Review: Joshua Turchin's COMPOSERS AT THE GREEN ROOM 42 Is a Standout

The evening is a parade of songs with guests and gusto (and they talk a bit about their work, too)

By: Apr. 01, 2024
Review: Joshua Turchin's COMPOSERS AT THE GREEN ROOM 42 Is a Standout
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A showcase making the case for the work of young songwriters at The Green Room 42 began with the rollicking “Captain’s Code,” a song about pirates sung with appropriate brio by Michael Thatcher.  He needed to go on first in order to be able to dash out to his regular job – he plays a couple of roles in Wicked and is also the understudy for the Wizard of Oz.  So, he had to hit the road to get to the yellow brick road.  But it was the evening’s host, Joshua Turchin, who’s the real wizard in the room!  The talented guy had written the aforementioned number for his musical-in-progress and the program concluded strongly with him singing another item from the score, along with a couple of things he co-wrote. In between pirate pleasures, he accompanied most of the other performers on piano (one of 11 instruments he plays, although he didn’t bring any of the others). His first musical – book, music, and lyrics — written when he was 12 years old, was produced in New York, with him playing a role, and got a cast album.  He’s no stranger to performing, having done his first national tour, A Christmas Story, at age 9, and New York audiences have seen him in Forbidden Broadway, as a regular participant in group shows at this venue and 54 Below (musical director, singing, hosting), etc.  A real live wire who lights up a room, his singing and piano work have style, personality, polish, and bright energy. And he won’t even be out of his teens for another couple of years.  Turbocharged Turchin has a sensitive side, too, as he demonstrated with “Does It Make You Feel Better?” – written in collaboration with Victoria Shaw.  It’s a powerful, poignant piece addressing bullying.   

He presented three fellow tunesmiths of his generation with whom he’s crossed paths before and, admirably, wants to champion: Grace Yurchuk, Katherine Lynn-Rose, and August Greenwood.  Grace Yurchuk’s turns were the only segments where he turned over the keyboard to a guest, as she played for herself, following bits of Q&A set-ups about inspirations for autobiographical subject matter that mattered to her.  “99 Days” is this NYU student’s statement about college graduation and, amusingly, she explained frankly that one major goal was to get wide online exposure for her material and that motivated her to create “Viral” — “What’s it gonna take for me to go viral?” goes the lyric which she carried off with caffeinated determination.  

Katherine Lynn-Rose, with appearances on TV’s competition series Canada’s Got Talent under her belt, showed confidence and stage presence.  Some of the material the Cornell University student shared boldly confronts “other people’s expectations” that she’s “trying to let go of”; she briefly discussed the pressures of academia and pleasing her parents who emigrated from China.  Ava Locknar nailed the issue delivering an impactful vocal for the writer’s “Price of Perfection.”  

Talented August Greenwood, getting an early start in teenhood writing/co-writing musical theatre, has an interest in real-life figures from the past.  A collaboration with Nalah Aiden Palmer resulted in Two Maiden Ladies, inspired by the story of two women in the 1800s who were married. Going back to the century before that, Marie Antoinette’s life inspired a musicalization titled Antonia, and the Green Room Greenwood showstopper came with a selection from that in a fiery solo by January Eyler.     

Others singing effectively on the bill were Janeen Kyle, Erica Faye, Clark Mantilla, and Maxwell “Sushi” Soucy.  To be precise, the title Composers at The Green Room is not ideal, as it can suggest giving short shrift to the importance of the person who wrote the lyrics, whether that’s the same person or not.  And, unintentionally but frustratingly, the words belted, crooned, or warbled, by some of Joshua Turchin’s guests too often got lost in the speed, excitement, or sound mix, at least from my seat at the front table near the entrance door, on the stage left side.  (The piano was on the other side of the stage.) The event, advertised as “a night discussing behind-the-scenes experiences of songwriters, singers, and storytelling” arguably oversold the discussion/“insider” aspect, as the commentaries were generally brief and casual, with mostly terse answers instead of thoughtful, substantial back-and-forth exchanges and opinions, with anecdotes or analyses.  A few more minutes of that kind of thought-out content, perhaps with a few writers sharing the stage and sharing viewpoints, would be a better use of time than the constant spoken directives for the audience to applaud the many re-entrances and exits of the revolving parade of participants.  There was a mention of some pieces being “works in progress” that would likely change or be expanded; in future programs, a side-by-side comparison of an initial draft and a later one could be instructive.  However, the modicum of getting into the weeds of the craft seemed to be enough for others in the cheering audience ready to get into the songs as showpieces.  

These Composers at the Green Room weren’t as “green” as would be assumed by merely noting their chronological ages — and, taking the stage and introducing their work, these early-bloomer composers were certainly composed! 

See the full set of photos from Composers at The Green Room. (Header photo credit: Angela of York)

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