Rising Chicago Composers Perform at Music Theatre Co.
Acclaimed composer/lyricists showcased their talents and discussed their writing processes Monday night.
Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler have plenty of songs in their collective heads, and last night they shared two hours' worth of them with an audience of around a hundred at Highland Park's Music Theatre Company.
The event, entitled "Song in my Head," was a one-night showcase of the two young composer/lyricists' extensive body of work. Part concert and part conversation about their crafts, Mahler and Schmuckler discussed their inspirations and techniques between performances.
Music Theatre Company Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Redish of Highland Park moderated the discussion portions of the event. A friend of the composers since the three attended Northwestern University, Redish has worked with Mahler and Schmuckler in the past. Mahler, for example, composed the music and lyrics for the Redish's acclaimed 9/11 Report: A Bipartisan Musical Fantasia.
"Song in my Head" opened with a medley of songs from this summer's TMTC production of Status: 48-Hour Musicals. The four songs were all written within the same two days and were based loosely off of the Facebook status "Too tired to cook."
From there the showcase went on to feature original songs from Northwestern University Theatre Department's Waa-Mu music reviews, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater's children's production How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back (their first professional collaboration) and Theatre at the Center's Knute Rockne All American, a musical about the famed Notre Dame football coach.
Though they discussed collaboration, theatre writing techniques and musical theatre extensively, two of their individually strongest songs were original compositions that were unaffiliated with any production. Schmuckler, a native of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, performed the bittersweet "I Miss the City" about his nostalgia for New York City. Mahler, in turn, performed a more-embittered song about a breakup around the time of his mother's wake, "Thanks For Nothing."
They also performed two duets with the help of Mahler's wife, actress Dara Cameron, and friend Johanna McKenzie Miller. Both Cameron and Miller are currently performing at the Marriot Theatre in Lincolnshire, in The Wizard of Oz and The Music Man, respectively.
At 27 and 26, respectively, Mahler and Schmuckler are both incredibly young to have achieved such high standing in the Chicago musical theatre community. Both have multiple Jeff nominations and act as well as compose. Onstage Mahler will soon appear in Studs Terkle's Working (Broadway-in-Chicago) and Schmuckler will return to Highland Park for TMTC's Merrily we Roll Along, which debuts March 31.
Schmuckler and Redish are also currently working with Laura Eason on adapting the Charles L. Mee play Summertime for the Writers' Theatre in Glencoe.
Mahler and Schmuckler are currently continuing their collaboration with the creation of a musical television show tentatively titled Boyfred. Their concluding song, "We'll be 'Round" was a sample from that project, written just two weeks ago.
The event included an hour-long reception prior to the show. Inovasi Contemporary American of Lake Bluff provided catering and drinks.