It’s opening night! Jacob Brandt’s “1969: The Second Man” will premiere at the Fourth Street Theatre, as part of Next Door at New York Theatre Work Shop. After working on this show for five years, Jacob’s musical vision of the second man on the moon has finally landed on the stage for a limited run through September 8. Jacob took time to speak with “Un-Block The Music” during tech week about the show.
While Jacob went to Harvard for acting and playwriting, he has also been a musician since elementary school where he played piano, alto sax and banjo. “From there, I started playing guitar which is the primary instrument I write on now, but I also started picking up different instruments and learning how to play them well enough to get by,” he said.
Jacob became fascinated with Buzz Aldrin when he was in middle school. “We hear about the moon landing. We hear about Neil Armstrong, but there was another guy there. When we hear Buzz Aldrin, we think…oh yeah, the astronaut. But that’s it.” The idea for “1969: The Second Man” started for Jacob when taking a musical theatre class with composer, Caesar Alvarez at Harvard. Jacob also met Dan Giles, his eventual writing partner, there. “I thought Buzz Aldrin would be a great subject for a folk musical because folk music is wonderful for storytelling.” Of course, when this milestone event occurred in the 1960s, folk music had also taken hold, therefore the music genre works in that way as well.
When Jacob graduated, he knew he needed to work on projects that he could be a part of in every way, so that meant writing the story, the music and acting in them. After graduation, Jacob continued to write more songs and further the concept of “1969: The Second Man,” and the musical blossomed, he said.
In terms of creating the book, Dan and Jacob reunited in New York three years ago. “After we graduated, Dan went to get an MFA in playwriting. Then, when he came back to New York City, we were working together on a couple of other projects and I eventually asked him if he wanted to help write the book for this show. We have had hundreds of hours of work.”
As a writer myself, the writing process always fascinates me, whether it be a story they are creating or a song. Jacob said that while writing specific songs can differ each time, generally he thinks of musical ideas and records them. “Then when I need to write a song, I go back to my musical ideas. They might not work specifically, but there might be something in one of them, and I think ‘that might work for this song’ and then I take that idea and try to put lyrics to it.”
What motivates Jacob is that people have begun to think about ways in which music can be used in theatre that is different than it has been in traditional musicals. As a result, “1969: The Second Man” has been developing and changing significantly over five years. “I am excited for people to see a show that has elements of a rock concert and elements of storytelling and elements of musical theatre. The hope is that we are taking the pieces of these different forms that people enjoy and putting them together in a way that will emotionally resonant with them. And, the way we tell the story is also new and interesting.”
In terms of current trends in musical theatre, “I think the form is changing and I think that as the world is changing, we need to adapt in the arts to make sure that we are reaching people the way that we used to.”
“1969: The Second Man” starring Jacob Brandt was produced by Madeleine Foster Bersin and directed by Jaki Bradley (Good Men Wanted). For tickets, go to https://www.1969thesecondman.com/