– Theatre –

19- The Musical: Songs

I have been working on this musical for nearly two years now. It is an important topic. It might be as important today as at any time over the past 100 years.  I’m happy to work with the talented Jennifer Schwed and Doug Bradshaw, my creative partners, on this.  Last week we performed songs from this show at the Library of Congress. Nancy Pelosi was the keynote speaker for this opening of the exhibit on women’s suffrage.  Here are two songs: one of celebration  and one of heartbreak.  Millicent Scarlett( pictured)  plays Ida B. Wells and is a force of nature. She is as compelling an actor/singer as I have ever worked with.  Hers is the second song:  “Will You Be Here for Me.”

19: A Musical About Women’s Right to Vote at the opening of the “Shall Not Be Denied” exhibit at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Him and Jim

100 minutes
Three Acts
5M, 4W
A three act story of Jim, a manager at an auto parts store, meeting Jesus. His failing marriage fully dissolves. Jim’s atheistic children and his employees at Turbo Auto Parts remain suspicious of the existence of the son of God even as low-rent miracles appear all around them. Jesus convinces no one of anything, but does have one very good parlor trick.

Production History:
Scheduled World Premier- March 2018


A Musical. The story of suffragists Alice Paul. Ida B.Wells and Carrie Chapman Catt and the journey to the passage of the 19th Ammendment. I amwriting the music. Jennifer Schwed and Doug Bradshaw are writing the book and the lyrics.
Two Acts.
Two Hours
13W 2M

Production History:
Nov 1,2,3 2017 Workshop The Lyceum, Alexandria, VA


One Act
100 minutes
This one-act play is based on the real friendship—and tennis rivalry—between two
very different composers of the early 20th century: the respected but severe Arnold
Schoenberg and the much more popular George Gershwin, who sponsored
Schoenberg and his wife when they fled Nazi-era Vienna for the United States. Set in
Los Angeles in 1936–37, the play includes Schoenberg; Gershwin; Schoenberg’s
wife, Gertrud; and Gershwin’s girlfriend at the time, the actress Ginger Rogers. On
the court and over dinner, the four mismatched friends debate the nature of artistic
process and artistic inspiration. Looming over the quartet is the fact, unknown to all
of them but known to the audience, that George is suffering from a brain tumor that
will take his life within a year.

Production History
July 2016 Professional Workshop Reading
June 9-18 2017 Full Production/World Premier Crowded Kitchen Players, Bethlehem PA

The Last Days of Cleopatra

The Last Days of Cleopatra

 Read Charlie’s Blog entry about The Last Days of Cleopatra

New version of The Last Days of Cleopatra! Joe Calarco has written a new brilliant book. Charlie has written all new songs and lyrics. We had a “29 hour reading” of it in March. April found Joe and Charlie spending two weeks polishing the show. There was an industry reading in September 2009 in NYC.

Visit The Last Days of Cleopatra website.

In 1963 Cleopatra became the most expensive film ever made, almost bankrupted a studio, turned the public’s appetite for celebrity gossip into an obsession, and launched one of the great love affairs of the twentieth century. The Last Days of Cleopatra dives headfirst into the glamour, excitement, and passion of that time and place and paints a portrait of one of the most fascinating women of our time: Elizabeth Taylor.

The Last Days of Cleopatra – Review from 2005

The Last Days of Cleopatra: Liz and Dick and a History Making Film

There are times when real life stands on its tip-toes and screams out to the world, “Somebody please turn me into a musical!”. That probably wasn’t in the forefront of film director Joseph Mankiewicz’s mind when he cast Richard Burton to play Marc Anthony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the title role of his mammoth 1963 spectacle, Cleopatra, but heck, the situation was just loaded with song cues. While playing the sexually-charged political adversaries, Taylor and Burton, both married, began the torrid affair that led to the first of their two marriages. Meanwhile, the $35,000,000 film nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox after its critical drubbing.

Composer/lyricist/bookwriter Charlie Barnett’s The Last Days of Cleopatra is still in its formative stages, but shows a lot of promise in developing into an old-fashioned formula musical. (And I mean those words in the most complimentary way possible.) There’s trimming to be done, more character development needed and too many false rhymes in the lyrics, but there’s still enough fun and romance at work here to leave an optimistic impression.

Barnett sets the story during location shooting in Rome where Hollywood star Taylor and respected stage actor Burton so immediately clash egos and temperaments upon meeting that you know they’re going to fall into each other’s arms eventually. When they do it stirs up the wrong kind of publicity that could kill the public’s reaction to the film before it’s even released. Burton’s love for the bottle and Taylor’s desire to be taken seriously as an actress come into play, but the main flaw of the book and lyrics is that they never go deeper than fan magazine level in exploring the central characters. The author is apparently going for something on the same grand, romantic scale as the historical characters they play, but his words are just glossing over the surface. Anna Roberts and Michael Deleget contribute fine efforts in the leads, but the decision to have them impersonate the famous duo seems to limit their capabilities to do some honest acting.The supporting cast, however, is given plenty of juicy material, including an attractive variety of musical comedy melodies, and deliver some delightful performances. On the comic side, Tom Beckett is a wonderfully frantic Mankiewicz. When partnered with Christopher Lacroix, as an amused and amusing Rex Harrison, they make the most of Barnett’s snazzy vaudeville number. Michael Siller is a charismatic paparazzi photographer with a dynamic and athletic musical turn. Michael Baldwin gets laughs with some stereotypically bitchy jokes as choreographer Hermes Pan, and Bobby Matoney is appropriately vanilla, singing a cheesy ballad as Taylor’s soon-to-be-ex, Eddie Fisher.

A secondary love story between awkward production assistant Fred E. Smith (Brett Rigby) and an Italian dancer (Valerie Issembert) is charmingly written and played. Their bilingual duet about trying to get over the language barrier is one of the show’s highlights

.Director Christopher Gerken has mounted a lively production that gives you hints of what the show could be like on a grander scale. There’s impressive work from choreographer Evan Knapp and costume designer Georgette Feldman.

Festivals like the Fringe are generally known for off-beat projects that aim for audiences that may not go for traditional book musicals that aren’t campy spoofs, so a straightforward musical with a main romantic plot, a romantic subplot and comic relief seems almost experimental. The Last Days of Cleopatra is the type of show Broadway audiences loved in the 1960’s and perhaps by the time it’s ready that type of musical may seem hip and retro.

Photo by Heather Laszlo: Michael Deleget and Anna Roberts