PART OF THE PLAN: Why A New Dan Fogelberg Musical Has Its Roots Firmly Planted in Music City
With only days before the first preview performance of Part of the Plan (followed by a gala opening night on Sunday, September 10), the new musical drawing its score and inspiration from the catalog of troubadour Dan Fogelberg, the widely respected singer/songwriter who spent much of his early career in Nashville, attention should be paid to the motivating factors that led the producers to debut their show in Music City - with a look at the show's roots that are firmly planted in Tennessee.
The musical, of which Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center is a co-producer, is the first original work featured as part of the center's annual HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC series. But it's far from the first original musical to debut at TPAC, dating as far back as 1989's A Rock Wedding, which starred Lari White in a role that won her a 1990 First Night Award for outstanding lead actress in a musical, long before she became known as a country music artist. More recently, the Jerry Lewis-Marvin Hamlisch-Rupert Holmes-led The Nutty Professor musical premiered at TPAC in 2012, in hopes of continuing its journey on to Broadway.
However, Part of the Plan is the first show of its ilk - a new and hopefully Broadway-bound musical that's kicking off the 2017-18 HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC series, a choice about which season ticket holders are justifiably excited - to face its first date, if you will, with audiences and critics alike.
TPAC was selected by producers K-Squared Entertainment, the Production Company headed by Kate Atkinson and Karen Harris, the two women who have spearheaded efforts - and written the book - to bring the show to life onstage. Due to Fogelberg's deep ties to Nashville and his considerable influence on a variety of luminaries in virtually every music genre, Music City seems the appropriate place to allow the developmental musical to, well, develop. It's here in Nashville that producers hope the show will find its footing and to gain the attention of the national press and other potential investors to set the production on a course to an ultimate home on Broadway.
Fogelberg's connection to Nashville is astonishing, particularly to the uninformed who are learning of it only now, but also to those people who've long called Tennessee home and who count themselves among the legions of the singer/songwriter's fans.
When Dan Fogelberg moved to Nashville as a teenager, he was on the list of rising folk-rock talent Columbia Records wanted to develop. Clive Davis, the label's president, paired him with Muscle Shoals music producer and musician Norbert Putnam. At the time, Putnam was a prominent bassist and studio musician who had opened Quadrafonic Studio, or "the Quad," on Music Row and found success producing Joan Baez's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which soared into the Top 10. Davis wanted Putnam to do for songwriters like Fogelberg what he had done with Baez. In 1972, Fogelberg recorded his first album, Home Free, with Putnam at the Quad, which is now Round Hill Studios.
Fogelberg lived on a farm in Kingston Springs, just outside of Nashville, until 1975. During this time, he wrote his hit song, "Part of the Plan" and performed often at Exit/In, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, Municipal Auditorium, Starwood Amphitheater, and War Memorial Auditorium. In 1972, Fogelberg performed as a special guest of Joe Walsh at War Memorial Auditorium. Two years later, he returned to WMA for a sold-out "Homecoming" concert and rave reviews. The night before, he had played a fundraiser show for his favorite Nashville haunt, the iconic Exit/In, which was struggling to remain open.
In addition to recording at Quadrafonic Studio, Fogelberg later recorded High Country Snows at the Bennett House (now Bagbey House Antiques and Interiors) in Franklin. That album, recorded after his establishment as a successful artist, was Fogelberg's ninth album, a progressive Bluegrass album featuring many of Nashville's best players, including Vince Gill.
Fogelberg's heart was so deeply connected to Nashville, he was inspired to write what has become one of the Volunteer State's unofficial anthems, "Old Tennessee," in which he writes: "I'm still in Old Tennessee wishing you'd come home to me Life here is easy, I'm sure you recall how it's so warm and breezy in the summer and the fall The sleepy brown woods seem to nod down their heads to the winter..."
After Fogelberg died in 2007, Irving Azoff, Norbert Putnam, Chuck Morris, and Jean Fogelberg began to produce a Fogelberg tribute album in Nashville. Many tracks were performed and produced here with artists including Garth Brooks, The Eagles, Michael McDonald, Vince Gill & Amy Grant, Train, Zac Brown Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Donna Summer, Dobie Gray, Boz Scaggs, Casey James and more. The tribute album is expected to be released soon.
In 2011, Kate Atkinson and Karen Harris started writing Part of the Plan, a musical that would feature 20 of Dan Fogelberg's songs. To pitch the idea to Jean Fogelberg and Norbert Putnam, they traveled to Nashville (where Jean and Norbert were working on the tribute album) and received their blessing at a hotel bar in Nashville to pursue the show.
