New musical comes full circle
September 3, 2015
By David Hayes
NEW — 10:25 a.m. Sept. 3, 2015
After a decade in the works, Village Theatre debuts ‘Snapshots’
Some ideas are so audacious that they literally take years to bring to fruition.
Such was the case in 2005 when young writers David Stern and Michael Scheman and their longtime composer friend Stephen Schwartz proposed a new musical to Village Theatre.
A decade later, that idea has blossomed into “Snapshots,” a full musical production debuting this week.
Looking back, Stern said he’s amazed at the journey it took to bring the idea to life.
“This one of those projects, it started in my 20s, that I had to be young and naïve, and now look back on and say, ‘What was I thinking?’” Stern said.
Essentially, “Snapshots” intertwines the greatest hits from Schwartz’s catalog and intertwines them into a story of a couple looking back on their lives.
Stern, who has written for just about every medium from television to the stage, said few have tried what he and Schwartz set out to do. They found it to be one large jigsaw puzzle.
“We wanted to make this work, so we set the bar as high as we could as an original musical,” Stern said.
However, in his youthful exuberance, it wasn’t to be as easy as putting songs in a certain order while telling an interesting story.
“We discovered you had to answer all other sorts of questions and you needed a beginning, middle and end,” he said.
If you go
One of the challenges, Stern said, was incorporating the myriad styles of the songs of Schwartz’s career, as they evolved over the decades. “Pippen” and “Godspell” were from the 1970s, while “The Baker’s Wife” is a product of the ’80s and “Wicked” debuted in 2003.
To help them get the idea off the ground, Stern said he and Schwartz were lucky to have worked with Village Theatre Executive Producer Rob Hunt.
“Rob really supports new work, especially those in developmental production,” Stern said. “He knew there was a window we needed to make this work. He said when we’ve gone out and made it work, come back we’ll put it on the main stage. In this business, people always say something like that. Rob meant it.”
So, after letting the idea gestate for a decade, the duo gaining further life experience actually added more gravitas to the project. Stern was better able to identify with the central couple in the tale in their various stages of life.
“Parts of the puzzle I was able to rewrite more authentically,” he said.
“Snapshots” is a show about empty nesters basically reliving their relationship from age 11 to present. Stern said all ages in the audience should be able to relate to parts of the tale.
“Empty nesters relate with it, those in their 30s and teens also relate with the romantic love story. All ages respond to it,” Stern said. “It’s a photo album concept. A photo album of life’s big events — wedding, birth of a child, right of passage, altercations in life that bond and push us from and to our partner.”
With the tale solidified, the challenge of how to incorporate 26 songs from Schwartz’s 12-musical career remained. They turned for help to Steve Orich, orchestrator for “Jersey Boys,” who provided them the link they were missing through the orchestra’s rhythm section.
“Then, we tweaked the songs,” Stern said. “The more known songs, we messed with more. Like ‘Popular,’ we did in a medley for a guy and a guy, giving it a new sound and interpretation. Lessor-known songs we messed with less.”
Finally, the cast was kept to a minimum at six. But bringing the production full circle, the original actors who read the lead roles in the Village Originals in 2005 were recast for the main stage debut.
Stern said they’ve worked and tweaked “Snapshots” so much along the way over the last decade, to finally see it debut is a milestone everyone should enjoy.
“I think it will be a really fun and entertaining show,” he said. “Plus, who, doesn’t like musical theater?”