Do you need a little Christmas? Right this very minute? “Un-Block The Music” encourages you to check out The Nice List with book and lyrics by the latest “Woman Wonder”, Phoebe Kreutz. (BTW…music is by Gary Adler, composer Altar Boyz, musical director Avenue Q and directed by Sesame’s Street’s Mr. Hooper, Alan Muraoka). The Nice List will be brought to you for FREE on YouTube this whole month! https://www.nicelistmusical.com/
You will recognize a whole lot of this cast! But, before I get into that, “Un-Block The Music” wants you to get acquainted with Phoebe! Although she has been writing songs since she was a little girl, her most famous stint as a performer has probably been with The Pizza Underground, a band lead by none other than Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin! Phoebe says she has ricocheted back and forth between indie rock and theater. Isn’t it nice, that these two genres are being meshed together these days?!
“I was always writing. As a little girl, whenever I had an assignment for a class, I would try to turn it around and make it something I could write a song for. (Sounds a lot like “Un-Block The Music’s” beginnings when I had to do assignments related to my spelling words given out on Monday!…But that’s a whole other story!…LOL) What drew Phoebe into the indie rock world, had a lot to do with the speed at which you can get a song out into the universe. “You can write a song and perform it that night at an open mic. Not having to wait for permission lets you create your own little social world,” she said.
Indie rock perhaps….but you can’t take theater out of the girl. Phoebe went to the acting conservatory at Boston University but realized right away that I just wanted to do plays and not audition. I didn’t want to sell myself and be in competition with others. It made me nauseous. I dropped out and went to work for Jim Henson. She got an internship never admitting she was not in school anymore. They never checked! After the internship they hired me to work at Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop).
and eventually I became a puppet wrangler at Avenue Q.”
I heard about Evergreen College, a progressive, public arts and sciences school located in Olympia, Washington. “In those days it was cheap and a hippie place…no majors, requirements or finals,” so that’s where she ended up finishing school. It is where Phoebe learned about Indie Rock. “When I was going to high school in Brooklyn, I didn’t know this music existed. It was all about Boyz II Men for me then.” Phoebe got excited about indie rock and had the best of both worlds for a while. She ended up becoming a puppet wrangler making a salary at Avenue Q on Broadway then touring around Europe with her indie music when she could.
Eventually, Phoebe left Avenue Q to do event writing, eg. award shows, skits and pharmaceutical launches. “It is how I paid the bills for a while. It’s also how I met my husband who was a promising young publishing executive at the time. I got him to quit and join my circus,” she laughed “We did that for a couple of years. It felt like being at camp!”
Phoebe’s touring was curtailed when she gave birth to her son. And now….ugh…with this pandemic, artists are trying to figure out how to make things happen. Before the shutdown, Phoebe was working on a musical called Christmas With The Almost Stars which is a show giving the perspective of the 1960s Christmas specials. “We had interest from a couple of theaters. Hope it will be out next Christmas!” Phoebe co wrote the book with Jake McKenna and Derek Gregor. Derek also wrote the music. Michael Whitney conceived the story.
In the meantime, “I started working with Gary (Adler) on The Nice List. I’ve had musicals produced in various venues and in different ways, but I never had anything happen this quickly,” Phoebe said. “The praise goes to Telly (Leung) and Alan (Muraoka). Within 24 hours, Alan said, ‘let’s do it!’ It felt like the indie world. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just has to be awesome! Break the door down and see what happens! It will be fun!”
The Nice List has an incredible cast including Telly (Aladdin/Godspell), Julia Mattison (Godspell), Jennifer Barnhardt (Avenue Q) , Ann Harada (Avenue Q Emojiiland), James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin), Nick Kohn (Avenue Q) and Don Daryl Rivera (Aladdin). “We were calling in friends. The musicians are the Avenue Q Band. It is incredible but heartbreaking that I could be in the room with them. (The band is always who you want to hang out with from a Broadway show. They are the ones that go bowling late at night cause they don’t have to look pretty the next day!” Phoebe laughed.
The Nice List, Phoebe says, is a show that will be live eventually. It is a show that can work in a lot of venues and mediums.
The gist of the story…Santa’s Head Elf, Chestnut has convinced the whole North Pole to adopt modern technology and go virtual. That means all the planning, the toys, the mayhem—it’s all happening online. While Santa is supposed to be loving, we all grew up listening to “he sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good….ya da ya da ya da….2020 has been a time when we have had to take stock in ourselves. I believe this show, encourages conversation, said Phoebe. “It’s important to keep kids minds open to forgiveness. We want them to give people a chance.” You may be surprised at who will turn out to be your friend. “It’s pertinent to the world right now.”
As “Un-Block The Music” always points out, the theater community (actually the music world as a whole) is very small. I have written about many of the artists mentioned in this piece. Below is a sampling of stories. I encourage you to follow the blog (just scrolled down and hit “follow” on the right-hand side. You can also find “Un-Block The Music” on Instagram, Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn). Share!
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Now…go enjoy the show!!