PLAYBILL PICKS: The Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know, Part Two

By Michael Gioia
16 Oct 2012

Adam Gwon

"People always tell me they hear a blend of both contemporary and 'old school' sounds in my work, which I think just reflects my interest in writing new theatre music, whatever that may mean," said award-winning composer Adam Gwon (Kleban Award, Fred Ebb Award and the Second Stage Theatre Donna Perret Rosen Award, among others). "I love writing for theatre because of the variety of sounds you're able to explore." His Ordinary Days, which was produced by Roundabout Theatre Company's Underground program in 2009, centers on four New Yorkers connected by circumstance and features "I'll Be Here," an emotional recounting of a lost love who perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center — a song that Gwon said, "essentially launched [his] career." The song was performed brought to life Off-Broadway by Lisa Brescia and has been performed in concert by five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. (Watch "Sort-Of Fairy Tale," also from Ordinary Days, performed here by The Book of Mormon's Jared Gertner and Legally Blonde's Kate Wetherhead).

Gwon added, "I was a piano nerd as a kid [watch 'C Major,' a musical metaphor, performed by Lysistrata Jones' Alex Wyse], obsessed with classical music and Tori Amos, and then got into musicals. A high school teacher of mine introduced me to Sondheim, then a teacher my freshman year at NYU really opened the floodgates and I was all in."

His other material includes The Boy Detective Fails, based on the Joe Meno novel of the same name about boy detective Billy Argo whose younger sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, committed suicide, which premiered at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, in 2011; and Cloudlands, about a young woman piecing together her mother's secret life, which premiered at South Coast Repertory earlier this year. Currently, he is developing an original musical called String with playwright Sarah Hammond (watch "So Over," a song from the musical performed by Carrie actress Blair Goldberg), and recently began work on a new project commissioned by Playwrights Horizons. "The collaborative element of musical theatre is really invigorating, and there are many playwrights, directors and actors I want to collaborate with. So I'm hatching evil plans to get them to make new musicals with me," he said.

Listen to "Little Mysteries," a favorite of Gwon's from The Boy Detective Fails, performed by Anika Larsen and Stephen Gregory Smith:

"Little Mysteries"




Listen to "I'll Be Here" from Ordinary Days, performed by Lisa Brescia:

"I'll Be Here"