This past weekend, I was lucky enough to see Two River Theater’s production of “Songbird,” a musical based on 19th Century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”
What??? You read that correctly; a musical. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it. “Songbird’s” book was written by Michael Kimmel with music and lyrics written by Lauren Pritchard (who by the way originated the role of Ilse on Broadway in “Spring Awakening”).
Both “The Seagull” and “Songbird” follow characters on their search for happiness, mostly unattainable since they all love the wrong person! That’s oversimplified, but you get the idea.
While “The Seagull” focuses on an aging actress who pays summer visits to her brother on their country estate in Russia, “Songbird” takes the action to Nashville and follows an aging country singer and her family and “friends.” The seagull which the lead character shoots in the Chehkov version is replaced in “Songbird” by a bluebird hit by a car. There is so much symbolism about freedom and lack of it, but I won’t get into that. Both versions are multi-layered and beautiful.
“Songbird’s” lyrics follow the meaning of the original “Seagull” character monologs. Lauren Pritchard’s music and lyrics are spine tingling. My favorite song was “Cry Me A River” sung by Kacie Sheik who plays the character Missy. What I also loved about “Songbird” is that the performers played all of the music themselves, guitars, piano, fiddle; no pit band.
Lauren is not a novice composer. She has written many songs for pop artists including Panic! At The Disco. She was nominated for her writing work on their album “Death of a Bachelor”. Still don’t recognize her name? You may recognize LOLO. When she is not writing music for others, this is the name she writes and performs under for herself. Her last album, “In Loving Memory of When I Gave A Shit” spawned her hit “Shine.”
I think it is obvious that I enjoyed the show, but I admittedly went to see it for Eric William Morris who plays Beck, the show’s central troublemaker! Guitar-playing, singing and acting, you can’t take your eyes off him when he is on stage. A few weeks ago, I posted an interview that I did with Eric before this process began. We talked about his start in theater and what it took to make it happen. Look for Eric in his next big project, and I mean big!!! He will be playing Carl in the Broadway adaptation of “King Kong”. That will begin previews October 5 and will officially open November 8 at the Broadway Theater ( http://www.kingkongbroadway.com).
If you missed the story on Eric, go to https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/05/25/eric-william-morris-on-broadways-cutting-edge-ready-for-king-kong/.
Before I sign off, just a quick note about Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. It was founded in 1994 and is recognized in the national theater community for its new play commissioning program. It’s a beautiful space to see a show. For more information, visit tworivertheater.org.