Next week, “Un-Block The Music” is seeing SUFFS, the musical written by Shaina Taub. And, as if that is not exciting enough, I have already had the pleasure of interviewing music director and supervisor Andrea Grody. A young woman in a sea of men behind the scenes, SUFFs is by no means Andrea’s first trip to the New York stage. She has worked on and off Broadway quite notably as the music director, music supervisor and additional arranger for David Yazbek’s Tony winning musical The Band’s Visit. For Tootsie, she was also the music director, supervisor and vocal arranger.
“Un-Block the Music” is not truly convinced that audiences know what goes into the music of a show. “Music is a small word that defines and holds so much!,” Andrea said. A show’s director has a whole team of designers behind them. Music directors need their team too in order to create the whole sonic experience. “They shape the story from the composer’s mind.”
It is true that Andrea graduated from Princeton University, where she majored in Music and minored in Theater. She also holds a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre Music Directing from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. However, to truly succeed in this business, “Networking is everything. While it can feel fake, it’s not exactly about finding connections, but it’s about finding your matches, people you want to work with and then being loyal to them.”
Andrea told “Un-Block The Music” that there are two very strong defining moments that actually led her to this career. Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) taught one of her classes freshman year of college. He came back her junior year. Later when she received a grant to stay in NYC for a summer to work on her thesis, Andrea asked Michael if he could use a summer assistant at The Civilians (a theater company he was a founding member of). “He said, ‘sure,’ and I pretty much followed him around for the next four or five years,” she said.
Andrea continued. “Michael’s show In Great Immensity came to the Public Théâtre, and I was the music director and then associate music director for another of his shows, Fortress of Solitude. Through that process I met the person who introduced me to David Yazbek. That was the second moment in defining my career.”
As for her current project, SUFFS, Andrea said she met Shaina Taub in 2016. They talked about work, but their personal and professional relationship really grew from a simple question. “I asked her for a book recommendation. I read the book, it was great and I wrote to her. Then she asked me to work on As You Like It at Public Works.” From there they headed into development of SUFFS.
This show follows the ongoing battle for women’s right to vote. It focuses on Alice Paul (portrayed by Shaina Taub) and her conflict with Carrie Chapman Catt (portrayed by Jenn Colella). Alice was radical. Carrie more moderate. Much like what is going on in politics today, these two women had the same goals but had different views on how to get there. Andrea said, “it’s a show about activism, and proof that we need every voice.”
And, “Un-Block the Music” is excited to report, that Andrea’s voice is making a mark beyond music direction. She can do it all, including composing her own show, Strange Faces which will be presented this summer by TILT Performance Group in Central Texas. Andrea wrote the original draft of this show when she was in college. Strange Faces is about three families that have a child on the autism spectrum. Neurodiverse characters in the show are being played by neurodiverse actors. (As “Un-Block The Music” understands neurodiversity it is the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.) Andrea said, her show “should be a voice for people who live this experience.” For more about the show and theater company, and for tickets, go to https://www.tiltperformance.org/.
While Andrea is very excited about the next steps for Strange Faces, she admitted “music directing and arranging is really where my heart lies. I like shaping the story from the composer’s mind” and to continually improve on her work. “I am committed to detail and I track the moments and I get better at it all of the time. All work presents an opportunity improve.”
This is just a taste of my interview with Andrea. In my book, “Un-Block The Music” will delve deeper into the lives and careers of Women In Theater. Stay tuned for more news on that, but if you want to experience Andrea’s work here in New York now, get tickets to SUFFS playing a limited run at NYC’s Newman Theater. While this blog is dedicated to all kinds of music and all kinds of people, I can’t think of another show that represents the themes in my book any better. https://publictheater.org/productions/season/2122/suffs/?gclid=CjwKCAjwjZmTBhB4EiwAynRmD9er-RT7MlKjO434GvQWOyh9zsc4sURQGOc-e6xk7L28JrO9K2rIDBoCSaAQAvD_BwE