Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Andrew Lippa

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

10 Questions with Andrew Lippa

 

How do you feel about being grouped as part of the much talked about “next generation” of Broadway writers?

I think the grouping of people comes from the needs of newspaper/column writers to give some kind of organization to things. Probably the only reason we are grouped together is that we’re a gang of people who have been consistently produced in New York. But, of course, that doesn’t account for people who’ve created some great stuff. Steven Trask (Hedwig) comes to mind as someone I haven’t read much about who wrote a great score. And I don’t think he’s included in that “next generation” stuff. Admittedly, it’s always nice to be talked about but there’s not much to the discussion other than pointing out that there ARE a group of really gifted younger writers who want to write musicals. That in itself is cause for celebration!

What’s your next writing project?

I’m writing several things right now. First is a new musical called Enchant with bookwriter Betsy Pool. I don’t really want to say what it’s about yet but it’s based on a screenplay by Betsy and it’s a very musical idea in that a lot of the characters sing by profession (though it’s not a backstage musical either). Curious? Well, once we’ve written a draft I’ll be a little more willing to talk about it. The other project is a movie called A Whatnot Christmas for which I am writing the songs and score. It is being directed and written by Mitchell Kriegman and will be released next year. It’s done with puppets and computer animation and I’m in the process of writing and recording the songs right now.

What’s your role in the upcoming Cinderella tour, and how did that come about?

I’m the musical supervisor and arranger for that tour. Gabriel Barre (who directed The Wild Party) is directing and asked if I would come on board. It’s been fun to work with such great music and to re-think it to fit into a new book and a new production. This is the first first-class production of this show so it’s got some excitement around it.  

Your bio mentions that you’ve composed music for the Universal Studios theme park. What exactly did you write for them?

I had fun writing a live 22-minute musical for their new park in Orlando. The show had a bunch of cartoon characters in it and was all pre-recorded with a 90-piece orchestra (that I got to conduct!). It ran for about a year and then they closed it down to make way for something new.

How was your experience with The Wild Party — both the initial writing and being a part of the production — different from your experience with john & jen?

The primary difference was that I wrote The Wild Party all by myself. It was my first time writing lyrics and it opened me up to a whole new way of looking at and writing songs. Granted, it was exhausting – emotionally and physically – to be responsible for the whole thing. john & jen was a small show on a small budget. The Wild Party was the opposite. In many ways I think j & j taught me how to write, how to think, and gave me a strong foundation to leap into The Wild Party. As different as they are I don’t think the one would have happened without the other. And boy, are they different!

What’s the last show you saw (and what did you think about it)?

The Full Monty. Loved it! Very funny, very entertaining. Terrific performances.

What’s on your CD player now?

Sting’s Brand New Day, Jonathan Elias’ The Prayer Cycle, an Etta James album, Kina’s self-titled debut, and John Bucchino’s Grateful.

How do you approach a moment in a show that you think should be musicalized? (i.e., what’s your method when writing a song?)

What a question! I’m either looking for someone to sing about how they feel, what they want, what they don’t want, what they don’t know they want – there’re a lot of choices – and I’m often looking for subtext, looking to write something where what they don’t sing is as important as what they do. It all depends on the show, I guess. And of course, sometimes you just want to sing a big loud song!

Is there a Broadway show you wish you had written?

Dreamgirls.

You’ve got an interesting gig coming up next weekend. Can you tell our readers about it and how it came about?

It took me a second to figure out what you were referring to, however…I am the cantor of a synagogue in suburban Vancouver (a town called Richomond) and I sing for the High Holidays. When, as an actor, I appeared in Two Pianos, Four Hands, I learned the show in Vancouver before we came to NY. I was there during the holidays and ended up at a synagogue where I was introduced to the rabbi and his choir-leading wife (Martin and Joan). They didn’t have a cantor and she asked me to sing in the choir for the second day of Rosh Hashanah. They gave me some solos and after the services I was asked to return the following year and lead the services! I accepted and every year since (this is now my fourth) I travel with my parents and boyfriend and sing my head off. It’s very meaningful to me and they’re a wonderful community that has adopted me and my family. Therefore, it seems fitting to close to all you readers with a hearty shana tovah (good year) filled with health, love, success, joy and all that is good in the world. Shalom!

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