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

By Michael Gioia
16 Oct 2012

Joe Iconis
Photo by Monica Simoes

Composer-lyricist Joe Iconis' garage-band musical The Black Suits was seen this past summer in a workshop production in Pittsfield, MA, that was part of the Barrington Stage Company Musical Theatre Lab series. "I like songs that go on journey, both lyrically and musically, and I love songs that are surprising and end up in a place you don't expect," said Iconis, the recipient of an Ed Kleban Award and Jonathan Larson Award, among others. "I respond to aggressive, full-bodied melodies that help the listener understand a character or a moment or a feeling. I also respond to characters who are inarticulate and unable to express themselves." "The Answer," a song from The Black Suits performed here by Jason Hite, who appeared in the summer Black Suits workshop and will be seen in the upcoming Off-Broadway production of Bare, embodies all of the aforementioned qualities and is built around a character who is looking for something more.

Aside from The Black Suits, which Iconis hopes will be given life in New York City, the composer's other projects include the Drama Desk Award-nominated Bloodsong of Love, a Spaghetti Western rock 'n' roll musical following a wandering guitarist (watch "Play the Princess," a cut song from the musical, performed here by Katrina Rose Dideriksen, MK Lawson, Kate Pazakis and Tracy McDowell); ReWrite, a mini-musical triple feature that, Iconis says, "absolutely baffles and frightens people"; and the Theatreworks USA musicals The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and We The People, among others. Currently, he is working on Be More Chill, an adaptation of the science fiction novel by Ned Vizzini, with book writer Joe Tracz; a musical about writer Hunter S. Thompson, with book writer Gregory S. Moss, for La Jolla Playhouse and Broadway Across America; and Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo! with Lance Rubin and Jason "SweetTooth" Williams ("It's an ass-kicking love letter to our favorite red-headed actress of all time," said Iconis).

"It's my greatest dream to have a show on Broadway, but a show I believe in," he added. "One that, hopefully, is something that I feel good about and isn't a paint-by-numbers adaptation of a movie franchise. I just want my writing to reach as many people as humanly possible. Watch Lisa Brescia's performance of "Starting To Forget," the songwriter's favorite, which he wrote 10 years ago about his grandfather… "It sorta felt like a turning point in the way I was writing."

Listen to "Find the Bastard" from Bloodsong of Love:

"Find the Bastard"




Listen to "Helen" from Things to Ruin, Iconis' theatrical rock concert, seen at Ars Nova, Joes' Pub and Second Stage, among others: