Broadway stars Kate Baldwin, Jonathan Groff and Billy Porter are among performers giving voice to the pop and theatre songs of the new songwriting team of Will Van Dyke and Jeff Talbott on the EP recording “A View of the River,” released on multiple platforms Sept. 15. The album will be followed up with a Sept. 21 54 Below concert to feature some of the recording’s singers and additional stars, including Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, Julia Murney and more.
The EP is billed as “a collection of pop-infused theatre standalone songs” that introduces “a bold new musical theatre writing team.” Music is by Van Dyke. Lyrics are by Talbott and Van Dyke.
The recording boasts Tony Award winner Porter (Kinky Boots), Tony Award nominees Baldwin (Finian’s Rainbow, Big Fish) and Groff (Hamilton, Spring Awakening), and Broadway and Off-Broadway stars Abby Mueller (Kinky Boots, the upcoming Beautiful tour), Matt Doyle (The Book of Mormon), Tamika Sonja Lawrence (Rent) and Preston Sadleir (Big Love).
Van Dyke and Talbott started working together a couple of years ago when Talbott reached out after hearing some of Van Dyke’s work from his CD “Chasing the Day.”
“I was bowled over by Will’s ability to marry a pop groove with a theatrical sensibility and was excited to see if we spoke the same language,” Talbott says. “We clearly did: By the end of our meeting we had already laid the groundwork for what became our first musical, Imagine Harry.” (Demo recordings from the score are on the composer’s website.)
“A View of the River” is produced by Van Dyke, Talbott, Brian Usifer and Derik Lee, and co-produced by Candy Gold. Orchestrations are by Usifer, and it was recorded and mixed by Lee. It’s available on iTunes and wherever digital music is sold (iTunes, Amazon.com and elsewhere).
“The way the album came about was really organic,” Van Dyke told me. “We had just finished writing a real complete draft of our musical Imagine Harry, and one day I just started writing something standalone: a hint of a lyric and a more fully realized melody. I sent it to Jeff, he sent something back, and we just went back and forth and had this great song.”
He added, “There was a lot of change and growing up that happened for me this year and at every turn these musical ideas kept emerging and Jeff sort of latched on to those ideas with me and we dove deep. Sometimes I would write something and send it to Jeff, sometimes Jeff would write something and send it to me. It was really cool and creative and challenging and fun.”
The 54 Below concert evening, The Songs of Will Van Dyke and Jeff Talbott: A View of the River, will include a tease from the score to Talbott and Van Dyke’s new musical Imagine Harry, which will get some industry sunshine in Manhattan in October in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 2015 Festival of New Musicals. They are also working on a new musical called Wintersong, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
The 9:30 PM Sept. 21 concert will feature the album’s Baldwin, Doyle, Lawrence and Sadleir, plus Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford (the upcoming Sylvia, You Can’t Take It With You, Kinky Boots) and Drama Desk Award nominee Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party), Jessica Vosk (Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland), Taylor Trensch (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Josh Lamon (Finding Neverland), Jake Odmark (Kinky Boots) and Marcus Neville (Kinky Boots, The Full Monty). A special guest from Broadway’s Hamilton is also expected.
Tickets ($35-$45, plus $25 food/drink minimum) are on sale now at 54Below.com. 54 Below, the elegant supper-club space under Studio 54, is at 254 West 54th Street.
The EP track list follows:
“When You Smile” – Preston Sadleir
“September” – Abby Mueller
“Wait.” – Billy Porter
“Three Minutes” – Matt Doyle
“The Girl Who Ran Away” – Kate Baldwin
“Prayer” – Jonathan Groff
“Begin & End” – Tamika Sonja Lawrence
Will Van Dyke is a New York-based musical theatre writer and music director. His compositions include Winnie The Pooh Kids (Disney), The Lion King Jr. & Kids (Disney), The Devil’s Bitch (Playbill) and The Girls I’ve Like Liked (Ars Nova). Upcoming musicals include Magnificent Climb (with Rick Elice), Imagine Harry and Wintersong (with Jeff Talbott) and Writing Kevin Taylor (with Josh Halloway). Will orchestrated Andrew Lippa’s show The Life At The Party (Menier Chocolate Factory). Will’s albums “Chasing the Day,” “Writing Kevin Taylor,” “Daylight,” “Constant” and “Make The Season Bright” (the last three co-written with Matt Doyle) and his single “Another Time” (featuring Annaleigh Ashford) are available wherever digital music is sold.
Jeff Talbott’s play The Submission was the inaugural recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Award in 2011 and was produced Off Broadway by MCC Theater; it received the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for Best New American Play in 2012, and has since been performed all over the country. The play was a semi-finalist for the 2010 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. His play A Public Education was a finalist for the 2015 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. His plays have had workshops and readings at TACT, MCC and Pioneer Theatre Company. He lives in New York City and writes musicals with Will Van Dyke (Imagine Harry and Wintersong).