Wayne Barker, who wrote the music for "Peter and the Starcatcher," returns to his alma mater for the Bloomfield Drama Club performance
Wayne Barker remembers growing up in Bloomfield, a theater- and music-minded kid, reading book after book in his Route 65 home about the golden ages of Broadway and cinema, thinking about following the artistic career path trod by the greats in the past.
"I was a kid growing up in a small town without a lot of experience — I had no first-hand exposure to the kind of big time artistic experience that kids growing up in New York City might have. ... I had a specific, vivid image of what a career in music or a career in motion pictures would be," Barker said. "It took me a long time to realize it doesn't exist anymore."
His naivete didn't survive long in the business, where he learned that his kind of ideal job — being the piano man in a film studio, with directors and writers and choregraphers bouncing ideas off him in the process of crafting a show — wasn't really a thing any more. And hadn't been since around 1958, said one studio head.
But even if his hasn't been the path of a Gershwin or a Hammerstein, Barker has had quite a career so far: Several years as a performer (and music director) with Chicago City Limits (based in New York); six years collaborating with Dame Edna Everage (the stage persona of Barry Humphries, whom he calls "one of the great comedic minds"); numerous stints conducting, composing, arranging, scoring and sometimes acting in theatrical productions. (Among his composing work: "Clue, the Musical" and a stage version of "Mr. Holland's Opus.") Among his most well-known projects has been composing the music for the Tony-winning play "Peter and the Starcatcher," a musical-comedy prequel of sorts to "Peter Pan" — work that earned Barker a Drama Desk award and a Tony nomination.
Barker, now based in San Francisco, will be back in Bloomfield this weekend, when his alma mater's drama club presents "Peter and the Starcatcher" at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. In addition to watching the production and taking part in a question-and-answer session after the Saturday matinee, Barker will give a concert Sunday at around 11:30 a.m. at the West Bloomfield Congregational Church, 9035 Routes 5 and 20, after its morning service.
Glenn McCarty, who's directing the Bloomfield production, had long wanted to do the "Starcatcher" show there — he loves the show himself, and the Barker connection makes it particularly special.
"We're all on pins and needles about putting it on for him Saturday when he attends the show," McCarty said. "I think the kids are thrilled — and kind of terrified as well."
"Peter and the Starcatcher" — inspired by a series of novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and adapted to the stage by Rick Elice — is about an oprhan who comes to be The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up and his adventures at sea about the ship Neverland and on Mollusk Island amid encounters with thieves and pirates, including the buccaneer who would someday be Captain Hook.
"It's got a lot of things I really love in theater — it's got a lot of imagination; it hasn't got a fixed set," McCarty said — his young actors are told to imagine that they're a troupe of actors that come into town and work with the props they've got to suggest a setting. "It's a really different kind of show — plus it's really, really funny." And a lot of work, since the show very much depends on timing, with coordination between music and sound and lighting and dialogue and action. "A lot of it looks spontaneous, with people moving around onstage," McCarty said, "but it's very choreographed."
McCarty is directing the play with assistance from Sarah Williams, who also did the set design, construction and painting. Music director is Matt Roesch, lighting design is by Ken Crompton, and the costumes are by Margaret Tiffany — who graduated from Bloomfield with Barker.
Barker hopes to be encouraging to today's students who may be considering a vocation in show business, while at the same time hoping to give them some insight into the realities of that life. It's an exciting life, he noted, but one has to be flexible enough to collaborate and compromise, and you're not going to make a ton of money. Among the challenges he's faced, he says, is maintaining enthusiasm throughout a process, even when the end result isn't necessarily what one envisioned. "The challenge is keeping a good attitude — to know not a single idea the composer brings in is life-or-death, one way or the other," he said.
While Barker isn't particularly sanguine about the role that theater plays in culture these days and the difficulties composers and arrangers face in show business in the modern era — sometimes, there are triumphs, as when he got to write an orchestration of his music to be used as walk-on music at the Tony Awards — "that was 48 bars of music that I got to hear played by that caliber of musicians." And getting to work with Dame Enda. And the satisfaction of the creative process itself — working in collaboration to make something new. With "Starcatcher," for instance, those involved "wanted to do something other than take a Disney animated movie and turn it into a musical." And judging by its reception, they succeeded.
Which brings us to this weekend, in Bloomfield, which awaits the return of one of its success stories.
"I want to be able to give realistic advice, and not discourage anyone," he added.
The Bloomfield Drama Club production of "Peter and the Starcatcher" is at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the high school, with a question-and-answer session with Wayne Barker after the 2 p.m. show. Tickets are $8 adults, $6 seniors and students, and sold at the door only.
Hey hey, my my
A who's who of the Rochester music community will be at The Lovin' Cup, 300 Park Point in Henrietta, on Friday, Nov. 15, to perform the music of Neil Young, the veteran rocker responsbile for such classic-rock staples as "Heart of Gold," "Southern Man" and "Cinnamon Girl," plus forays into thrash, country, blues and more. The 7th Annual Neil Young Birthday Bash, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. (doors 7 p.m.), is a fundraiser for KISMET — Kids in the System: Music Education and Theory, an organization providing instruments, music lessons and performance opportunities for at-risk youth.
The night opens with a set by Boomslang, comprised of Kim Draheim from The Infrared Radiation Orchestra (who spearheads KISMET), Jake Perry of Darwin, and two alumni of Draheim's Hillside Music Program, Antonia Love and Craig Kiesznowski; as well as a five-piece version of the band that also includes New Math's Chris Yockel, Mark Schwartz and Roy Stein.
Also performing Young songs throughout the evening are such artists as junkyardfieldtrip's Rob Smith and Mike Gladstone, Brian Lindsay and Lloud Gala from his band, Watkins & The Rapiers' Marty York, Bryan Price from Zac Brown Tribute Band, Violet Mary's Mel and Mike Muscarella, Miles McHugh from Moving Mountains and Into the Now, Liz Ristow and Josh Massicot, Jerry Falzone and Ken Colombo from Liar's Room, John Kelley, Natie and Josh Pincus from Date Night, and Stan Merrell from Big Ditch. General admission is $10.
Well, all right
Buddy Holly's promising career was cut short in 1959 when the seminal early rocker — whose hits include "Not Fade Away," "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be the Day" — was lost in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, a loss immortalized by Don McLean as "the day the music died" in "American Pie."
Yet this weekend in Rochester, Buddy will "Rave On" — along with fellow early rocker Roy Orbison ("Only the Lonely," "In Dreams," "Oh Pretty Woman"), who's also no longer with us, not since 1988. Holly and Orbison will appear in concert Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Auditorium Theatre.
How so? Thank modern technology. Metropolitan Entertainment and the Rochester Broadway Theatre League will present "Roy Orbison & Buddy Holly: The Rock 'N' Roll Dream Tour," a holographic-based live concert tour, the brainchild of BASE Hologram. The holographic images of Holly and Orbison in their prime interact with a live band and backup singers, as well as the audience, using digital and laser tech to create an immersive experience, as if you were actually there with Buddy and Roy. (A similar show featuring Frank Zappa came to the Kodak Center this spring.)
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Auditorium Theatre, 885 E. Main St., Rochester. Tickets range from $35 to $65 and are available at ticketmaster.com or 800-982-2787. More details: www.royandbuddy.com.