Creative teams set North Shore life to music
Music Director Jessica A. Hunt at the pianorehearseswith ( from left), Ashlee Hardgrave, Brandon Moorhead and Melissa Rosenberg. | Photo by Paul Grigonis
North Shore Rhythms
and Blues, the 2012
3 p.m. Sunday, July 22
Light Opera Works Second Stage, McGaw YMCA Children’s Center Auditorium, 1420 Maple, Evanston
7:30 p.m. Monday, July 23
McGuire Auditorium, Warde Academic Center, Saint Xavier University, 3700 W. 103rd St., Chicago
$10 at the door
(847) 920-5360 or visit lightoperaworks.com/events.html
Updated: July 17, 2012 10:02PM
Six members of the Wilmette-based Midwest New Musicals program led by John Sparks are having 15 minutes of fame — twice. That’s the length of each of the musicals created by three teams using the theme “North Shore Rhythms and Blues.” Their works will be staged on Sunday, July 22, at the Light Opera Works Second Stage in Evanston and in Chicago the next evening.
In addition to following the theme, each mini-musical had to include the lyric, “a loaf of stale bread”; the dialogue line, “there’s a panda in the driveway”; and the musical motif C up to F-sharp, up to G, down to E.
Despite these restrictions, the teams came up with three fascinating, distinctly different shows.
A PTA project turns into a career for a stay-at-home mom in “Paddycakes,” with book and lyrics by Patrice Peltier and music and lyrics by Johanna Drew.
The plot was partly inspired by the fact that Drew has a secret recipe for Irish soda bread that people always encourage her to sell. “We have a character who is going to bake bread for the school bake sale,” Peltier related. “They put it on the school’s Facebook page so people can place orders online and the thing goes viral. They line up everybody in their neighborhood to help them fill the orders in time for the bake sale.”
The first song, “Hurry, Hurry,” with lyrics by Drew, is about commuting “and the fast pace of life on the North Shore,” Peltier said. It is reprised at the end when the breads are being baked. Peltier wrote, “The Stay at Home Blues” and a love song, “I Believe in You.” Drew wrote lyrics for a baking song called, “A Little of This, a Little of That.”
Peltier, who lives in Wisconsin, is an accomplished writer of gardening articles for “Better Homes and Gardens” and “Midwest Living,” among other publications, and has also written plays. She only began writing musicals when she joined the workshop in September.
“I went strictly as a book writer. I didn’t have a clue that I would do lyrics,” she admitted. “For the first few assignments, I secretly tried writing lyrics.” At first, Peltier kept her lyrics to herself but then began sharing them because, “I discovered the workshop was a pretty safe environment.”
“Rhythm and Wine” was created by Barbara Georgans (book and lyrics) and Bruce L. Warden (music). “I’ve been a playwright for a long time but I joined the workshop in the early ’90s and I’ve been writing book ever since,” Georgans reported.
The action of this musical takes place in a bar visited by a woman who is discontent because nothing seems to be going right in her life.
The show opens with the song, “A Perfect Day.” That’s what the woman is looking for “but the day is a flop,” Georgans said. “She envisions wonderful things but they’re really off-kilter.”
That’s followed by “Jeff’s Song,” which is sung by three people sitting at tables in the bar “who represent the mishaps of her perfect day,” Georgans said. That includes her husband, who is suing her for divorce; a Nordstrom salesperson who rejects her credit card and treats her snottily; and the principal at her son’s school who informs her that her beloved boy is using drugs.
The final number, “I Need a Gal,” is about the bartender’s search for a waitress — and maybe something more.
Jessica Hunt, who isn’t in the Midwest New Musicals program, wrote the music for “The Blood of San Gennaro.” The book is by Graziano Marcheschi and John David Nelson wrote the lyrics. Hunt also served as music director for all three shows.
The musical, set around the time of the Feast of San Gennaro, revolves around an Italian-American family. Dino’s wife died 10 years ago and he is still in mourning. “He brought over the deceased wife’s sister to help him raise his children,” Hunt related. “Over the course of ten years, they’ve fallen in love. It’s a cute little family drama with a little bit of mystique.”
Hunt described the score she created as “classic contemporary music theater.” Songs include “The Voice Lesson,” about the fact that Dino’s daughters both have a crush on their vocal coach; “Dear Laura,” in which Dino asks his deceased wife’s permission to fall in love with her sister; “I Thank Gennaro for You,” which is sung by his wife’s sister; and “If Mama Were Here,” performed by Dino’s daughters.
Composer Hunt began music directing during her college years at Illinois Wesleyan University and Columbia College, and has been doing it ever since. She praised the Mini-Musicals Project for allowing new writers and composers to see their work performed. “I’m always excited to be part of this process,” she said.