This fall, I will be doing a workshop performance of my musical The Last Days of Cleopatra, a farce about the scandalous lovers Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and the making of one of the worst movies ever made: 1962’s Cleopatra. Everything about this show speaks to me: farce, the year, the preposterous egos in the film business, and togas. After two years of getting the rather heavy and dramatic When We Get There off the ground, I cannot wait to dig into a real musical comedy. Stay tuned.
– Charlie’s Blog –
The new Civil Rights musical that I started in April of 2020, When We Get There, has finally found its way to the stage, with two readings in New York’s West Village on June 27 and 28. I wrote the music and lyrics for the show, and my collaborators Richard Lasser and Robert P. Young III wrote the book. Our phenomenal cast included Q. Smith (from Broadway’s Come from Away), Nik Whitcomb, Amy Gaither Hayes, and the spectacular newcomer Shaakirah Nazim-Harris. Music director Mary Ann Ivan and director Pat Golden worked with brilliance and intensity to bring the piece together, and it paid off. The singing was top-notch, and to my eye, the show burned with drama onstage.
For the two weeks of rehearsals, I was on hand to transpose and revise the music—and to write two last-minute songs we decided we needed. But on performance days, I was in row 10…just watching. It was frustrating because I wanted to be playing, but I was determined to get my head out of the music and to experience the full show. It reminded me, once again, that theater is a collaborative art form, and that having your music interpreted by people with different experiences and sensibilities can bring out qualities and meaning in the work that you didn’t even know was there.
People keep asking what’s next for this show, and I’m afraid I don’t know the answer yet. We are hoping for a workshop or regional production, so please feel free to share the show’s website with any theatrical directors or producers who might be interested.
In December, after working together online for nearly two years, I finally met one of my two collaborators on the musical When We Get There, which tells the story of a road trip to the fateful 1965 voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. Richard Lasser of Seattle, who wrote the book for the show along with Robert P. Young of Detroit, joined me in New York to meet with two of our production partners. As I’ve mentioned before, this show will have its first reading in New York, with sponsorship from the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning in Queens. Richard and I had dinner with the show’s director, Pat Golden, and our producing partner, Leonard Jacobs. After all this time of working remotely, to meet with these partners face to face gave our show a new sense of reality. Since then, we’ve all been hard at work arranging for a venue and starting to cast this reading, which as of now is most likely to happen in April. Stay tuned for more.
My bucket list of film projects just got smaller: I finally had the chance to score a real detective film noir. Private is a black-and-white two-hander starring its director, Steve Blackwood, and one of my favorite actors, Sandy Bainum. During the course of the scoring, Steve referenced the immortal Bernard Herrmann’s work for Alfred Hitchcock. After being completely intimidated, I found it invigorating to try and find an emotional equivalent to Herrmann’s work in several scenes. Private will be out in festivals later this year.
Over the spring and summer, I wrote a musical that’s a departure from my earlier stage work. Set in Tennessee, True North a sort of fairy tale, not based on any historical event (though World War II makes a brief appearance). The show is still in a very early stage of development, so I decided to bring some singers into the studio so that I could hear how the songs were working. Thanks to the skill and talent of seven wonderful singers—Alan Naylor, Jennifer Timberlake, Valerie Rigsbee, Abby Middleton, Chris Rios, Chelsea Majors and Rich Follett—I was able to hear ten of the songs performed beautifully. You can hear a few of these songs on my Soundcloud page.