A guest blog entry from Kevin Del Aguila, writer of The Astonishing Return of…The Protagonists! to be presented at this year’s Festival of New Musicals.  

It’s a week away from NAMT, I’ve got our 40ish-minute cut of the show ready, we’ve written a new song for the presentation, we’ve assembled an UNBELIEVABLE cast, and yet all I can do is think about the venue where the whole thing will take place: New World Stages.

New World Stages is where I go every night. Not because I love hanging out in a basement, but because that’s where I’m currently performing in Peter and the Starcatcher, reprising the role of “Smee” that I originated on Broadway. Our producers recently announced that the show will be closing in mid-January, so I’ve felt a little nostalgic about New World recently, and started to think about how much time I’ve spent there.

With a style that can only be described as “airplane hanger chic,” New World Stages is the place where I first became involved with NAMT as the director of the See Rock City and Other Destinations presentations in 2008. Hey! That’s not true!  I was a performer in 
the musical Lizzie Borden at NAMT in 2000 when it took place at the (now demolished) Douglas Fairbanks Theater many moons back. Well, forget about that.

These days, I’m wearing my author hat at NAMT. And my little superhero extravaganza, The Astonishing Return of…The Protagonists!, will be showcased not just within the same theatreplex that I go to every night, but on the exact stage where another show I wrote ran Off Broadway for five terrific years. The show was called Altar Boyz and it gave me my first taste of commercial success. I was no longer just “a guy who writes,” I became “the guy who wrote Altar Boyz.”  A small, but tremendous upgrade to my career.

In fact, several of my collaborators from Altar Boyz are involved in our NAMT presentation, from performers (Andy Karl, Tyler Maynard and Carlos Encinias) to our Music Director (Lynne Shankel) to our director Chris Gattelli, who won a Lucille Lortel award for his choreography of Altar Boyz at a ceremony held at…New World Stages!

Walking around NWS (as the kids call it), I find that each area brings back a memory.  The stairwell where I slept between shows. The hallway where I met that TV actor. The couch where I first read a review of Altar Boyz that called my book “wafer thin” (oh, if I had a nickel…). The bathroom where someone unknowingly recommended my own show to me. It’s a place where I’ve had a lot of anxiety, laughter, failure and success. In short, it’s the theatre.

The Protagonists! is a project that I started writing when New World Stages was still just a $2 movie theater. I am very thankful to NAMT for helping to bring it to life and looking forward to adding another memory to the place.

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A guest blog entry from Michael Shaieb, writer of The Astonishing Return of… The Protagonists! to be presented at this year’s Festival of New Musicals.  

About fifteen years ago when I graduated from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program, I was faced with the reality of what I would do for a living. I had some recording equipment and thought that perhaps I could start a recording studio. When I met my partner, Brent Lord, who had the technical knowledge, we formed a company which later became FatLab Music. We specialized in recording demos for music theatre writers and performers.

When I began writing The Protagonists with my collaborator, Kevin del Aguila, the question was how do we record our show to convey the different stylistic choices we created for our world. The Protagonists contains a world of
funk, classic pop and epic superhero music. It’s difficult to showcase this on just a piano. So as Kevin and I were writing, I built the song tracks using the many tools of my trade to create the demo that we have today.

As far as the vocals go, we invited our actors in separately and recorded them one at a time which gave us more flexibility during the mixing process.  And because it’s our own space, we have the leisure of taking the time we need since we’re not on the clock at another studio.

Regarding the use of instruments, real or sampled, I always ask the question “Can a listener understand the world of the show with just a piano?” Believe me, I would prefer the ease of doing a demo with just piano and vocals. But when the style of the show is also a character, I think that the extra time and effort is definitely worthwhile.

So here we are, demo in hand, about to showcase The Protagonists at NAMT.  We are very thankful for this opportunity. I have to admit, my favorite thing is being in the recording studio, and I’m very excited to share our demo with everyone.

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