After five years of development, including staged readings in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, Part of the Plan returned to Nashville where it all began. Kathleen O'Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer was moved by the musical's powerful story and agreed to host staged readings of the musical in September 2016. The positive response gave TPAC full confidence to move forward in presenting a developmental production as part of its Broadway Series. The powerhouse cast includes Broadway's Harley Jay (RENT), as well as many talented performers from Nashville, such as JT Hodges, Katy Blake, Chris Roberts, Erica Aubrey, Benjamin D. Hale, Megan Murphy Chambers and Cameron Gilliam.
K-Squared Entertainment and TPAC formed a Fogelberg in Nashville Advisory Council to facilitate several Fogelberg-related efforts in Nashville, including a future Walk of Fame dedication. Members include Pete Fisher (Academy of Country Music), Jean Fogelberg, Leslie Fram (CMT), Kasey Hodges (FlightVue Agency, LLC), Wayne Kirkpatrick (songwriter and co-writer of Something Rotten!), John Marks (Spotify), Michael Martin (ASCAP), Lana Pargh (Synergy Network Realty), Norbert Putnam (longtime Fogelberg producer), and Susan Stewart (The Recording Academy/GRAMMYs).
Nashville's Global Senior Editor/Music Programmer for Spotify, John Marks, who is responsible for creating Spotify's Country playlists, will be creating a Dan Fogelberg Spotify channel this month. Also, the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is currently displaying the "Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats" exhibit, in which Norbert Putnam and three of Fogelberg's albums are featured.
In August, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam issued a state proclamation to "adopt" Fogelberg as an Honorary Tennessean, citing the legacy of his work and his song Old Tennessee, and encouraging all citizens to join him in honoring Fogelberg's memorable musical legacy. Separately, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has proclaimed September 2017 to be Dan Fogelberg Month, encouraging Nashvillians to reacquaint themselves - or introduce themselves - to the beautiful and stirring music created by one of Nashville's greatest treasures.
On August 26, TPAC honored Dan Fogelberg's legacy with a posthumous presentation of the Applause Award, its highest honor, at the center's TPAC Gala.
About the show Part of the Plan - a new musical featuring 20 iconic songs from the catalogue of acclaimed singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg - celebrates its world premiere and its possible trek toward Broadway with a 19-performance run at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The production opens Thursday, September 8 and continues through September 24 at TPAC's James K. Polk Theatre, with a gala red carpet event heralding the show's official opening night on Sunday, September 10.
Directed and choreographed by Tony Award-nominee Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing!), with book by Kate Atkinson and Karen Harris, Part of the Plan interweaves Fogelberg's music, arranged by Grammy Award Winners Victor Vanacore (Ray Charles) and Laurence Juber (Paul McCartney), including "Leader of the Band," "Longer" and "Same Old Lang Syne."
Produced by K-Squared Entertainment in association with the Nashville-based nonprofit Tennessee Performing Arts Center, this show marks TPAC's first original production. Directed by Tony-nominated Lynne Taylor-Corbett, with book by Kate Atkinson & Karen Harris, this developmental production follows the lives of an adopted boy and the teenaged girl of privilege who was forced to give him up Part of the Plan takes audiences through the post-World War II boom times, the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the political upheaval of the 1970s, while exploring the theme that everything in life happens for a reason.
Part of the Plan introduces the music of American troubadour Fogelberg, who lived and worked - and wrote some of his best-known songs - in Nashville during his career, to a new generation of fans, while evoking memories for his legion of die-hard fans who long to hear his music in all forms.
In September, 2016, a staged reading of Part of the Plan was held on the stage of TPAC's Polk Theatre, with an invited audience of TPAC subscribers, theater supporters and journalists.
Taylor-Corbett's cast features a mix of talented performers from New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, led by Broadway's Harley Jay (Rent), Kate Morgan Chadwick (Bed) and Nashville's own J.T. Hodges (Academy of Country Music nominated artist), along with Jayme Lake (I Love Lucy: Live on Stage) and Daniel David Stewart (Deaf West's Spring Awakening). Joining them in the ensemble to bring this new story to life will be: Katy Blake, Chris Roberts, Erica Aubrey, Benjamin D. Hale, Euriamis Losada, Darian Peer, Melinda Porto, Joshua Payne, Wyatt Rogers, Curt Bonnem, Kirsten Towers-Rowles, Megan Murphy Chambers, Miles DeMaria and Cameron Gilliam.
Part of the Plan features scenic design by Jason Sherwood (The View UpStairs, Drama Desk nominee), costume design by Loren Shaw (The Mysteries, Drama Desk nominee), lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz (Dames at Sea), sound design by Josh Leibert (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and musical direction by Nashville's own Stephen Kummer.
Tickets are now on www.TPAC.org, by phone at (615) 782- 4040 and at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick Street, in downtown Nashville. For groups of 10 or more, call (615) 782-4060.
For more information, visit www.danfogelbergmusical.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.