BWW Interviews: Deedee O'Malley and Janet Cole Valdez Dish on TUTS Underground's WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP
Have you made it to TUTS Underground's world premiere of WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP? If you haven't, you don't have much time left! This one-woman musical follows the adventures of a New York actress, Rita Donatella, as she vies for her dream role in a film with Johnny Depp. Deedee O'Malley took time out of their busy schedules to dish with BWW-Houston about WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP. While they were missing their other partner-in-crime, Bettie Ross, these two writers shared with us why you don't want to miss this heartfelt and laugh-out-loud show.
BWW: I was looking at both of your bios recently, and it seems that both of you have impressive backgrounds in the music world. So, what came first? Did you always have this deep interest in music, and did you always want to be playwrights as well?
Janet Cole Valdez: Well, it is going to be different for each one of us. For myself, I was writing plays since I was five. I have been writing songs since I was three, so they were both very dear to my heart.
Deedee O'Malley: I've been writing songs since I was a little girl as well, and I got into acting and being in a lot of musicals throughout my life. It's really nice to be able to bring all of the talents to one platform, and musical theatre absolutely does that. There are other talents as well such as Janet directing and me acting. We throw ourselves into the roles of director and actor when we are launching or working out a show, putting it in a workshop form, just to get it all out there and work out all of the kinks. That's a lot of fun as well.
BWW: That's great. So, for your musicals, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Janet Cole Valdez: It is funny that you should ask this question because Deedee and I have cried on each other's shoulders and laughed ourselves silly about different adventures we had in the music business in Los Angeles. Actually, there was a specific deal that we were involved in, in the music business, that inspired WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP. The show is actually semi-autobiographical.
Deedee O'Malley: Yeah, we are both starry-eyed dreamers who never believe that anything is impossible. [Laughs] We risked everything including our mortgages, furniture, car payments, and sometimes even food to make our dream happen.
Janet Cole Valdez: Yeah, we actually had and actual deal. Rita's movie role in the musical is a metaphor for this deal that we had. We were waiting for it, and waiting for it, and waiting for it. We were just going through highs and lows. One day we just looked at each other. We had wanted to write a musical together for so long and we said, "Oh my God. We are going to write a musical about this deal." Then, we brought in Bettie Ross. She is just a beautiful, wonderful arranger and composer. She really completed the team.
Deedee O'Malley: The musical speaks for so many artists in the world because artists are dreamers. They live in that world and that's what makes their art so beautiful. But, at the same time, the realities of eating and living in the physical world aren't as much of an interest to an artist. [Laughs]
Janet Cole Valdez: Also, we had another very tragic event that happened. Deedee lost her most beloved brother - he lost his fight with cancer - and we realized that would be such a poignant element to bring into the musical. People get so caught up on the deal that they are trying to get, what they are doing with their career, or what they feel. They just get so caught up and focused on that and sometimes forget what is really important in life until it's too late. That's a major theme in WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP.
Deedee O'Malley: What really matters, that's a theme in WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP.
BWW: I think that sounds like a wonderful piece of theatre. Tell me a little more about your collaboration together. This musical seems to have a piece of both of you in it.
Janet Cole Valdez: So true. [Laughs]
Deedee O'Malley: The character of Rita is a total morph of both of us. If you morphed both of our personalities together, you would wind up with Rita. [Laughs]
Janet Cole Valdez: We have Bettie Ross as well, and she is sort of our anchor. She's great! [Laughs]
Deedee O'Malley: She definitely rounds out the trio and is an amazing arranger. She takes our songs and lyrics and puts these beautiful piano arrangements to them that are just unbelievably beautiful and cutting-edge. She gets the humor. The whole thing with us is that we have a combination of humor and real truth that comes out in the show. Life is difficult. You have to laugh at it, and you have to make fun of it.
Janet Cole Valdez: You can't take yourself too seriously, that's for sure.
Deedee O'Malley: Right! And never give up your dream. That's the whole point. The musical speaks volumes to any artist in the world that needs encouragement to keep going with what they want to do in life. It says to keep persisting to get what you want.
BWW: It's my understanding that this is the world premiere of this musical. Am I correct?
Janet Cole Valdez: That's right. We did a little workshop in Los Angeles, but we have changed it, we've reworked it, and we've added new songs. This is the official world premiere of WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP.
BWW: Why do you think Houston audiences should be excited to see WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP?
Janet Cole Valdez: I have to tell you the truth. The members of the crew that were at rehearsal were in tears at the end of the rehearsal. They came up to us and they said that everyone can relate to this musical. Everybody has experienced some part of this musical. You will leave feeling touched and feeling inspired. That's why I'm hoping that people come and see it. That's what we live to do. We live to inspire people.
BWW: That's great! May I ask why you both decided to make the musical a one-woman show?
