It’s 4 weeks till Back To Whatever (aka B2W) and I’d like to take this opportunity to work backwards through the three-day extravaganza and have you meet Thursday’s masterclinician, James Valcq!
James is best known as the composer of the Off-Broadway musical The Spitfire Grill (Playwrights Horizons, 2001), which won the Richard Rodgers Production Award administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Stephen Sondheim, chair) and received Best Musical nominations from the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League plus two Drama Desk nominations. Written with collaborator Fred Alley, Spitfire has been produced over 700 times in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. James is the composer/author of Zombies from The Beyond which opened Off- Broadway to critical acclaim in 1995 [I saw it at both the Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University, and honestly, it needs to be performed more often].
He has composed scores for Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Door Shakespeare, The Passage (with Fred Alley), Victory Farm, and Boxcar for Northern Sky, and Anatole for First Stage. During his decade as co-Artistic Director of Third Avenue PlayWorks [TAP], James created the Irving Berlin cavalcade Say It With Music, reconceived the opera “La Serva Padrona” as Maid to Marry, and created a new adaptation of the 1910 musical Madame Sherry. His monodrama Velvet Gentleman was named “Best Performance of the Year” by Green Bay’s WFRV-TV in 2017 and 2018, and his 2019 restoration of Gershwin’s La La Lucille [which featured MVSMKE alum Ryan Cappleman as well] broke audience attendance records.
Broadway credits as conductor and/or musician include Chicago, Flower Drum Song, Cabaret, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Other conducting credits: Maurice Sendak’s production of Really Rosie; Candide, Lady in the Dark, South Pacific (Skylight Opera Theatre); and She Loves Me (Indiana Rep). Television appearances include The Today Show (NBC) and Musical Theatre: New Directions (PBS).
Directing credits include Zombies from The Beyond off-Broadway, Northern Sky’s The Spitfire Grill, and TAP’s The Glass Menagerie, The Drawer Boy, Candide, and The Amish Project (among many others). Favorite acting roles include Cosme in Souvenir (Boise Contemporary Theatre, American Stage Company, TAP), Feste in Twelfth Night (Door Shakespeare), Ernie in Guys on Ice (Milwaukee Rep), Tuttle in La La Lucille & Philippe in Madame Sherry (TAP), and Pierre in How I Became a Pirate (First Stage). James holds an MFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and is a proud member of the American Federation of Musicians & Actors Equity Association.
James was profiled in the December 2018 issue of American Theatre magazine.
[Fun fact: We were in the chorus together at Skylight Opera Theatre way back in the 19… never you mind…]
The focus of his masterclass will be “Finding The Emotional Truth in Golden Age Theater Songs.” (Because angst existed before Rent.)
Shows pre-Sondheim are often thought of as superficial, old-fashioned, sentimental, and having little to do with contemporary values and issues. (Check out this excellent and quite accessible 2017 research paper from Danny Adams at Illinois Wesleyan University for more on these prejudices.)
As Roger DeBris put it in The Producers,
Max Bialystock : Up to now, you’ve always been associated with musicals.
Roger De Bris : Yes! Dopey showgirls with gooey gowns. “Two, three, kick, turn. Turn, turn, kick, turn!”
But if you think about it, there are a lot of themes covered in Golden Age era musicals that remain relevant today:
spousal abuse and suicide (Carousel)
racism (Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific)
gang violence (West Side Story)
the rise of fascism (Sound of Music)
classism (My Fair Lady)
labor unions (Pajama Game)
And even when things aren’t quite that heavy, the characters still have real emotions to convey. Yes, “Many a new day” from Oklahoma is kind of a drippy song, but why is Laurey singing it? What is she establishing about herself?
(Honestly – I’ve always found Laurey to be kind of a drip. But maybe the Laureys I’ve seen were singing their songs superficially and hadn’t found their emotional truth.)
Don’t be that Laurey.
Five singers will sing for Mr. Valcq. Each singer will get 15 minutes in which to perform a Golden Age-era theater song in its entirety, after which Mr. Valcq will coach them on the nuances needed to get to the truth of the song, and consequently, of the character.
Registration for the 3 day B2W series is $90. To sing for Mr. Valcq in Thursday’s class on top of that, the fee is $15. All registrants for the 3 day workshop will have access to a video replay through September 10.
Singers who only wish to take the Thursday masterclass will need to pay $40 plus an additional $50 to sing. There will be no video replay for single-session registrants.
There are only five spots available – I believe I have 3 filled so far.