In the first year of the Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, they rotate the lyricists with the composers for each project. The final project is a ten minute musical. Having gotten in with no real musical theater experience, I was panicky and insecure about having enough time to write one in three weeks. My solution was to start writing it long before I knew who I would be paired up with, which was grossly unfair to my unknown composer.
Nevertheless, I forged ahead, picking a classic macabre murder story to musicalize, because I thought it would be perverse fun. Fortunately, I was paired with a young composer named Matt Frey, who not only accepted what I had done, but ran with it with his own musical craziness.
The middle section was an extended scene for the three crime scene officers. Matt’s music caught the insanity of my lyrics, switching meters practically every measure: 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, 6/8.
While this was happening, my day job as a public defender took me into a real murder case. It was one involving a great deal of forensics, including one area that was new to me — blood splatter analysis. This was before the Dexter books and series made it cool. I was working with a mentor, Tom Klein, who was the Roving Murder Guy at Legal Aid. He set up a meeting with the Crime Scene Analysts working at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
I arrived early, and waited outside for Tom. Since I had some time to kill, I called Matt to talk over changes in the musical. About halfway through the conversation, it suddenly occurred to me that I was talking about a crime scene song in a murder musical while waiting to talk with crime scene analysts in an actual murder. Synchronicity.
And that was one of those moments when I realized that my life had gotten weird even for me.
The musical is getting its first performance since its debut [and closing] performance in the workshop. Come to the Cornelia Street Cafe on Monday, January 22nd. It can’t help but be better than when we put it on, because I won’t be singing this time.