Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New York City comes to Richmond, Virginia in a world-premiere concert musical

Night and Day
This summer, Richmond Virginia will see the world premiere production of the concert musical Joe Jackson's Night and Day, with music and lyrics drawn from Jackson's two New York City-themed albums, the classic Night and Day (1982) and its acclaimed follow-up, Night and Day II (2000).

Richmond Triangle Players' beautiful new theater will serve as host for the show, a mix of theatrical and concert elements developed by director/musician Andrew Hamm (your humble author for this blog). A live onstage band will back five of Richmond's best singers for some of the greatest songs of Joe Jackson's storied career, including "Another World," "Real Men," "Stranger than You," "Glamour and Pain," the hit single "Breaking Us in Two," and the classic "Steppin' Out." The show is scheduled for eight performance from August 8-18, 2012.

The seed for JJND  came when I saw Joe live on the Night and Day II tour in 2000. I had the opportunity to see the band twice, early on in Boston and then for the final performance of the tour in, appropriately, New York City. Aside from the fact that these were the best-performed concerts I had ever seen, something about the way they were staged catalyzed a lot of my ideas about the role of theatricality in live music. Joe has always used a few theatrical elements in his shows, and the 2000 tour was the most dramatic of his career: musicians made dramatic entrances and exits to emphasize musical elements, empty road cases served as scenic elements, one musician made a costume change during the intermission to play a drag king, and the show was even structured into a rough two-act format.

I spent the entire drive home brainstorming about the various characters and situations in the music from the two albums. More than the first album, Night and Day II is loaded with very specific characters and situations. Could multiple songs be sung by the same "character," creating a story arc? Could some of the songs be structured into duets, trios, and ensemble pieces? What would the younger sister from "Dear Mom" be like singing part of "Real Men," and what's the connection between the latter song and the transvestite prostitute from "Glamour and Pain"? How is the paranoia of "Target" like that of "Just Because," and could "Cancer" and "Chinatown" come from the same mouth?

There was another, more personal element to the story. While Joe was living downtown in 1998-99 writing songs about his turn-of-the-millenium Manhattan experience, I was living way uptown at 204th Street writing the music that would later become Strange Education, my own New York experience album. As a result, when I looked at Joe's music, I saw a reflection of my own triumphs and troubles in trying to create an iconic musical representation of the city. Joe, of course, actually hit gold with his; "Steppin' Out" is about as perfect a Manhattan song as you will ever hear, and over his career he has performed it as a ballad, a piano solo, lounge music, and in its original uptempo form. Like New York City itself, the iconic song has a multitude of faces, every one equally true and equally incomplete.

So Joe Jackson's Night and Day was structured as a songwriter's struggle to create the perfect New York City song, and of the people, places, stories, and questions that inspire him on his search. From the abrasiveness of "Hell of a Town" to the touristy excitement of "Another World," from the lost love of "Breaking Us in To" to the abandonment of "Love Got Lost," from the despair of "A Slow Song" to the bittersweet triumph of "Happyland," JJND is about both music and music's very creation, as seen through the lens of an artist striving to express his world with an honest voice. It's about the impossibly broad spectrum of peoples who call themselves New Yorkers, residents of a town "where there's always someone stranger than you." But mostly it's about the best damn bunch of songs I've ever heard played by the best band I've ever shared a stage with.

I'm incredibly grateful to Richmond Triangle Players, especially artistic director John Knapp and managing director Phil Crosby, for having faith in the vision of the show and making their space available. Stacie Rearden Hall, a dear friend and longtime collaborator, will be serving as associate director, providing a much-needed outside eye and fresh ideas. I produced a well-received workshop of the show in 2004, and drummer Adam Young and bassist Philip Hamm are returning to the show this year, joined by percussionist Jake Allard. Auditions are being held on Monday and Tuesday, February 27 and 28. See below for details if you're interested.

I want to acknowledge the enormous boost the show has received from Mr. Jackson's camp, as well. Mike Maska, Joe's manager at Big Hassle Management, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the project since 2003, and has helped move permissions and rights along with, well, very little hassle. Sean Melia and Tresa Hardin at Sony/ATV Publishing have also made things very easy. I'm enormously grateful.

One final note: This production is being funded from private donations and living room concerts. Please contact me if you're interested in helping to make Joe Jackson's Night and Day possible through a donation or by bringing live music into your home. All donations are tax-deductible.

This blog will be updated periodically with news updates, bios, links, live rehearsal footage, and other goodies. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at jjnightandday@gmail.com and we'll answer them for you.

1 comment:

  1. I am so excited that this is happening. I had the honor of playing percussion in the 2004 workshop and it was one of the most enjoyable performance experiences I have ever had. The musical "conversations" I had with Adam Young still stick in my mind. Good luck to everyone involved.