Thursday, November 12, 2009


This is an absolutely ball-busting song from a musical I did in the NYMF Festival last year called Love Jerry.

I wanted to record it because:

a) it kicks ass

b) Megan Gogerty, the inexplicably talented composer and playwright of Love Jerry should be a household name for how amazing she is.

c) this musical is so new, there really isn't a demo for the show that reflects the emotional life of these songs accurately. And I also wanted Megan to have a really solid rendition of this '11 o'clock' number for her own PR purposes.

d) the rehearsal schedule for NYMF is so limited, we were never able to really write a great musical arrangement to this number. Everyone had the best intentions but there was just not enough time to do it properly. So I really wanted to arrange this number and send the charts to Megan so she had them and could send them out or whatever, if she wanted.

d) Love Jerry itself is - besides being a brilliant play with music- such an important piece of theatre- that I can only wish that some producer out there has enough balls to back it for a nice solid Off Broadway run at least. It's extraordinary story told in an equally extraordinary way.

Why haven't you heard about this musical?

If it's so brilliant, why isn't it running of Off Broadway right now, you ask?

I'll tell you.

Keep an open mind now.

Love Jerry is a musical about incest.


I know.


Let me describe another musical for you now.

Fill in the blank is a musical about cannibalism.

You understand the point I'm making here?

Love Jerry ran into the same PR problem that Sweeney Todd did when it first opened in the early 70's. People heard "a musical about rape, murder and cannibalism?!!!! that must be HORRIBLE!" and it had people walking out, and half empty houses, and closed at a massive loss.

But of course, we all know now....that it's probably one of the most magnificent musicals ever written and it was just waaayyyyy ahead of its time.


First of all KUDOS to the NYMF Festival for having the stones to put this show in their roster at all. Not that, if you'd even read the first 4 pages of the script- it would even remotely be a question. Because it's that good.

I was sent the script with the caveat,

"this musical is about incest. Michael Cassara wants you to read the part of the mom of the abused boy. tell me what you think."

I read the first FOUR pages of this script and I immediately called my agent and said, 

"I'm in I'm in I'm IN! I am IN like, I will SHANK people to do this. I will SHANK. THEM. So call Michael and tell him right NOW.... yes yes yes yes YES!"

it was a visceral reaction that I'd maybe had towards a script maybe....
twice before in my life.
My hands were literally shaking as I held the phone.
It was like....every molecule in my body was reacting to the words...
I know it sounds all Buck Rogers and shit...
but I swear, it was like my whole body was already attached to it.

And if they had called me back and said, ya know- 'too late, we offered it to someone else'-
i would have CRRIIIEEDDD. 
After only reading 4 pages. 
I'm not even remotely kidding.

Thank God they didn't.

There was something about the way it was written-
Megan's voice-
so honest and true and brave and totally out there and OBJECTIVE...
and from all sides....
and funny.....
a musical about incest that had HUMOR??!!!

......and MESSY.

Messy- like real life is MESSY- I mean...
it was like I was eavesdropping on this family who learns through the course of the play that their son is being molested by his own uncle (the father's brother).

It deals with what really happens to a family....
and the victims...
and the perpetrator....
not what we wish to happen.

which person is bad and which person is good and what's the obvious choice is....
is it really that obvious.....

who's to blame-
what side do you take-
when you're in the middle of two family members-
and i know---
you sit back and you think,

"well it's obvious....what SIDE YOU take...."

but the brilliance of this musical is that....
it makes you question that 'obviousness'.
Because like any sort of fucked up family dynamic, it is anything but obvious to the people INSIDE that family.

This play makes you think, and evaluate your own ethics, and then re-evaluate them...
and we had marvelous people come from all sorts of Child Protection agencies....
and give fantastic talks afterwards....

because obviously the one thing you DON'T want to do-
if you're going to write about something as sensitive as incest....
is in any way.....
feel like you're exploiting the subject matter.

Which it NEVER ever did.

I miss it so.

I could go on and on...
but i won't.
just trust me.
it's THAT fucking brilliant.

And not for nothing but this production won a shitload of awards at the NYMF as well....
and I can only hope that it continues to have a life. I seriously feel like it's one of the best musicals I've ever done in my life.

So for more information on this absolutely ASTONISHING show-
please go to:


The song.
Let's talk about the actual song.

