BWW Interview: Ben Rauch Chats About SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY and his Love of Phil Collins
SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY is bringing the modern dating world to life at FringeNYC, beginning this Friday at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. Creator and actor BEN RAUCH chats to BroadwayWorld about writing the music for Single Room Occupancy and bringing his love of Phil Collins to the forefront of this new, hilarious, pop/rock comedy musical.
Can you talk a little bit about SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY and what it's about?
Sure yeah! It's a pop/rock, comedy musical and it's about a single guy living in a small, single room apartment trying to make it as a musician and battling his fear of being in music performing in front of people. The conventions of love and the world we live in with social media and dating apps and the craziness of New York dating and the internet heavy world.
How did you get started with the project?
I wrote all the pop/rock, comedy music and I co-wrote the lyrics on about half the music with a woman named, Gaby Gold and Rory Scholl, who is also in the show. It was originally a pop-rock comedy album that I had in the works, which is still in the works. It's almost finished and it's going to be released. And then I decided I could hear a musical within it, and I felt that as a musician and a singer and an actor.
It became this big thing and I submitted it to FringeNYC and then Fringe accepted it and we've been workshopping it ever since. Joey Murray, the director, he's been changing things around and I've been with it since the beginning and worked it with Rory and Lane Kwederis. They came in kind of last minute actually. In the last weeks or so and adding their own ideas and changes and it has been really fun!
Is this your first time working with FringeNYC?
I did a Fringe show like a really long time ago! A really small show, but this is my first time producing and doing something on this scale.
Where did the music spring from? Did it come from one experience you had?
The pop/rock comedy album is mixed by three-time Grammy Award winner Warren Riker, a wonderful artist. He's from New Jersey, where a lot of the people from the show are from. Once we got into the rehearsal process, we had a three-week rehearsal process, I wrote three new songs for the show including a title song and an 11 o'clock number. So the cast inspired other music to be born. I wrote three songs all myself. I wrote the lyrics and everything myself for that.
Can you talk a little bit about your character and how he fits into this world?
He is the ultimate Phil Collins fan! There's a HUGE tribute song to Phil in the middle of the show! He's kind of who we reference. Right in the beginning when he is talking about his struggle, his mantra or saying is 'What Would Phil Do?' There is like a large mural of Phil Collins' face in the show, it's great! He's doing what I think we all do, which is comparing himself to Phil Collins and wondering 'How does he do it?' Especially at such a young age and so consistently.
You know, the character is kind of a flawed character. He has trouble sticking up for himself and a little trouble putting himself out there with women and struggling in the dating world and people taking advantage of him. Also as far as I know, this is the first musical to incorporate live musical improv. There are several musical improv moments in the show. We are doing like three improvised songs that are different every single night. He plays with this. I have a personal connection with this.
I play with improv and musical improv so he plays through all of these improv groups and I think a lot of times what happens is an accompanist, whether it's a musical theatre accompanist or improv accompanist, they are kind of the bottom of the barrel but they are still necessary. He has to just take this disrespect from people around him and it's kind of this battle to like hopefully stick up for himself, I don't want to reveal the ending. I think his love of Phil Collins and Phil Collins himself helps that.
You're a HUGE Phil Collins fan in real life! Is that where this came from?
Yeah I wrote this Phil Collins song called, 'I Can Feel Phil Collins In The Air Tonight.' I am a HUGE, HUGE Phil Collins fan definitely! I'm a percussionist as well, I do my own drum programming and all of that stuff. For sure, there is like nobody like that! There are very few people like that! He's extraordinary. What he did all himself and used the drum program and playing all the instruments and he's a great singer as well. He's just such an inspiration! I am a HUGE Phil Collins fan and I would absolutely LOVE to work with him someday.
Not only is this show rooted in the music you wrote, but comedy is a big part of it. How has it been combining the music and the comedy for this show?
The songs are pop/rock, comedy so the comedy is in the music to begin with. It has been helpful having the comedy and music already kind of fused together. I'm a single guy in New York City so I have a lot of personal experience with it.
I could probably do a whole show about my dating experience and stuff, I didn't want to do that though. I didn't want to relive ALL of it. I just wanted to touch on it. The comedy is within the show already and it's truthful. I think so many people can relate to it. We talk about Tinder and Grinder and the Gay dating world and the straight dating world. We talk about the opportunistic type of dater that is just out there for free meals to see what is out there and then there are people who are really truly looking for love and having to battle all of these things.
It's not a very big cast. How has it been working with the cast and seeing it come to life right in front of you?
It has been wonderful. A couple of members of the cast like Rory Scholl, who co-wrote a lot of the music with me and is working on the book with me as well right now. I've known him for a long time, we've done a lot of improv together and wrote all of these songs so it has been really great. After having auditions and seeing what was out there, I think that really helped to shape the show because we found these wonderful, talented actors that have informed our story and we wrote stuff around them. Like, if this is in one persons wheel-house or they are good at that or this is where this person is from we worked with that and built the story around that. A lot of stuff changed after casting the show and we are continuing to do that. We are continuing to take different people and incorporate their strengths into the show. It's a really collaborative process.
Do you have a favorite musical number? Or something you can't wait for the audience to see?
There are a couple songs that I really, really love in the show. The first thing I did was this song called 'I Love Asian Girls.' My character in the show that's a thing that he loves. His childhood crush is the sister of his best friend, this adorable little Asian girl, Kim, played by the wonderful Dianne Kaye. I love that song. It's really close to my heart. That was kind of the song that created the whole thing and there is a music video of it. I want to hear that so much.
I also wrote this song for the show called 'Faith In Love.' That is kind of becoming my new favorite song. I wrote that song in about two hours. I was just this idea that came to me and the song just wrote itself. It just blew out and is probably the fastest song I've ever written. It's probably one of my favorites now. And of course just the Phil Collins song I mentioned before is a favorite just because of my love for Phil and incorporating him so heavily into the show!
Ben Rauch (Book, Music,Lyrics/Matthew) is an actor/singer/composer/musician who recently appeared in the film Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood, as the pianist/singer for the Four Seasons. He is slated to appear in an upcoming episode of Girls on HBO and was seen in The Bronze which was the official opening night selection at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Television credits include a recurring role on Gossip Girl, ED, and Strangers with Candy among others. His additional film work includes Tenderness (with Russell Crowe) and Best Laid Plans. His work on stage includes: A Few Good Men (with Lou Diamond Phillips), People Are Living There (Signature Theatre), Lost in Yonkers (TheatreVirginia), Miklat (Florida Stage), The Unexpected Guest, The Sunshine Boys, Spring Awakening (BroadwayWorkshop), Ludlow Ladd (Tada), Starmites, The Gifts of the Magi, Mental: The Musical (Cherry Lane), Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (Papermill), Jack and the Beanstalk (Symphony Space). Ben partnered with The NJ Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to release, At The Water's Edge, a fundraising music video for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The 2013 USA Songwriting Competition honored his song, I Love Asian Girls in their top 10 Comedy/Novelty category. Ben has also headlined at the NY Funny Song Festival for the last two years. www.benrauchsite.com
For tickets to Single Room Occupancy, visit: http://bit.ly/1Lq3cyp