Coming Home to New York with Venice: Matt Sax's Show Prepares for Public Theater Premiere

By Carey Purcell
25 May 2013

Javier Munoz in a 2010 Los Angeles production.
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Grand theatrical aspects are nothing new to Sax, who grew up in New York and frequently saw musical theatre productions with his family. His first Brodway show was The Secret Garden, and he says he knows every lyric in Les Miserables, but he credits Hedwig and the Angry Itch with changing how he viewed theatre.

"I had the most amazing, thrilling experience," he said. "It opened my eyes that theatre could be like this. Theatre could be something different than what I was used to. The thing I'm most excited about when I look back at those shows and those experiences is that musical theatre has this amazing transformational quality. You can walk into the theatre and leave the theatre actually a different person. I think there's something very special about the art form that your heart can be totally transformed by."

The transformational quality of theatre is what Sax hopes to achieve with Venice; he said he and Rosen hope to give people the "first-time" experience that can change their perspective.

"That's a lofty goal, but the core of that thing is really important to me," he said. "Hopefully, even if it's just one kid that comes and sees this show is turned on by the fact that theatre can do this, theatre can be this, and is energized. I'm hoping we give that gift to someone else. That would be amazing."

Sax hopes Venice will be the first show some people see, because inspiring young people to become invested in the theatre has been a goal of his for a long time.

"It's always been a real passion of mine…to get young people excited about the theatre in ways they are not always," he said. "Because for whatever reason, they think theatre is standoffish. They think theatre is for an elite class."

One aspect in which Sax might shatter the illusion of elitism is the fact that even though he wrote the music for Venice, he cannot read music. Instead, he writes beats and melodies on his computer and he and Rosen collaborate on the song's story. Sax then records a version of it, and their music supervisor and collaborator Moore notates it for the page.

Sax views his lack of a traditional music education as an asset to his work, saying, "Because I don't have that training, I'm actually not limited by that training. There are positives and negatives, but I feel like my impulses are different than that of a traditional musical theatre composer, and I think that's part of what makes the score so unique."