This song is sung by the mother of the boy who has been molested by her brother-in-law on her watch. The tragedy of all this is that, of course- the mother has been seeing the signs all along and she knows something is wrong- but....she keeps allowing herself to get talked out of taking action over and over because she truly doesn't want to believe it's true- and her husband is so completely disconnected from everything that he is starting to think she's crazy.

all leading up to this song....
this character is wondering....

"what's wrong with my kid....there's something wrong with my kid.....i don't know, maybe i'm crazy...maybe i'm overreacting...maybe this behavior is husband thinks i'm crazy....everyone thinks i'm crazy....but....there's SOMETHING wrong with my kid....."

So then....
she finds out what's wrong with her kid.

And I mean.....
what do you do?

What do you do with ALLLLL that?

The guilt of knowing something was wrong....and not following through.
The anger at everyone- including the kid.....for not telling her what was going on so she could help.
The absolute helplessness she feels....because her son is now broken...on her watch...and she can't even 'reach' him to help him at this point....

all she really wants is for the kid to get better.

and she's convinced that if he just cries....
does something.....
gets angry-
or yells-
or cries.....

it will be a step in the right direction.

but the kid has locked himself in his room because now he feels guilty because he loves his uncle who is now in prison because of him- and all he can do is hide from everything and everyone.


The mom brings up a tray of food to the door-
hoping he'll come out and take it-
or eat it-
or something.

but nothing...
no answer.

and there's an incredibly funny/poignant monologue that precedes this song....
where she's trying to get him to come out-
and finally....

....she just slumps to the floor next to his room and sings this song to him through the door.

And you see this character have fits and sparks of emotional release before this-
she'll bark one line at a police officer-
and then be calm again....
and then she'll lash out on one line at her husband-
and then be calm again....

but this is the first time you see her, for all intents and purposes, "alone"....
and all she wants...
is for her little boy to cry.

and for him to know that....
she's there for him.

and that's she so incredibly sorry for not protecting him when he needed it.

And you'd think the song would be long...
to do all that?

but it's really not.

This song....does a a very short period of time.
because it's SO well written.

The lyrics are incredibly to the point, honest and economical.

As far as the musical arrangement goes....

For the album, i've given it a slightly more 'jazzy' feel than we ever did it in the show-
just because....
without the show to really know what's going on in the song....
i felt it needed just a little more of a musical 'identity'-
if that makes any sense?

Another element I kept from the show is that there is no piano in this arrangement. it's all bass, accordion, flute and guitar. It keeps it 'softer' in the background. It makes the vocal take the hard edge.


This song literally 'wails'.

It's keening, put to music.

And I truly truly hope that I have done Megan's brilliant talent justice here.

it is also.....
the ONLY song with riffing in it.
it's necessary.

So if you want your riff fix-
track #5 my darlings.

More soon....
off to the show....



This song is 'THE DIFFERENT TAKE' song because...
i do a 'different take' on it emotionally than what this Jason Robert Brown tune is usually known for.

There were a few reasons why I chose to go down a slightly different road for this number.

1) The original performance and recording of this number, I believe can NOT be improved upon. In any way shape or form. And that's saying a lot cause I'm against this gal a lot for roles and it would be way easier for me to just criticize the performance and be all small and petty and shit about it. 


Ya gotta give it up for talent or your soul will dry up like a corn husk... 
and this singer not only recorded the ever living fuck out of this song...
but I saw her performance on opening night of this role and she totally blew me away. 

Again....I auditioned for this role too, got very very very close to getting it... 
I'm not sure if it was between me and her but it was close...
and I was very sad that I lost out to this chick. 

But man, when you see someone just tear the ever living crap outta something? Even tho you really really wanted it? It makes it so much EEEAASSSIIIEERR to let go of it. So in a way, it was the best thing that I saw her do it live. I walked outta there going, 

"Yup. I woulda cast her too. Moving on."


Once the title of this song is revealed, I highly recommend getting the cast album of this show just for her rendition of this song (not to mention the whole album is genius). But her rendition of this tune? Perfection. 

So there was no point in my mind, in recording it the same way.

2) While the 'take' on this song is usually done rather......poignantly? 
And resigned? 

I always found that when I personally turned to this song for comfort or catharsis- i was always P-I-S-S-E-D. I was ANGRY when I would turn to this song. I mean like, NUCLEAR angry.

