Women Wonders: Twenty-Somethings Holly Block & Elizabeth Jerjian Unapologetically Premiere Their Musical “Safe & Sound” At Front Row Fringe

The inaugural Front Line Fringe Festival opens this weekend with 17 shows! Safe and Sound The Musical will premiere on Saturday night, March 13 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central time. Tickets are on sale at  https://www.safeandsoundmusical.com/.

We often speak of kismet in relation to the perfect destiny of lovers coming together. There was even a Broadway show of that name in the 1950s. HOWEVER, “Un-Block The Music” (UBTM) truly witnessed this professional/friendship kind of fate when I introduced Elizabeth Jerjan, 27, to my daughter Holly Block, 21. I was scheduled to meet “Lizzie”, who was here from the UK, at our local Starbucks to do an interview for this blog. Holly had a little free time, so I told her to come along; thought the two of them might have something in common (little did I know these two women actually have the same birthday). Anyway, I never could have imagined what I witnessed that day. While it had no name, I watched the birth of Safe and Sound The Musical. I said “hello,” and I then faded into the background as Holly and Lizzie connected on a level I had not seen before. I will let them tell the story.

UBTM: First off, what’s the show’s elevator pitch?

Holly: It’s the story of how “Love” guides three characters towards rediscovering who they are by reconnecting them to their inner child. The show focuses on mental health, suicide prevention, woman empowerment, LGBTQ, toxic masculinity and self-love. We make it a point to show that you can come through any kind of darkness with self-love and love for others. We have a love challenge. If you go on our social media, you will see people sharing their stories as to how they overcame darkness through love. “We are love”

UBTM: Before the two of you met, were there aspirations of writing a musical?

Lizzie: Three years before I met Holly, I was writing songs. You’re taught about writing formulas, but they never really tell you to find something you want to write about, or to figure out what you want to say. The irony, that I can’t explain, is that I wrote “Vibrations” before I knew the character of Michael existed. I had his story in my head. Holly had the character without the music. The show evolved naturally; it fell like dominos into place. Magic.

The first song in the musical is “Carry Me”. I remember writing that when I was desperate to know who I was. When this melody came out, I pressed a chord and I started crying. At the time, I didn’t know why the song was important.

UBTM: While not an actual person, a central character to the show is TIME. Eleven/Eleven means something to you. What is the significance?

Holly: Eleven/Eleven has a specific meaning. When one door closes, another opens. And for our spiritual believers, it is thought to be a time when you can talk to those who have passed. When Lizzie and I were together, the number kept coming up on receipts, on the phone…everywhere and we realized time was the concept that brings the whole show together. We all have a love/hate relationship with time. “In time, it will all work out.” “In time you will heal.” “In time you will understand.” It is a constant battle we all experience.

Lizzie: Holly wrote the lyrics to that song as a poem, and the melody instantaneously came to my head.

Holly:  The characters developed in ways I would not have imagined with out the music. And, the music developed couldn’t have been imagined without the characters.

UBTM: Tell me about the character of “Love,” how she developed and why?

Holly:  The overall theme of the show is almost a prayer and a chant. The characters are asking for help. Love is like mother nature to me, but with the children she is almost like Mother Mary. If you believe in the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, you know she almost always appeared to children, and in this show, the  children are pure and so open to her.

UBTM: Hence, we all want to get back that childlike innocence?

Holly:  When you are little, you are never alone. You used your imagination. We don’t do that as adults.  Some of my favorite lyrics in the song “Wonderful Child” are: “do you remember those times when you were proud to color outside the lines?”  “I know you have been taught to act your age, what good is that if you can’t have any fun?” As a child, you cry to let out the hurt. As adults, we try and control that. We are all born with that freedom, what we go through is what we are told by society. That takes freedom away.

Lizzie: Our mission is to show that full circle; to get back your real self that society took away from you.

UBTM: With spirituality playing such an important role in your story, I suspect that the vivid colors throughout have special meaning as well?

Holly:  Colors have a few meanings. To me personally, it is sort of a tribute to Godspell. I was booked in Broadway Producer Ken Davenport’s Godspell 2032 when I was 12. That changed the course of my life.

Secondly, colors represent chakras.

UBTM: I will define chakras for those not as connected, like me! “The seven chakras are the main energy centers of the body. You may have heard people talk about ‘unblocking’ their chakras, which refers to the idea that when all of our chakras are open, energy can run through them freely, and harmony exists between the physical body, mind, and spirit.”  Am I right Holly and Lizzie?

Holly: Yes!!! Each character in our show has a color associated with them. For example, Michael’s color is yellow. That represents willpower and the ability to overcome. James is blue. That has to do with communication and being vulnerable. Rosie is red which represents strength, love and finding yourself.

Then, there is the child, Erin who is based off a friend of mine who died when we were seniors in high school. Her favorite color was purple which represents hope and faith. I didn’t plan that…purple just happened!

UBTM: One of my favorite musicals is Rent because it broke the musical theater mold. Sounds like you have done that as well.

Holly: Our musical is about moving up the mountain. Most musicals start high, go low, and come back up. When you meet our characters, they are already at the lowest point in their life.  It’s an uphill scale from the start to the end of the show. That’s what makes the show heart wrenching but so hopeful.

UBTM: What else is different about your musical?

Holly: Lizzie and I love contemporary dance. To my knowledge, there is little to no contemporary dance in theater. Moriah Ritchie is our choreographer and she is doing a brilliant job.  All dance tells a story, but contemporary dance is so raw. It comes from the gut.

UBTM: What about your team? Did you find team players as open minded as you are?

Lizzie: Yes. We found empowerment through writing, and as a result we found people to work with that we adore like Jacob Foy our instrumental musical director. I am very much accustomed to orchestrating vocals. I needed help with orchestrating music for a musical. I was very much in the pop realm before this project. We worked with a couple of producers early on that we didn’t see eye to eye with.  Then we connected with Jacob Foy who aligned with us exactly. He heard what we truly wanted and he was able to create the instrumental to truly support each song. He has made it more magical than we could even have imagined.

Holly: Hands-down, Jacob is one of the best upcoming orchestrators Broadway is going to see. Along with his dad, Jeff Foy, they have two New York bound shows, Emergency and One Night Only which is tentatively scheduled to open off-Broadway this summer. Anyway, the Foys wrote the books and the music for both of those shows. Everything Jacob has done so far, takes my breath away and I can’t wait to see him take the world by storm. Get prepared. He is coming in hot and strong!

We worked with two orchestrators before Jacob. Did not work out! Aside from his talent, his energy is positive. The message of our show is to be kind, and the Foys always offer positivity. I have known them for a couple of years, and that is a constant. BTW…let me also add, I am so excited to originate the role of Kendra in One Night Only and sing their original songs!!!

UBTM: My biggest question is…how did two women in their 20s have the guts to take on writing the book, the music, directing, producing and even acting?

Holly: There is no reason we shouldn’t take this all on and challenge ourselves. I love gaining knowledge. I love being exhausted in the way of creating something. My mentor at Circle In The Square Theatre Conservatory was Alan Langdon. He taught me to be fearless.

UBTM: The pandemic has made life virtual. What have you learned about virtual theater?

Holly: Something people don’t do with virtual theater is direct it like it is on the stage. You don’t want it to be boring. If you direct it like theater, it will come off better.  When you direct for the stage, you need to direct to the 80th row in the back as well as the front row. It’s different on camera, but you have opportunity as well because the camera is focused more closely on the actors.

*************

Beyond Safe & Sound, festival passes are available for shows and seminars. Go to frontrowfrignefestival.com.

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