VILLAGE THEATRE: What inspired It Shoulda Been You?
BARBARA ANSELMI (Composer): It Shoulda Been You actually started out as a concept piece called “The Wedding Project.” I had been to a whole bunch of weddings in a short period of time and I started to notice that what was going on with the guests (especially at one wedding in particular) was incredibly interesting. At the time I had to come up with an idea for a second year project in the BMI workshop and I thought it would be really fun to explore many different guests view of a wedding. I was working on this with a bunch of different lyricists when the song “It Shoulda You” was written. I presented it in class and someone’s comment was, “I wanna know what happens next.” Well, so did I, so I went on a search for a bookwriter. I finally met Brian and when I asked him to write the book for the show he replied…
BRIAN HARGROVE (Bookwriter and Lyricist): “Hell no. Are you crazy? I hate weddings. Weddings are borrrrriinnnng!” Well, that’s only partly true, but weddings can be pretty boring. We kind of know what’s going to happen – the couple is either going to get married or they’re not. And, let’s face it; doing a musical about a wedding is not exactly a new concept. I’m sure cave men and women were dancing and singing around the fire about weddings before they even realized they could put that fire in footlights. But, I loved Barbara’s songs. And the characters in the song “It Shoulda Been You” were so well defined, that I found the idea of expanding on them intriguing. So I asked her to let me think about it, and if I could think of a story that surprised and interested me, it would probably do the same for an audience, so I did and we did and there you have it.
VILLAGE THEATRE: It Shoulda Been You was a hit at Village Theatre’s 2010 Festival of New Musicals. How did that experience affect the development of the show? Have there been any major changes to the show since then?
BARBARA: “First of all, the Village Festival was such an amazing experience for us. It was incredible to see people who didn’t know us from a hole in the wall, watch and react to the show. It was such a wonderful feeling. On a more technical point, it was good to see what was and wasn’t working with different parts of the book and music. We have made some pretty big changes concerning certain characters and songs. And a lot of that was due to that one (magical for me) night.”
BRIAN: What she says. That was a great experience for us. The theatre, the audience, the whole community was so welcoming and supportive that it made us all the more enthusiastic about the show. Also, part of your process is both a talk back with the creators and questionnaires that you ask the audience to fill out about the show. I have to admit that it took me a month to read them – mainly because it was such a great experience I didn’t want it sullied if someone absolutely hated us. There weren’t any haters, but there were several specific criticisms that we found very helpful. Of course, my favorite comment was – “This show should go straight to Broadway!” I couldn’t agree more, but that doesn’t really help you make it better.
STILL BRIAN (I know, he does like to hear himself talk, doesn’t he?)
As to whether we have made any major changes to the show, the answer is yes and no. The essential story hasn’t changed, but we’ve rewritten a lot, both adding and cutting songs and beefing up some of the character’s development. For instance, Albert (the Wedding Planner) is now an integral part of the story. We always wanted him to be, but to be honest, there was no there there. Now he has his very own song, which although worked pretty well where it was, we’re trying in a different spot in the show so it will (hopefully) work even better. Also, the young people’s parts have grown and become more three-dimensional: especially Annie, the Bride’s best friend and co-maid of honor. We hope by the end of the show, you will have more sympathy for why and how things go down the way they do. And finally, we are in the process of writing a duet for Brian (the Groom) and George (Father of the Groom), which is going to get it’s first outing here at the Village. This new song will replace a scene between the two of them. We hope we’ve gotten it right, but if not, we’ll fix it in rehearsals. That’s one of the joys of working at the Village Theatre. You give us the freedom to try new stuff.
VILLAGE THEATRE: A lot goes into developing a new musical. What have you found to be the most rewarding parts of the experience? What about the most challenging?
BARBARA: The most rewarding part for me is to (during a performance) sit back and go on the ride. Because at that point as a writer, you’ve done all you can do. You’ve tried to implement everyone’s notes, you know you are about to see a story you love and you have absolutely no control! During the production at George Street I was telling that to someone in the green room and Tyne came over to me and said, “Now you know what it’s like to have kids.” The most challenging part is the moment before you are able to solve a situation that’s not quite working during the rehearsal process. It’s also one of the more fun parts of the process because I love figuring things out. I love letting my mind go to weird places and come up with ideas that are not quite right, because eventually they lead you down the right path and there’s often lots of laughter involved, especially when you take an idea a little bit too far.
BRIAN: Every time a show goes in front of an audience is a lesson. It’s funny really; sometimes you want a moment to work so badly. And you’ll try it out a few nights, hoping that the first time it didn’t work was a fluke, and the second time, it was too hot in the theatre or someone coughed during it. Until finally, you have to admit that you’re the only one laughing. But that in itself is rewarding. Writers have a saying that can sound a little harsh, but it’s true – “you have to kill your babies. “ The best line, the best musical or lyrical phrase, the funniest joke you’ve ever written will be none of those things if the show as a whole doesn’t work. So you have to be willing to cut things that you love in order to make a show work. But not to worry, you can always recycle them –where do you think “trunk songs” come from?
VILLAGE THEATRE: Why should audiences be excited to see It Shoulda Been You at Village Theatre?
BARBARA: First and foremost, it’s a new musical with an original story written by an awesome librettist. Second, it’s a slice of real life. Although some parts are heightened for the comedy, I can tell you that everything the mom says are things that many moms say. If I had a dime for the amount of people who came over to me after a talkback and said, “That’s just like my family,” and also, when the grandchildren of the woman that Judy Steinberg was named after came to see the show, they said, “You totally nailed Grandma.” Third, it’s a multigenerational story. You get to spend time with many different points of view that all come together on this one day and highlight the idea of deciding to take the wheel of your own life-a moment I hope the Village Theatre audience can relate to and be inspired by.
BRIAN: Well, I can’t really improve on that except to say that the music is exceptional and that many people wanted to buy the cast album after hearing it the first time. Plus, Barbara and I would really like to be able to start flying privately, and the more of you who come; the sooner you can make that a reality. Seriously though, audiences do seem to enjoy the show. They laugh and they cry and they laugh some more. You’ll be seeing something that very few others have seen AND you’ll be one of the first. Love it, hate it, – hopefully love it – that’s got to be a chance worth taking and an experience worth having.