A few years ago I took some time off to write a musical—a fully-fledged, 2-act, 20-song musical—and this year, after a really fun and productive read-through, a theater company in the Tampa, FL area has expressed interest in putting it on their 2020 schedule! I’m beyond excited for what the future of this musical will be, and even at this early-middle stage the project already has an interesting history.
It started with a sketch I wrote for my 2001 album Keep Your Jazz Hand Strong in which a shady boyband manager (played by the wonderfully talented Michael Bernard) informs a member of one of his boybands that he’d been traded. The boyband-as-baseball team premise included talk of cutting payroll, a farm system of up-and-coming younger bands, and a career arc for performers similar to the career spans of athletes. In the sketch I chose Tampa as the location for the young band because at the time Orlando seemed to be where the major league boybands were coming from (Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, O-Town). Tampa felt like the right market for a feeder team. Plus it’s an inherently funny-sounding name. “Tampa.”
For years the idea of expanding the sketch into a film script rolled around in the back of my head. The idea of a veteran performer forced to take a big step back in his career plus the hilarious shadiness of a boyband manager unabashedly treating pop music like one big grift were waiting to be explored and played with. I thought it could be a really fun movie with lots of music, like the Blues Brothers or Tapeheads. But a movie with a lot of music is—duh—a musical! So I decided to just do that.
After submitting to several festivals and theater companies—and not hearing back from most of them—I began to pursue other projects and career paths. I wasn’t completely discouraged though, I still believed it was a really solid script with good music that would make for a fun show. The project wasn’t lost, it was just hibernating. The work that went into it would still be worth it if and when the time came for it to hit the stage.
And that time might be next year, in 2020, and the place will be, oddly enough, Tampa, Florida! And the way my musical that is set in Tampa found it’s way to a theater company in Tampa is a bit of a story in itself.
My older sister moved to the Tampa area about two years ago and just this past year started playing oboe in a few local bands and orchestra pits (we’re a musical family :P). While playing in the pit for Ragtime she told the musical director about my musical; the fact that it was set in Tampa (and that he was familiar with my Pachelbel Rant) intrigued him enough to take a look at the script.
My sister suggested we try a read through should I visit the Tampa area, and that read through happened just this past Monday at the offices of Not Your Normal Entertainment. Joseph Scarbrough, the head of NYNE, brought together a lovely group of actors who brought life to the script while I played demos of the songs from my laptop. The jokes landed, the story flowed, and hearing people who live and work in Tampa react to the song “What’s in Tampa?” was a double bonus!
I am thrilled by the opportunity to debut this project on the stage. I’ll update here and on my social media, and follow NYNE on social media too, they do amazing work!