As “Un-Block The Music” has written many times, no artist has the same path to success and writing about those individual journeys is the fun of this blog. If you are in high school right now trying to make a decision about your life, do not agonize. What college you choose does not determine your life. It takes some “living” to figure that out. That was true for Amanda Green. While she has been wildly successful as a lyricist on Broadway with High Fidelity, Bring It On and Hands On Hardbody, she didn’t start out thinking about theater as a career despite the fact that her parents are Multi-Tony Winner Adolph Green (On The Twentieth Century) and Tony-Award Winner Phyllis Newman (Subways Are For Sleeping).
“I don’t think there is anything scarier than being a high school senior and not going to college, or even a college senior. So much pressure. I wanted to be an actress, but then I took a back-door route,” Amanda said. As a lover of David Bowie and The Talking Heads, she started writing pop music. Ah, but look at who favorite artists are…theatrical in nature? I think so! Anyway, eventually she heard Lyle Lovett. “I have always been very funny and his thoughts were funny. So, I started listening to country music and realized there was room for humor in country music.” So, she spent some time in Nashville writing. While, she says she was not all that successful there, her artistry was very much improved.
Back in New York, Amanda had “a day job” for a long time while she was writing a lot of songs. She performed in a lot of cabarets, and decided to sing some of her original songs. “I loved that feeling.” Then, she entered the BMI musical theater program. “After writing my first song, I realized this is where my quirky humor and theatrical sense is…This is my tone.” In hindsight, Amanda says, she may have steered away from theater initially because that was her family’s very successful saga. “But once I had the bug, I couldn’t stop!”
While in the BMI program, Amanda had some impressive classmates who ultimately became her friends and collaborators. There was Bobby Lopez (Frozen), Brian Yorkey (The Visitor), and ultimately Tom Kitt! (Next To Normal and everything other show “Un-Block The Music” has been writing about!). Anyway, “Tom asked to be musical director of my cabaret at which I was singing my own music! He was my musical director for years after that. Then he brought me the idea of doing High Fidelity. He composed the music; I wrote the lyrics. It was our first Broadway show.”
Eventually Amanda met Trey Anastasio of the band Phish through a mutual friend of her husband’s. “My husband the doctor was the great connector,” she said. “He thought Trey and I should meet because he was looking for other people to write with. It turned out that we live a block away from each other. We just started writing songs. I had been working on this musical, Hands On a HardBody (book written by Doug Wright), and I thought, OMG Trey is incredible, and I asked him if he ever thought about writing a musical. He said, ‘Are you kidding? I’d love to write a musical!’ We were so lucky he came aboard.” All “Un-Block The Music” can say is that cast was remarkable. Not only did it have Keith Carradine, but there was Hunter Foster and Keala Settle whose voice just shakes me to the core!
Then came Bring It On, The Musical. “It was the guys and me,” said Amanda. That team was Jeff Whitty, Tom Kitt and…wait for it… Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)! “They wanted the music to combine pop and hip hop,” she said. The touring stage production began in the summer of 2012.
After taking all that in, “Un-Block The Music” asked Amanda’s advice for budding lyricists. “Don’t be afraid to rewrite. There is strength in letting go of what you have in search of something better.” She said, when she had to rewrite the first song she wrote for a show, she had a heart attack, but rewrites need to happen as stories and characters evolve. Ironically, she said, the songs she rewrote most often were those in Bring It On. “We had lots of different productions. Sometimes the same moment was rewritten 5 or 10 times!” It was a brand-new musical and it was evolving.
Another great piece of advice for budding composers and lyricists is to “work with people you respect and who respect you. Befriend actors and have them sing your songs! That’s how Tom Kitt and I got producers for High Fidelity. We asked our friends to sing them. The songs went over so well, we invited producers to hear them.”
While theater is all about live performance, artists have not shutdown their creativity during this pandemic. Amanda has been continuing her work on a show with Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County) called Mr. Saturday Night starring Billy Crystal. They had been looking at a Fall premier on Broadway, but that is obviously postponed for now. She is also working with Composer Curtis Moore (For The Love of Tiffany) and writers Gabrielle Allan and Jen Crittenden on an original show called Female Troubles. “We like to refer to it as Jane Austen Meets Bridesmaids,” she joked.
“I have also spent quarantine dreaming up what I want to write about next,” Amanda said. “Un-Block The Music” asked her if television has ever been on her list of “must dos.” She said yes. Interestingly enough, she worked on Peter Pan Live a couple of years ago. That music was written by Morris “Moose” Charlap and Jule Styne with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Betty Comden and Adolph Green. She enjoyed taking songs her dad wrote back in the 1950s and repurposing them.
After reading this story, I suspect you will want to listen to Amanda’s music. “Un-Block The Music” suggests starting with Bring It On. My daughter performed in a production of this show with Broadway Workshop, so it holds a special place in my heart. I guarantee you will be not only singing those songs but laughing and also thanking God you are not in high school anymore. https://open.spotify.com/album/7bXw35kyOkbRSUpilUnM7J
Check out the archived story about Broadway Workshop. https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/12/05/mean-girl-taylor-louderman-guest-teacher-at-broadway-workshop-where-kids-acting-goals-are-taken-seriously/