interesting, but there are always ups and downs. Adam Pascal dropped out last minute, so that was tough and luckily we called a couple of friends and we found someone, Tony Vincent and he can REALLY sing. He kills it. He was obviously a finalist on the voice, but really he was in American Idiot, Jesus Christ Superstar and his voice is sick. It's really cool for us to have a guy like Tony because he's not the typical Broadway talent people think of. He's a rocker. That shows a different color for us and he kind of has the 11 o'clock number of the show. I think that should be really cool and really surprising for people.

Can you give fans a sneak peek at what they will be hearing?

Tor: They are going to be hearing anything from really old school...

Lisa: Vaudevillian

Tor: Vaudevillian, big old musical numbers.

Lisa: Gospel

Tor: We have a straight up gospel number with Brandon Victor Dixon

Lisa: We've got some contemporary musical theater songs.

Tor: All the way to Tony ripping in the high A and B flat. It's a pretty good range. I come from the world of rock n' roll, I've produced records, but I worked with some big rock singers and people always expect that from me and there is some of that but everything has heart and everything has funny. Even if it's sad, it's funny. Lisa and I are very focused on finding the funny above the pain.

Grammy nominated songwriter, Tor Hyams, and veteran Broadway performer, Lisa Rothauser teamed up after Hyams premiered his first original musical, Greenwood, at NYMF 2011. They immediately began collaborating on Stealing Time, which debuted at NYMF 2012, was featured in the Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival and is now being developed. Auburn The Musical is their latest venture and Lisa's one-woman event, LIFE. Who Knew? has played to sold-out audiences at Joe's Pub, 42 West and 54 Below. Under their moniker, Big Clock Music, Hyams and Rothauser wrote Mommy Needs A Timeout for the Nickelodeon Mom Channel (Nickmom) and most recently wrote and recorded an album with Howie D of the Backstreet Boys entitled Howie Do. In 2014, the duo was accepted to the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York and participated in the prestigious Johnny Mercer Writer's Colony at Goodspeed Opera House (2015). In addition, Tor and Lisa continue to compose for commercials, corporations, television and film.

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