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

By Michael Gioia
16 Oct 2012

Sam Carner and Derek Gregor

"We met in the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program," explained songwriting duo Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, who said their tunes are often infused with elements of stadium rock and Cole Porter. "We were paired together for a 20-minute one-act in the first year of the program, and we selected each other as writing partners for our second year in the program." Collaboratively the pair created Unlock'd, the "Best of Fest" winner at the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and recipient of the Richard Rodgers Award that is based on Alexander Pope's narrative poem "The Rape of the Lock." The musical, a love story that they describe as "a 'Mean Girls' meets A Midsummer Night's Dream," will receive its Off-Broadway premiere in summer 2013 with Prospect Theatre Company. (Watch Next to Normal's Brian Crum sing "All at Once" from the musical).

"YouTube has certainly served to encourage and spread the work of writers like us who don't even have a Broadway credit, and it's wonderful that works of young New York writers is now being performed literally around the world as a result," they added. Cabaret and concert performances of songs from their Island Song musical anthology, the story of five New Yorkers and their tortured love affair with the city, which will be seen Nov. 12 at (le) Poisson Rouge, have risen to popularity on YouTube. (Check out an acoustic version of "Stay Awhile," performed here by Hands on a Hardbody's Jay Armstrong Johnson, and Wall Lovin'," performed here by Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan).

Other projects in development include their children's musical The Great Cookie Quest (book by Jim Weitzer) and their short Love, Splat, which is slated for production in TheatreWorks USA's The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. "Artistically speaking, we always aim to crystalize experience, to give voice to thoughts and feelings that people have constantly but have never heard in a song," they said. "We're told all the time, 'that character is me' or 'that character is my best friend' and even 'that was therapy' or 'that was scary... I've totally done that.' I think that goal of writing songs that resonate in a fresh way with people's lives is pretty constant in all of our projects." One of Gregor's favorite tunes is "Make It Here," a song written for a friend on Broadway whose father was not supportive.

Listen to a demo of Carner's favorite, "Out of the Bay," the 11-o'clock number from Unlock'd performed by Jordan:

"Out of the Bay"




Listen to "Make It Here," performed by Crum: 

"Make It Here"