Directed by City Theatre artistic director Tracy Brigden, this world premiere is a co-production of City Theatre and TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA. Brigden and dramaturg Carlyn Aquiline have been working with the writers to explore the best way to turn David Schulner's play into potent musical theatre.
Milburn and Vigoda are both credited with the book of Long Story Short, with Milburn playing composer and Vigoda providing lyrics.
Vigoda told Playbill.com from Pittsburgh, "This is our first experience adapting a play, and not working with a bookwriter. We decided to take David Schulner's existing beautiful, well-structured, innovative piece and adapt it on our own — so it's been, and continues to be, an amazing learning experience and a new kind of challenge for us.
"Because Brendan has taken on so much of the music, including orchestration — this is the first time we've officially split music and lyric duties — the script changes have basically fallen to me, and I've spent a lot of time with [Brigden and Aquiline] pulling apart sections of the play and reinventing them, brain-pain be damned. It makes me incredibly happy when a preview audience laughs at a line of dialogue I've written; when they can't tell whether or not it's from the original play, I've done my job right."
Jonathan Larson Award winners Milburn and Vigoda — who are two-thirds of the pop group GrooveLily — wrote music and lyrics (and collaborated on the book) for the cult-hit musical Striking 12. They also co-created the musical Sleeping Beauty Wakes and penned a live musical version of Toy Story for Disney. The two-character musical features Ben Evans and Pearl Sun as lovers. According to City Theatre, Long Story Short "follows what happens when Charles, a nerdy young Jewish guy, falls in love with Hope, a young Asian-American woman from Los Angeles. Through hip, funny dialogue, clever lyrics and indelible melodies, we fast-forward from the couple's first white-hot shining moments, through the ups and downs of decades, to a surprising finale. Long Story Short rejoices in how something as fragile as love might last forever."
What did the living playwright David Schulner have to say about the adaptation from An Infinite Ache to Long Story Short?
"We wondered what David Schulner would think, and I have to say, we were a little apprehensive about it, having never met him...until he arrived in Pittsburgh," Vigoda said. "He saw a preview, told us he loved it and didn't miss anything we had removed from his play. 'Cut more!' he said, and that's exactly what we're now pondering and arguing about amongst ourselves as we approach opening night. Cutting can be even harder than writing."
City Theatre commissioned Milburn and Vigoda to write the book, music and lyrics for Long Story Short.
Did they bring their own experience as married parents to the tale of married parents?
"So much of Long Story Short is about making a marriage work, and specifically about parenthood, that Brendan and I couldn't help but draw on our own experiences — not only as husband and wife, but also as father and mother (our son Mose has just turned 3)," Vigoda told Playbill.com. "We have been amazed all along by David Schulner's ability to capture the emotions of being a parent long before he was one — he wrote the play as a single guy in his 20s. I don't think I could have done the same — I'm very glad I've got these past three years to draw on. The one moment of the show that may not ring true for parents is when Charles goes offstage to put his crying baby daughter to bed, and returns only moments later, having succeeded perfectly (she doesn't make another peep for the rest of the scene). This would never fly in real life...but we hope the audiences will indulge us for the sake of theatrical pacing."
The musical plays City Theatre's 272-seat mainstage to Nov. 16. The TheatreWorks run, 20 miles south of San Francisco, will play Dec. 3-28.
Long Story Short was developed at City Theatre during its MOMENTUM festival in 2007 and 2008, and at TheatreWorks as part of its New Works Initiative. The production is supported in part by grants from the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The score is performed by a four-piece band (piano, violin, cello and percussion) and features more than a dozen new songs by Milburn and Vigoda. (They've recently made demos of the score available to the public for free on their website, groovelily.com.)
The design team for Long Story Short includes Neil Patel (scenic), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting), C.T. Steele (costumes), and Elizabeth Atkinson (sound). Douglas Levine is the music director.
Evans (who plays Charles) returns to City Theatre having appeared there last year in the one-man, seven-character comedy The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? and in 2005 as Steve in Hearts Are Wild. Recent credits include Forbidden Broadway Off-Broadway, the European tour of Grease (Kenickie and Danny), Annie Get Your Gun (Frank Butler) at Gateway Playhouse, and Idols of the King (Elvis) at Cortland Rep.
Pearl Sun (who plays Hope) is making her City Theatre and TheatreWorks debut. She'll appear in the new musical Happiness by Scott Frankel, Michael Korie and John Weidman, directed by Susan Stroman, in spring 2009 at Lincoln Center Theater. Other notable credits include Broadway's Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Off-Broadway's Walmartopia, The Seven, The Yellow Wood and more.
City Theatre is located at Bingham and 13th Streets in Pittsburgh's South Side.
The play An Infinite Ache had its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, in 2001.
For tickets and more information call (412) 431-CITY or visit CityTheatreCompany.org.
Home studio demo recordings for almost the whole score of Long Story Short have been released (one at a time) on groovelily.com since mid-August, continuing to the Pittsburgh opening.
Among the song titles are "Rocking Chairs," " "It Happens in a Moment," "Live Like This," "We Should Get Married," "Fragile As Love," "Unpacking the Suitcase," "There She Goes," "Knock Down, Drag Out," "Empowered," "Flash Point," "Introductions/Fragile As Love," "What Was That?," "Still Love," "Live Like This" Reprise and "Letting Go."
According to their own bio page, "New York City trio GrooveLily inhabits that contemporary space where creative musicians ignore the boundaries laid down by words like rock, folk, jazz and pop. Intelligent original songs with no shortage of wit connect lush musical textures and soaring vocals with the blazing six-string electric violin of Valerie Vigoda, the lightning-fingered piano of Brendan Milburn, and the joyful drums of Gene Lewin. With backgrounds in classical music, musical theatre, jazz and rock, the three members of GrooveLily are making a new music that's all their own. The success of their first concert-musical, the critically-acclaimed holiday show Striking 12, has led them farther into the world of theatre, where they have carved out a unique niche as a rock band writing and performing shows."