BWW Interviews: Nicky Phillips Launches YOUR BROADWAY SONG
Nicky Phillips has a very ambitious new adventure on her hands, having just launched a new company called 'Your Broadway Song' which she plans to expand within both Toronto and NYC. The company designs custom Broadway themed songs for various special occasions, and kicked off with a song written for Canadian legend Colm Wilkinson.
Nicky is a proud graduate of Ryerson in Toronto, and she also recently participated in Sheridan's Canadian Music Theatre Project. The project aims to create new and original works of Canadian musical theatre, and Nicky had an offering in it's inaugural season (with co-writer Robert Gontier).
Now splitting her time between NYC and Toronto, Nicky is focusing on creating new and original music for Your Broadway Song, and working on inspiring other young writers to hone their skills. She spoke to BWW about the evolution of Your Broadway Song, her feelings on Canadian Musical Theatre and her sources of inspiration.
First, congratulations on Your Broadway Song! Is it true that the idea for this company stemmed from writing an original song for Colm Wilkinson?
Yes! I was in the process of writing a song as a gift for him when he received his doctorate at Ryerson, and I realized what an amazing gift it would be to give to someone - Broadway Legend or not! It's unique, original music and original lyrics so it's totally catered to that person. When someone requests a song, we spend time with the client and/or the family members and try and really learn about the person we're writing about so that it can be tailor made.
Could you tell us a bit more about what a gift from Your Broadway Song comes with?
We have everything from a basic package of just piano accompaniment to having a whole orchestra for that 'true Broadway sound'. Depending on the package you choose you also have the option of having a CD to keep as a memento and having us perform at the actual event.
What made you want to write music in the first place?
I started out as an actor and then about six years ago I started writing. I was mentored by Leslie Arden and Jim Betts and started working on my first musical with Robert Gontier called In Flanders Fields.
I have a strong music background and once I started writing I just knew it was what I was meant to be doing. I've had some incredible opportunities including being in Johnny Mercer's songwriter's project and the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. BMI had a master class with Stephen Sondheim and he came and spoke to us about the craft for an evening. It was incredibly inspiring.
What happens if you get writer's block while working on one of these gifts? How do you become unblocked?
I think some type of writer's block is natural and I find it goes away eventually. I've never faced a block where I can't finish and I think that the secret with Your Broadway Song is just making sure we have enough information about the person/subject so that we're never totally stuck.
What was the reaction like to that very first song you did for Colm?
The reaction we got that evening was amazing though, and when I saw how touched Colm was I realized that it didn't matter that he was a Broadway legend - anyone would react that way to this because it's such a personal gift.
So you aren't concerned that this type of gift would only apply to a 'theatre person'?
Not at all! In fact, I think it's almost the opposite because it's this amazing surprise and shock to have someone write a song about you. If you have someone far removed from the 'theatre scene' they will be that much more surprised by the gift. It is an extreme joy and surprise and I don't think you have to have a musical theatre obsession to appreciate it.
The great thing about musical theatre these days is that it is very open in terms of what it can encompass which I think is fantastic. At the core of Your Broadway Song is certainly musical theatre, but now we can really incorporate ANYTHING.
Do you want to grow the business and bring on more writers?
Absolutely! My whole vision is to create a huge network of writers and performers so that we can all do what we love to do. My plan is for it to grow in New York and Toronto and then hopefully other places as well. Your Broadway Song isn't just for me, my vision is to have something for all the talented writers I know to have an avenue to write.
What do you think of the current state of musical theatre in Canada?
I think that we're moving forward with things like Theatre 20 and the Canadian Musical Theatre Project. There have been strides in developing and creating new musical theatre. Do we have a long way to go? Of course. But I think action is happening which is exciting and I hope it continues.
Do you think Toronto has been responding well to the efforts so far?
I think there has been a very warm response so far. I think people are excited for there to be more. It's just unfortunate that we don't see it happening more often. Perhaps Toronto isn't used to new Musical Theatre Works but the need is there, and I know with the Canadian Musical Theatre Project we had a very warm response.
For more information on The Canadian Music Theatre Project, visit the Sheridan College website.