Deedee O'Malley: When I was a little girl, I saw Lily Tomlin in THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, and I made a pact to myself that I would do a one-woman show. As I started getting older and writing music for different musicals I thought, "Well gee, and why not write it?" I couldn't think of a better partner than Janet Cole Valdez. She's just the bomb. The wonderful thing about all three partners is that we're not only award-winning writers and composers with deep respect and admiration for each other, but we are also dear friends. So, three girls got together who absolutely adore and admire each other.
Janet and I sat and really sculpted this character - not only from my obstacles that I have been through but hers as well. We really put together a life that I think is very symbolic of many, many artists in this world: actors, singers, people trying to get publishing deals, and anyone who is dealing with Hollywood or New York. They should never give up that dream. Also, while they are attaining it, they should remember that a lot of that is stuff that stuff that shouldn't be taken too seriously. They should just keep persisting and value your relationships along the way. As writers we had an incredible relationship with each other. We love each other, so it's been really fun along the way.
Janet Cole Valdez: I just want to say that in our workshop that we did in North Hollywood, Deedee starred in that version of it. When we wrote it, that's what we had in mind. Then the show itself took on a life of its own. When other people told us that this show is so good, we realized that it would be wonderful if there were lots of actresses playing Rita in many different cities. We have a dear friend named Sabrina Goodall, she is one of our investors and will be one of our producers in the near future. When she brought the show to Dayna Steele, they brought it to Bruce Lumpkin at TUTS. Bruce fell in love with it, and when they said they wanted to cast Brooke Wilson, we were ecstatic. It's just a beautiful, perfect amalgamation of all of these people coming together.
Deedee O'Malley: Yeah! In addition to that, it's really interesting how we kind of wrote it in a bubble thinking that it was mainly about the struggle of the entertainment business. It's amazing how many people in the world have a hobby or a passion that has nothing to do with the entertainment world that can completely relate to this. Maybe you want to be a heart surgeon and have your own obstacles. Whatever you want to do in life, you're going to relate to this on a very basic level in terms of dreams and ambitions. It really spoke volumes to Sabrina and Dayna, and they were so happy to pass it onto Bruce Lumpkin who also resonated with it. They are doing a wonderful job.
Deedee O'Malley: Brooke Wilson is hysterical. [Laughs]
BWW: I think it is amazing that three dear friends came together to create this piece. I know this answer will be different for both of you, but what has been your favorite part about this experience?
Deedee O'Malley: You know, we were just talking about that this morning. We were saying how every little step from picking out little props for our workshop in North Hollywood, to the epiphany we had coming up with a great chorus, or even just the trip to Starbucks one day, it's a complete joy to work with people you love. Sometimes I feel like we have to just smack ourselves in the face because we should be getting a ticket from the Fun Police. [Laughs]
Janet Cole Valdez: I agree completely. The fact that so many people who have seen it have come up to us and said, "I laughed, I cried, and I've never been so inspired." That's our reward.
Deedee O'Malley: I think people go to the theatre to be moved. You'll go to this show thinking you're going to see a comedy, but you'll be tricked into feeling some deeper feelings that maybe you weren't expecting. You'll be happy in the end for sure. [Laughs]
BWW: So, let's talk about the music. What inspired the music for this show?
Janet Cole Valdez: I personally have a pet peeve. My pet peeve is when I go to the theatre, sit in a two hour show, and at the end of it am unable to remember one melody that I've just heard. I believe that songs should be catchy. They should fill you up, and you should leave the theatre singing. Above all, that was our goal for every single song. As you know, we are both pop song writers. We write in many different styles. Of course, Bettie is unbelievable. We wanted songs that would fill people up and leave them singing.
Deedee O'Malley: It better be really great music. To me, that's what it's all about. I think in the late 40s to the early 70s there were a few songs that came out of musicals that landed on the radio. Somewhere after that it became less and less. Our intention is to bring catchy music, popular music, and beautiful music back into the world and have it crossover again.
BWW: Well, I live in New York now, but you two make me wish I could be in Houston to see the world premiere of WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP.
Janet Cole Valdez: Well, we are hoping to go to New York after Houston! You can see that one for sure!
Deedee O'Malley: We are hoping to launch the show in Houston, and then take it off-Broadway and around the country. The musical just speaks such volumes to all people - anyone with a dream - and we really want to help people and encourage them to never give up on what they love.
BWW: Last question! Do you two have any future plans to collaborate on another musical?
Janet Cole Valdez: It's funny you should ask!
Deedee O'Malley: Absolutely! We are halfway through our next one. We're really super-excited about it, and it's going to have a much bigger cast!
Now in its final weekend of performances, you don't want to miss the world premiere of WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP. Running through January 31 in the Zilkha Hall of The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. For more information about TUTS Underground, or to book your tickets to WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP please visit http://tutsunderground.com.
Image courtesy of TUTS Underground.
From This Author Kristina Nungaray