Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In-depth Interview on Common Man Musical's new cabaret series

Ed Pierce is Director/Conductor/Vocalist from Fort Atkinson, WI with over 35 years experience in the musical field.  He is the winner of the 2011 John Philip Sousa Foundation's Award and the 2014 Bandmaster of the Year Award.

Here are Ed's off the cuff comments on Common Man Musicals and their recent production of "You Can Always Come Home", a cabaret of new musical theatre.

Ed: First let me address your WONDERFUL cabaret: When I think of the audience that comes to a cabaret, they are looking for fresh, original material coupled with exciting talent: clearly this is the case with “You Can Always Come Home Cabaret”! 

You have assembled a great ensemble coupled with Jonathan’s amazing talent for composition. 
“Sandwich”, “Spiders”, and “Shut Up” are great fun coupled with contrasting social issues like “I Don’t Want”.  And of course there's the heartfelt feelings of your title song “You Can Always Come Home".  (see videos)  Kudos go to you and Jonathan and the whole team at Common Man Musicals.


Ed: Question: does your performance team stay together? Are you always recruiting?

Kimbirdlee: We've had 2 productions so far and the cast for each production was about 10 actors.  3 of the actors from last summer’s “Four One Act Musicals” (Thomas Slater, Kaitlyn Abdul and Kimbirdlee Fadner) were also in "You Can Always Come Home".  We invited a few of our professional friends/colleagues from the NYU-Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, and then we wanted to include more of the talent that has grown up on Roosevelt Island and is connected with Main St. Theatre & Dance Alliance.  Our intention is to have a core group but to continue to recruit new talent all the time!  Sometimes we hold auditions that are open to the public, and sometimes (mostly for the cabarets) we will invite folks to join us.  Our challenge is widening our audience base beyond our own circles, but we can do that by consistently producing quality shows.  


MSTDA and Common Man Musicals are launching a “You Can Always Come Home” Cabaret series that will take place every other month now.  Our next one is Saturday, June 17th.  We are also producing one annual full length musical, which is scheduled for the first weekend of August!  We welcome any chance to get the word out about anything to do with new musical theatre!

Ed: Does Jonathan write for each performer?

Kimbirdlee: As the composer, Jonathan usually collaborates with a writer either to write a full show or single songs or short musicals, not usually with a specific actor in mind.  That said, he has written many songs and roles that are in my range and I have the honor of workshopping them, recording demos, and performing them.  I have a true love for developing new works and cherish every project! 

He is developing a full length musical, "Northanger Abbey", that will be produced in August.  He knows who will be singing a couple of those parts, so he will try to emphasize their particular strengths - which is so awesome for actors to have something made to fit them, rather than trying to mold themselves into something written for someone else!  

Ed: Do you put music into place and THEN seek out the talent to pull it off?

Kimbirdlee: When we organized this cabaret, we had an idea of who we wanted, then put the song list together and fit actors to songs.  We always have more actors than we could ever fit into a night, so that's not a problem.  One thing that I loved about "You Can Always Come Home" is that even though there were 7 women, we each were unique and covered the spectrum of "types" and weren't competing but rather highlighting each other and supporting each other!  I LOVE THAT!!!  The Common Women have such a great time together!  I'm all about individuality in artistry, which is hard in this business when auditions are often about trying to fit actors into a very specific type.

Ed: Allow me a comment: In my humble opinion, you and Jonathan are on the front lines of growing the arts with fresh material, not being afraid to experiment and push boundaries. The Cabaret format seems to be an ideal one to do so. I offer in contrast Disney: they are about to launch a new live action Beauty and the Beast, a move I applaud. But this comes at a price: the energies used are not being directed at exploring new, original and fresh material. The studio the once prized itself on its musical Renaissance with a new musical every year for ten years straight seems to have dried up. It already has been three years since their success in Frozen until Moana came out! They are sliding slowly back into the creative funk they were in after Walt died. You, Jonathan and the rest of your company have no such fears: you are not afraid to take risks and that makes your material shine! I don’t know how often you will be required to come up with different shows but speaking from the artistic point of view, you are in the right place to do the most good. Folks in the audience come out happy and eager for more.

THANK YOU for believing in me and us!
I have to tell you that all of the opportunities you've given me over the years have helped lead me to this point.  I am ever grateful for our musical collaborations and our friendship.  I know we will keep working together for a long long time!   

To see the entire playlist of videos from "You Can Always Come Home" Cabaret, click below:


Common Man Musicals Events
Saturday, June 17th      "You Can Always Come Home" returns to MSTDA on Roosevelt Island

Friday - Monday, August 4-7th "Northanger Abbey" (Jonathan Fadner & John Blaylock)

Kimbirdlee is the Artist-in-Residence Vocalist for Ed Pierce’s Wisconsin based band, PECB.  They have an exciting 2017 Summer Pops Concerts Series lined up!  

This year’s musical highlights will include a premier of a Jonathan Fadner composition titled "Rushing Past the World",  Disney heroines Moana, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast - also song of Patsy Cline, People from Funny Girl, and La Traviata, to name a few fantastic selections.   

Thursday, June 29
Concerts at Rotary Park

Saturday, July 1
Classic Concert Series
7 - 9pm

Sunday, July 9 
Eagle Ice Cream Social

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