Composer Dave Malloy was back in the east bay this summer with his new impressive work.
It is always exciting to see a new play or musical in the works. My first experience working with a new work was AMERICAN IDIOT. Billie Joe Armstrong and his team brought director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Hedwig) to the Berkeley Rep to workshop the new musical. I remember it was a mess when it first arrived, and soon discovered, it takes years before a musical sees its first audience. IDIOT went onto score one TONY in NY for a craft award, and Armstrong had to appear in the musical for the producers to win back their investment. Writing an investing in a new musical is not an easy task.
On its 10th Anniversary in Berkeley Ca. the Youth Musical Theatre Company (YMTC) commissioned a new musical for their summer stage.. Obie winner and former YMTC Music Director, Dave Malloy (Beowolf - Shotgun players) was commissioned to compose the music. Bay Area local writer Krista Knight, after seeing a production of YMTC Jesus Christ Superstar, contacted YMTC Artistic Director Jennifer Boesing and offered her services if the company ever wanted a new musical with a teen theme. Boesing teamed up Malloy and Knight and DON’T STOP ME became the name of the project. It was a two year process as the two exchanged notes and interviewed YMT company members to help create the story.
The musical ran in mid July 2015 - with a successful run, company members and the creative team received impressive accolades. I had a chance to see the project closing weekend, this is a post feature to congratulate the company on a risky chance of creating new material. The starship of this production are the “Daves”, Dave Malloy's musical score, David Moschler impressive music direction and former YMTC player David Crane as the villain DJ - all brought this project some amazing talent. What was off the night I saw the production included the main company of players not bringing much to the difficult story. A fantastical plot involving a Dance-a-thon of emo kids, with a subtext of Hunger Games, as most of the cast is dead by the final “Electric Future” number.
“The show’s roots trace back to Malloy’s time at YMTC, where he was a musical director from 2006 to 2008 and again in 2009, when the company was playing with the idea of creating an original work, he said. A few years ago the proposal became more concrete, as Boesing asked Malloy if he had any interest in crafting a new piece for YMTC. Malloy, Knight and Boesing launched into a series of workshops with teenagers to discover what high schoolers had to say about high school. The first workshop took place over a weekend where students answered writing prompts and talked about the issues” (*Berkeleyside Press)
The first act has some memorable tunes created by Malloy and Moshler - the titled opening number “Don’t Stop Me” sounded great, but the staging lacked. Choreographer Janet Das, has the students doing a lot of marching and not much dancing. The “DJ” performed by the skilled UCLA arts grad David Crane, was the highlight of the first act. Crane continues that impressive performance in the second act as well.
“The Prize” opens the second act with the cast trimmed as most of them are killed before the break. “Bacchanal” is performed by the remaining cast as the DJ lerks around the set, a High School Gym, well designed Amelia Bransky. The space at the Malonga Center for the Arts, is an open screen for the projections well crafted by Sarah Phykitt.
With such a diverse East Bay community of talented young actors out there, this cast was very non diverse. That might be due with the high cost of tuition to be part of a YMTC production. The producers tell me the company supports a nice portion of scholarships, yet reaching out to the community for those accomplished teens in asian, black and hispanic campuses, would open their stages to a vast group of uncharted teen talent.
DON’T STOP ME, was a valiant effort, congrats to YMTC Creative Director Jennifer Boesing, and local playwright Krista Knight and composer Dave Malloy. It is most impressive is to see any new original work here in the SF Bay Area. Faultline, and Theatre Works are so few of the venues in town that produce new works. Its important to see YMTC develop and produce this work, and to feature the gifted talent of Dave Malloy and David Moschler. I am sure the next time this project is staged, the kinks will be worked out. The show has since closed, but follow the links below for the 2015 - 16 - 11th season for YMTC will open with GODSPELL.
DON’T STOP ME
A New Musical
MUSIC & LYRICS BY DAVE MALLOY, BOOK BY KRISTA KNIGHT
Directed by Jennifer Boesing, Musical Direction by David Möschler
Summer July 2015
for their current season schedule - go to - http://www.ymtcberkeley.org/
face book at https://www.facebook.com/ymtcberkeley?fref=ts
Reference *Francesca Paris, The Berkeleyside - Indi news site in Berk Ca