“Every fantasy is you–every dream that might come true; You are the song I sing–YOU are my everything…I am in love with you!” (–Excerpt from “Love Songs…A Musical”)
…Sumptuous words, rapturous phrases–all from the mind and talent of Composer-Lyricist Steven Cagan.“ All that I’ve ever wanted to do with my music is move people,” he confesses; “and looking back, the moments that always moved me the most were the tenderest and most loving. I’ve always felt that one of the few things in life that’s really worth singing about is love.” It’s this search for connection through music–particularly music as the fuel for love and devotion that is slated to be explored later this month with the debut of ”Love Songs…A Musical” when it opens for a limited five night run at New York’s renowned “Feinstein’s” at “Loew’s Regency-Hotel”. Marking both a first for the venue as well as the Big Apple‘s theater community as a whole, presented will be scenes from this new Musical, sung by its cast of Broadway stars prior to its theatrical premiere!
A proud Alumnus of the inaugural class of the celebrated Lehman Engel-BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, Cagan observes that, “Basically, it’s an evening of love songs, looking at love from every possible aspect–the funny, the bitter, the happy, the sad, the sexy, the tempting, the frightened–it’s a collection of songs looking at love from all these various angles, and hence the title: “Love Songs”!” Ironically, in reflecting back on how the project got its start, its creator lets on that perhaps it might be more fitting to say that it all began with a single love-SONG, detailing how in 1995, he wrote a ballad titled “Carpe Diem.” Now highlighted in the second act, he recalls liking it so much that he contacted singer Michael Feinstein about recording it.
‘So Michael ‘demo-ed’ ‘Carpe Diem‘,” he divulges, “and that was the beginning of the entire process of creating this show.” Acknowledging how Feinstein has since then been “A champion of this work from day one,” he continues, “I am flattered and honored that he thinks enough of my work to support it the way he has–he’s my hero!” For this very reason then, Steven especially enjoys the delightful fortuity involved with it’s debut occurring at the esteemed singer’s popular club. “The fact that now, it’s being ’done’ at Michael’s place by way of introducing it to an audience, it’s just a perfect circle–a perfect ’arc!” he smiles.
Yet, quick to recognize that successful musicals are based on more than just one or two hits, Cagan also knew that the real challenge to building “Love Songs” into a workable ’show” was to find a “frame or story-line” that would logically connect each separate song. Happily, by creating a set-up involving three couples–each at different stages in their own individual-relationships, the Master-Melodist has ingeniously done just that. “It’s very much a ‘book’ musical“ he advises, “even though it’s completely sung. There ARE stories taking place here involving the three couples, rather than ’speaking’ their thoughts and feelings though, they are ’sung-through’.” Director Lynne Taylor-Corbett who is helming this upcoming presentation at “Feinstein’s”, echoes his sentiments. “I have known Steven for many years,” she affirms, “and think that ‘Love Songs’ is a crowning achievement–full of wisdom and whimsy.” Obviously too, plenty of others are in agreement with them, for since its inception, the show has gone on to win at the University of Michigan’s prestigious “Festival of New Works” competition.
To realize their vision at this, the next step in its evolution, the pair have brought together one of the most gifted casts ever to grace the spotlight. Set in “the here and now“, the musical tells (or rather ‘sings” ) the tale of Jeremy and his bride-to-be, Gabby–played by Ken Clark and Ashley Kate Adams respectively. Joining them as part of their wedding weekend (at, appropriately enough, Loew’s Regency Hotel) are Broadway veterans Kevin Spirtas and Debbie Gravitte as Jeremy’s boss and Best-Man, Roy and his long-time (if somewhat cynical) ‘paramour‘, Rose; likewise helping prepare for the ceremony are Fleur Phillips as Sarah–Gabby’s older sister and Maid Of Honor, and her boyfriend Ben. Portrayed by Bryce Ryness, Ben’s a quixotic-minded Poetry Professor who clings to the all-or-nothing belief that love is only ‘real’ if it resembles something out of Keats or Byron. As the action commences, everyone has checked-in…almost. In fact, the only one who hasn’t is Jeremy himself (being stuck out of town on business.) To top it off, unbeknownst to her Groom, Gabby has just discovered she’s pregnant. Throw in how Sarah has been ‘engaged’ to Ben for six years and is weary of his failure to commit to her, while Roy and Rose, on the other hand, have been around the block (‘amorously speaking‘) several times and just want to enjoy themselves (–and anyone else should the opportunity arise!) During the course of events, couples are joined, rejoined, break up and make up (not necessarily in that order) as Jeremy makes it back just in the nick of time to say those magic words “I Do’, thus helping provide the kind of happy ending only a Broadway-smash-in-the-making can offer!
Featuring titles like: “State Of The Union“, “Always & Ever”, the touching lullaby, “Sweet Tomorrow” (in which Gabby ‘introduces herself’ to her unborn child) and the poignant but powerful “I Am In Love With You”, the winning wall-to-wall score could be called a potent mix of ‘Stephen Sondheim meets Marvin Hamlisch’ (with a bit of Barry Manilow thrown in.) However, each maintains an integrity and uniqueness that’s akin to a series of mini-rhapsodies exhorting the many facets (and in some cases, frustrations) of this strangest and most wonderful of emotions. Citing “Carpe Diem” as a perfect example, Steve explains, “Simple expressions of love are the essence of what it is that I try to accomplish with my work.” Then again, along with lush power ballads, “Love Songs“ is also loaded with plenty of snappy word play and sharp (not to mention–observant) comical ditties, such as ’Ben’s” frenetic ode to romance, “Pitter Patter”–itself a sly, humorous, ‘homage’ to Sondheim (–one of this songwriter’s role models, whose “West Side Story” first inspired him to consider writing for the theatre.)
While Ms. Corbett has an extensive background in dance–including work with the New York City Ballet, due to limitations in the size and space, as far as this particular engagement goes, in terms of including much ’dance’ to go along with those songs, very little will be incorporated, opting instead to present it in what the production team calls more of a “Cabaret-style”. Still, for her part, Director Corbett is relishing the challenge of mounting the entire piece in “Feinstein’s” smaller space. “I’m looking forward to the experience at Feinstein’s to give us a chance to look even deeper into the heart of the work with a production that allows the piece to shine through.” she reveals, stressing that her goal is “to make it a universal experience for men and women everywhere“. Cagan does allow, on the other hand, that in the future as part of larger, fuller staging, he does foresee several integrated dance sequences. “Frankly, there’s an awful lot of the story that CAN be danced,” he divulges; “and I have left some places in the score for ballet sequences–even a few within some of the songs.”
How often does one have the opportunity to witness the birth of a genuine impending Broadway Triumph? “Love Songs…A Musical” will run starting Sunday, August 26th, through Thursday August 30th, each evening at 8:00PM at the magnificent “Feinstein’s” at the Loew’s Regency, located at 540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street) in New York, NY . For more information or to reserve seats call (212) 339-4095 or log onto: http://feinsteinsattheregency.com
Photos : Kevin Spirtas by Leslie Bohm, Debbie Gravitte by Doug Craib, Ken Clark by Taylor Hooper, Ashley Kate Adams by Billy Bustamante, Fleur Phillips by David Zaugh, Brice Ryness by Jesse Ashton Photography, all courtesy of Amanda Cagan and ABC PR. Special Thanks To Steven Cagan, Amanda Cagan, Corey Chambers, Michelle Rizzo and the Cast of “Love Songs…A Musical” for making this story possible.