The Sondheim Review: It’s Their Time – Author Weaves ‘Merrily’ Into A Young Adult Novel

Originally published in The Sondheim Review, Spring 2014

The Reece Malcolm ListStephen Sondheim’s influence occasionally pops up in the most surprising of places. Having already made an impression on punk music (e.g. the album Punk Side Story), Ben Affleck (who performs “God, That’s Good” in the film Jersey Girl), and My Little Pony (which features numbers that resemble Sondheim’s work), a Sondheim-infused young adult novel is hardly surprising, but in the form of The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spaulding, it’s unquestionably delightful.

Readers of The Sondheim Review are likely to recognize the book’s heroine and narrator: a teen more familiar with the ins and outs of high school show choir than athletics, with an iPod full of original cast albums and more Playbills than friends. Devan Mitchell has always been a bit of an outsider, with only one close friend and a strained relationship with her dad and step-mother. Having stumbled onto her mother’s identity when reading the dedication of author Reece Malcolm‘s first New York Times bestseller – clearly aimed at her – Devan begins the titular list to uncover whatever she can about her famous (and famously “un-Googleable”) mother. When Devan’s father dies in a car accident and she’s shipped off to Burbank, CA to live with the mother she’s never met, the quest to know more about the mysterious Reece Malcolm intensifies. Continue reading

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Jewschool.com: 13, The Musical

Coauthored with The Wandering Jew. Originally published on Jewschool.com

1 (dlevy). Thursday night, TheWanderingJew and I saw 13, a Broadway musical with songs by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Jason Robert Brown. The show tells the story of Evan Goldman, a 12-year-old kid from the Upper West Side of New York whose parents get divorced on the cusp of his bar mitzvah. His mom moves him to Indiana where he must make new friends in time to have anyone at his Bar Mitzvah party, while trying to figure out what exactly it means to become a man. (Thanks to the good folks at the Theater Development Fund, which provides access to discount tickets to students, educators, and folks who work at non-profits…)

2 (dlevy). It is very tempting for me to write an entire dissertation on this show. I am itching to trace the reflections of Sondheim (tell me you don’t hear hints of “Merrily We Roll Along” in the title song) and figure 13′s place in the growing body of Jason Robert Brown’s work and rhapsodize on how the present Broadway season and world economy frame this show both for its audience and its creators… but that’s a bit outside the scope of the Jewschool readership’s primary areas of interest. I’m going to trust that TheWanderingJew will edit down my ramblings a bit.

3 (TheWanderingJew). My expertise is nowhere near as in depth as dlevy’s when it comes to all things Broadway. I might have thought some of the tunes sounded familiar – they clearly borrowed from other musicals and standard music genres (doo-wop, blues, country, etc.), but what I tried to focus on were the kids’ abilities. The cast was clearly talented, though I felt the music didn’t fully allow them to shine. Malcolm and Eddie had amazing energy, and really played off each other (and their friend, Brett) well, stealing scenes as well-choreographed backup singers. Patrice was able to portray her awkwardness and strength in her solos… Maybe I should just have said that the play was well cast?  Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Liz Callaway: Feelin’ Groovy

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Liz CallawayLiz Callaway is about to release her first new album in over five years, a collection of songs from the 1960’s called The Beat Goes On. This album will join Liz’s two other solo efforts in the Fynsworth Alley catalog, Anywhere I Wander, a Frank Loesser tribute, and The Story Goes On, an eclectic collection of theatre songs, ranging from Sondheim to Berlin and more. Liz came to the recording world from Broadway, where she appeared in the original casts of Merrily We Roll Along, Baby, and Miss Saigon, before joining the cast of Cats for five years as Grizabella. You may also recognize her voice from her many animated roles, including Anastasia and The Swan Princess. Lately, Liz has been touring the globe, both with her sister Ann Hampton Callaway (in their show “Sibling Revelry”) and on her own.

Her new album, The Beat Goes On, will be available exclusively on the Fynsworth Alley website beginning Februrary 5th, with pre-orders starting on January 22nd.

DL: You were the first vocalist to record an album with Bruce. How did that happen?

LC: He actually just wrote me a letter and introduced himself. He was with Bay Cities at the time, and he just said he wanted to know if I wanted to record an album of Frank Loesser music for him. And it’s funny because I at the very end of my time with Miss Saigon, I had thought, “Boy, I would sure love to do an album,” but I had no idea how to go about getting one made. And I had even said to my husband that this should be a goal of mine, when this letter came. So I was spared the grunt work! I met Bruce, and we hit it off.

And then it was a matter of Bruce sending me tapes of songs he liked, and finding a musical director, and that was it. Continue reading