So when the lyrics ask the person who just stomped on this gal's heart...
 'what about you?'-- 

I was really FEELING.....
"what about YOU??!!!" 
(implied: you fucking dumbass cowardly sonofabitch...WHAT ABOUT YOU!!!!).

And so.....

ya know....

there's THAT.

And honestly, I wanted to see if the song would hold the extra anger in my rendition-
and if I could pull it off without bending the whole song out of musical shape.

3) This song is just one of my favorite all time songs on the planet. And i love it. I think it's brilliant on so many levels. And I wanted to record it. So, there.


The trick....
to changing the emotional intention behind a song can be tricky. 

The musical arrangement and composition of a song is like......
the appropriate selection of clothes, really.

You don't wear a nice light, frothy negligee to do heavy construction work. It will tear it about and ruin it and you'll look like a total asshole.

And you also don't wear a hard hat, sturdy overalls and steel toed boots to a garden party. It's too much weight for the event, and again- you'll look like an asshole.

So not wanting to look like an asshole....
i set about nudging the arrangement ever so slightly, in the hopes that it would hold the extra power of a full belt, and a more gutteral intention.

I took out the entire instrumental at the top so the song starts completely acapella (voice only, no accompaniment).

Then....i let just a bar creep in to bridge...
into second verse....
bring in some more instruments....
it gets bigger...
and builds more and more...

*musical nerd alert: sometimes if you're wanting to really build in a song...but you're afraid the center won't sustain can 'trick' the ear by really thinning out the top of the song. This way it SEEMS like the build is bigger in the middle...not because it actually is- but because you STARTED from a much smaller place. So you ramp up not by actually ramping up MORE in the middle- but by building your ramp from a much smaller place to begin with. Savvy?

I get to the first (of three) build sections in this song.

Add more instruments.....
switch from vocal head placement to mix.

Add more instruments....
switch to full out belt.

Now here's a tricky bit.

Do i belt FIRST....where it's lower...
and then mix when it creeps up?
risking losing the build?

because generally if you wanna build something you mix first and then belt.
but as it goes UP a step....
the belt becomes more piercing...
and ironically less powerful and pointed like a mix.

A mix can be like a laser if you straight tone it.
And I must have done 97823847623492834 takes of these 16 bars.

belting first-
then mixing.

mixing first-
then belting.

nasal belt-
then chest belt.

nasal mix-
then nasal belt.

try to pitch over the break...
try to pitch under the break....


for at LEAST an hour.

Oy Jesus.

and that shit was LOUD.
I can't believe that my neighbors didn't finally go crazy and call security on me.

this section made me absolutely nuts.

I save every single take and figure i can maybe play mix and match when i mix it later.
find the right combination down the road.

there's also a very famous musical interlude in this song that i LOVE...
but i decided ultimately to cut because, I didn't have 5 friggin' cellos or whatever they had in the pit for this song, and also because the musical interlude emotionally cuts into the second build. And if I'm doing the 'ANGRY EYES' take on this...
I can't afford anything to cut the emotional through line in half-
no matter how much I absolutely love it love it love it.

And not for nothing-
but it's a fabulous cut for any of you gals who want to do this for concerts or auditions.
it's nice and slick, i think.
Go ahead and take it.
I don't care.

Mazel Tov.

Now i'm not gonna lie.
This song chapped my ass during the whole process for many reasons.

1) I love it so much, and i am such a fan of the original interpretation that I personally had most likely, unrealistic goals for the outcome. I wanted to it to be just as good in it's own way, as the one on the album. Not even better. I just wanted it to be as good. That's all.

2) Jason Robert Brown is a buddy. And i didn't want him to think that I screwed around with his song all willy nilly. I felt extreme loyalty to him, as a friend, to do this as best I could.

3) This song is HARD ya'll. 



And then...
came the mixing.

This was the song...
that nearly made me throw my computer out the window.

me with my loud ass ridiculous ethel merman belt....




but because I'm such a dumb ass...
i never LISTENED BACK to it when I was recording it.
I just did take after take after take after take after take and figured I'd finesse it post-op.

here I am, with all these grand dreams of how powerful this 'belt is going to sound'-
and it's just distortion everywhere. Meaning, I all of a sudden sounded like a Dalek from Dr Who trapped under eight down comforters. 

That's exactly what it sounded like.
I know this because i listened to it at least 4 bajillion times in garage band as I desperately tried to fix it with the tools in that program. NOT have to record it again.

but, it's useless.
the volume levels are all over the place...
the beginning sounds way too soft...
and the "big build" is now just distorted crap.


of course.

