Been doing a lot more writing than acting this year. Apart from two outings for the Men Without Friends triptych at Hove Grown and more recently Stroud (that's Matusow in the pic, at the British School on 1st Oct) , I've been somewhat short of offers to perform in other people's shows.
Annoying, undeniably, and yet a blessing simultaneously, it having left me free to proceed with projects that might otherwise have been disrupted by line-learning regimes. Topmost among these projects has been my musical based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes.
As you'll guess from the history of its working titles (first Fashion!, more recently Alchemy!), it's a fairly free adaptation. There again, Andersen doesn't give you all that much to work with. Some of his stories are immensely lengthy, while others, such as Clothes, are surprisingly slight. I'm not complaining, mind; on the contrary, I feel it gives me quite a lot of licence.
I've never written a musical before. I did write the book for a show called Miss Givings, weaving a story around a selection of great American songs sung by soprano Debbie Bridge; however, though I've written a few songs of my own, I've never performed any of them in public, nor have I ever before been compelled to create so many songs in such a short space of time. Not, of course, that I have to do anything; any deadline I have is entirely self-imposed. Nevertheless, I gave myself the length of this year to do the thing, and if it's not complete in about eight weeks (Jesus - where does the time go?!!?!!?!"?!!!?), I'll be very disappointed in myself.
Anyway, I've been seeking help and inspiration from various sources, including an excellent Musical Theatre Singing Course at the Academy of Creative Training, under the tutelage of Lesley McClymont. Of course, that's really about my professional development as an actor, but I can already feel my confidence as a songwriter grow with my confidence as a singer. More specifically I've been seeking to learn from the greats, hoovering up any and all musicals on CD and DVD, as well as reading useful literature by those who know. Right now I'm a little way into Tunesmith, an extremely well-constructed, user-friendly guide to the craft by the legendary Jimmy Webb, author of such greats as Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Up Up and Away and Macarthur Park - and yes, I'm aware that there are many who pour scorn on the last of those titles, but I think it the most magnificent of songs. Indeed, in my home town of Brighton I've been privileged to hear it performed live by two of my idols, Mr Andy Williams and Mr Jimmy 'that's right, the man himself' Webb. I even got to hear them do it for free, in return for writing 'em up for the local 'paper. Both of those reviews are reproduced on this very website here.
In closing, here's an interesting point that Mr Webb makes in passing. Songs, he observes, for the most part are made up of lines that rhyme, However, it's not always so. For instance, he notes, Paul Simon's America doesn't rhyme at all. "What?!???!?" I said. "America? Doesn't rhyme?"
Y'know what's funny, though? He's right. It doesn't. Not once. Check it out and see.
Robert Cohen – a man in showbiz so stepp’d in that, should he wade no more, to go back were as tedious as go o’er. These are among his musings.