BWW Interview: Billy Recce of A MUSICAL ABOUT STAR WARS Opens Up About the Cast Album
Billy Recce is an up and coming composer and lyricist that I had the pleasure of seeing first perform a series of his comedy songs at The Duplex about a year ago. Quickly, he's gained some recognition for his work over the course of this past year on "A Musical About Star Wars." Impressed, when I heard about his CD release, I jumped at the opportunity to interview him for Broadway World.
So you're releasing the cast recording of this wonderful Off-Broadway sensation, A Musical About Star Wars. The inspiration for this musical is obviously the major film series about to wrap up Episode 9 later this month. What about The Galaxy Far Away drew you to joining forces in putting together this show?
I was brought on to the project last year because of Tom D'Angora, the producer director. When Tom told me about the project, I knew I had to be a part of it, and basically begged to spec for it. He and Scott and Taylor, the show's stars and co-book writers, had come up with this super funny idea, I knew I had to be a part of. I grew up in a Star Wars household-my Dad was a major fan growing up. He saw 'Empire Strike Back' in theatres too many times to count, and I wrote my common app essay all about being taken out of school to see my first Star Wars movie (Revenge of the Sith) when I was in 3rd grade.
Cool, so how did things really start to click?
Scott and Tom were the ones to kick the idea around. They worked on a sketch show called NEWSical the Musical, and Scott wrote a Star Wars rap for the show after one of the last movies came out. Tom noticed how much the audience responded to that sketch and came up with the idea of doing an entire Star Wars show. I was brought on after they had spent a little under a year or so brainstorming and coming up with an outline, and then, once the first couple of songs were written, we really felt like we had something cool and different on our hands, and things kicked into high gear.
How has the response been so far? I don't mean from normal people; I mean from Star Wars Fans?
The response has been great! Some fans can be sort of skeptical walking into it,
I think some don't think that these two worlds-Star Wars and musical theatre-could possibly blend well together. I encourage any skeptical fan to give it a try and come see the show, because every Star Wars fan that has seen the show leaves walking on air. We literally cover EVERYTHING in it-from the movies to the Christmas special to the expanded universe to Baby Yoda-and because of the nature of the ever evolving Star Wars universe, the show is constantly changing and adding new references almost every week. So, people who are casual fans can-and do-still enjoy it, but the die hard fans will really be surprised by just how much we incorporate in just 90 minutes.
Slap pretty much anything Star Wars on it and I'm at least interested in hearing more. Do you think that you had Star Wars Fans in mind when you put this show together? Were they not only the target audience, but the target judges of your work?
Totally! They were our target audience because we were all fans ourselves! I always go into anything trying to make the version of it that I would most want to see as an audience member, and as a super fan of Star Wars and musicals, it is the perfect hybrid. That goes for me, Scott, Taylor and Tom: we were all big fans, and basically wanted an excuse to sing about how great Star Wars is for 90 minutes, so in that respect, I think we achieved our goal.
That's cool. I know that the musical isn't specifically about Star Wars, though, right? I'm pretty sure I read that it is about a group that wants to take a Star Wars musical to Comic Con only to come across a twist. Did that intrigue you?
Yeah! The basic premise is that two Star Wars super fans, Scott and Taylor, decide to put on a self-written Star Wars musical, but because of a restraining order from Warwick Davis, they have to do it 50 yards away from Comic Con at the Javitz center. They hire a third actor, Emily, to be in the show, and she ends up stopping the show in protest of Star Wars' misogyny, racism and homophobia: throughout the ensuing show, the three discuss the fandom-both the toxic side and the loveable side-in an effort to convince her that Star Wars is the greatest thing in the galaxy.
I think that there is a slight 'parody' fatigue right now.
And, truthfully, I wasn't interested in just re-telling the stories of Star Wars. LucasFilm has already done that better. What did excite me was the hilarious layers within this culture of the Star Wars fandom. I really appreciate musical comedies that are silly, broad and pop culture driven, but also say deep and meaningful things about where we are in society and where we are going. That's what I love most about this show: it isn't just mindless fun, I really think that it has something to say.
After all these questions about all the pieces of the puzzle underlying the creative aspect of things, tell us a little bit about your role in the production?
I wrote the music and lyrics, and also did the orchestration. It was a really quick writing process, with our first official reading happening in January of 2019 and our first performance happening at the end of March. It was really wild, but so fulfilling because we basically wrote nonstop and actually ended up with something we were proud of!
That's good to hear. I've kept tabs on how quickly this process has grown. Did it feel as if loving the films helped you write for this show?
Yeah! Growing up being a Star Wars fan, I definitely was able to come at it from a genuine place of love. And if I was ever unsure of a lyric or something, I was able to send it to my Dad, who is an even bigger Star Wars fan than me, and who I always see every Star Wars movie with on opening day now.
Got another one upcoming shortly. So as you've described, you worked on music and lyrics. Coming back to the outcome of this creative process. We've talked a lot about being a Star Wars fan, but do you think that you have to be a lover of Star Wars to enjoy the music?
Definitely not! There are so many things in here that anyone can enjoy, and one of the most fulfilling comments I get are from people who knew nothing about Star Wars going in, but walk out loving it and the characters, and some of them have even seen the show 2,3 or 4 times!
The basic premise of the score is that these two guys wrote these songs on their Casio keyboard, so I basically wanted to write songs that sounded like what two pop culture obsessed guys with only a basic understanding of musical theatre might write. Because of that, anyone who has the slightest hint of pop culture knowledge will find something to enjoy, whether it be the song that is a riff off of "We Didn't Start The Fire", or the one that is a riff off of the "Maude" theme, or the one that sends up tragic backstory 1970s songs.
What do you hope people enjoy most about your work?
Basically, I come from a world of musical theatre purists, so I worked really hard to make these songs as funny as possible, while still obeying the rules of 'good' musical theatre writing. So, there aren't many slant rhymes (and if there are, we try to call attention to it), and all of the songs basically have a beginning middle and end. I really am proud of the theatricality of the score, and I hope people most enjoy listening to a second or third time and catching the hidden Easter Eggs and references that I had a ball sprinkling into it.
If you had to boil it down to a sentence, what would you say you would want them to remember or look forward to most about your CD?
I mostly want them to remember what it felt like to see their first Star Wars movie, or if they're not a fan, their first musical, or first Harry Potter book, or first sports game, or first anything that they love. I want them to hear that joy and sense of community in this score-both ridiculous and touching-that their favorite fandom provides, and learn that at the end of the day, the most unabashed way to love something is to open up and share it with others.
There you have it. The inspiration and reason behind Billy Recce's latest project. You can find the cast album CD here for sale on Amazon. Of course, it also on Soundcloud and other services. You can also find more about Billy here.