I have to go back and record this whole section again.




Now i know...
my neighbors are going to call security on me but...
it has to be done.

I can't put out a distorted, ghetto version of this awesome song that I love so much.
I'll leave it off the album before i do that.


Back into the bathroom I go.

Same 16 bars.
and over.
and over.
and over.
and over.

But this time...
i turn DOWN the mike level at which it records?

I listen back...
totally not distorted.


i go back to mixing everything.


because i recorded at such a lower level than the rest of the song...
the belt isn't distorted but...
it doesn't build with the rest of the song.

Needless to say....
endless endless ENDLESS shit with this song.

I ended up fixing it best i could with doubling vocals here and there-
and lowering master volumes here and there.

I think what I ended up with was really great?
But honestly- since I have worked and re-worked and re-worked this song so many times...
I have no perspective.

Andy (the bf) says it's great.
I even sent it to Jason, and he said it was 'fabulous'.


I just need to let it go at this point?

But this song for me....
is the track that's like.....
an ex boyfriend who you really really loved comes back into your life-
and he says he's changed, and he's all different now-
and you really really wanna believe that he's awesome now-
even though he was a total pain in the ass before-
and you decide to date again...
but all the time in your stomach you're like, 

"is this a good thing? is this good? if I hadn't been so fucked up by the whole relationship last time...I'd have a better idea. But....i think it's good now. But is it?"

and then you call your mom-
and all your girlfriends and discuss it ad nauseum and you're still never quite convinced that it's good again.

No matter what anyone says.


I still love this song.
But it is the ONE track on the album......
because finally getting it to where I wanted it was such an ordeal....
I still can't sit back and just enjoy listening to.

I'm sure, one day I will.

But until then.....
I'll leave you all to be the judge.

And if you love it- awesome.
If you don't- lie to me.



Fancy, right?
Written by the fabulously talented Phil Bond.

Contact: Phil Geoffrey Bond
212 695 6909

The Laurie Beechman Theatre

is pleased to present


Celebrating the release of her debut CD, Old Friends

NEW YORK - The Laurie Beechman Theatre is very pleased to welcome Broadway’s Donna Lynne Champlin (Billy Elliot, Sweeney Todd, Hollywood Arms, James Joyce’s The Dead, By Jeeves), as she celebrates the release of her debut CD, Old Friends.

Beginning in September of 2009, Donna Lynne set out to record, produce and market her debut CD for under $1,000, chronicling her adventures on her blog. Not only is she the sole singer, but also the arranger, musician, mixer, masterer and PR agent of this remarkable collection of music. Well, the hard work is now done, and it’s time to celebrate!

On Sunday, November 29th at 9:30pm, be the first to be handed a copy of Old Friends, and hear Donna Lynne perform the tracks live on the stage of the Beechman. There is a “pay-what-you-can” donation to be taken in cash at the door; a donation of $15 gets you a copy of the CD, or there is no donation necessary if you’ve already purchased the disc online. There is a $15 food/beverage minimum, and a full dinner menu is available. The Laurie Beechman Theatre is located within The West Bank Cafe at 407 West 42nd St. (@ 9th Avenue). For reservations, which are necessary, please call 212 695 6909.

Obie Award-winner DONNA LYNNE CHAMPLIN made her Broadway debut in James Joyce's The Dead (Mary Jane), and has gone on to appear in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves (Honoria), Carol Burnett and Carrie Hamilton’s Hollywood Arms (Helen), Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (Pirelli) and is currently appearing in Elton John’s Billy Elliot (Lesley). Her Off-Broadway credits include Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Master Class, Bury the Dead, First Lady Suite, My Life with Albertine, Bloomer Girl (City Center Encores!) and Very Warm for May at Carnegie Hall. For her performances in Flight of the Lawnchair Man and Love Jerry, she was awarded "Outstanding Performance" awards from the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Film and television audiences have seen Donna Lynne in/on My Father's Will, The Audition, The Dark Half, Law and Order, The Tony Awards, Regis and Kelly, The View and A Rosie Christmas. She can also be heard on the original cast recordings of Sweeney Todd, My Life with Albertine, By Jeeves, Our Heart Sings and Carols for a Cure. A Princess Grace Award winner, she holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon and also studied on scholarship at Oxford University.