Center Scene's guest blogger, Jacob Matsumiya gives his thoughts on the new Broadway-hopeful musical, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, which is receiving its devlopmental production at the Center now through May 3.
Let me be the first to admit that I love big musicals. From Wicked to The Lion King, the spectacle, the production numbers, the million dollar sets and costumes; they are a completely thrilling theatrical experience. But what a lot of times these million dollar shows lack, what most shows lack for that matter, is a feeling of being alive. Alive in the sense that the artists, the performers, and the audience are sharing in an evolving and active theatrical experience. What most of us experience when we attend touring productions of shows is a static theatrical experience. The show was written and locked at least a few, if not several, years prior to the performance. The actors have rehearsed the piece extensively and the music is set in stone. Not to say that they can’t be enjoyable and moving pieces of theater, because they can be, but in a way they are a piece of art that has been completed and is on display to enjoy and appreciate. They can be as I said, static.
What I had the pleasure of experiencing tonight when I attended The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown was most definitely not a static piece of theater. Still in its developmental stages, I had the rare chance to watch a piece of artwork being created. Playing before an audience for the first time, the show is still being reworked, songs are being rewritten and cut, staging is evolving, costumes are still incomplete, and the actors are still finding their character’s voices. But that was the thrill of the experience for me. I felt somehow more connected to what was on stage then I ever have with other shows I attended. Not because the piece was especially resonant with me, but because I felt somehow that I was taking part in the creative process. Sharing in the creation of a new work of theater. Having the chance to see something that no one has ever seen before. Watching artists at work. That is what made the experience so special for me.
Yes the show is a moving, thoughtful, poignant and intelligent piece of theater. The music and lyrics are phenomenal, so fresh, and so relevant. (By the way you can listen to music from the show and more songs from the gifted songwriting team of Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan online at www.kerrigan-lowdermilk.com). On a deeper level, what was more moving and much more of an experience than any aspects of the show was having the chance to see a musical in its developmental stages. To see an evolving and fleeting piece of art. No one will ever have the chance to see that exact performance again. To experience that, to feel that while watching a show, well that is akin to a religious experience for a theater junkie like me. Thanks to the cast and creative team behind The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown for an extraordinary night of theater. And thanks to the Center for supporting the development of theater and giving artists a chance to showcase their works. The arts are a vital part of our society, and especially in these economic times, it is even more vital to ensure that amazingly gifted people like the team behind this work have the chance to keep doing what they do best. Because it would be a much less interesting world without them.