Dan Lipton is not yet the equivalent of a theatrical household name. He is a 24-year-old composer who made a splash with a starry reading of his musical Joe! last March which featured hot young talent like Jeremy Kushnier and Anthony Rapp. Still, he's more known for his piano playing of other composers, which have included the likes of Maury Yeston (Titanic), William Finn ( A New Brain) and Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins).
Playing in the pit on that last show's recent regional tour lead to the creation of "Travelogue," a new CD of his music, set for release at the end of Sept. On his first out-of-town musician's gig, Lipton felt the experience was begging for him to examine it while he was traveling.
"I thought it would be different to write about something as I was doing it," he said.
Lipton often wrote in the warm-up period before the musical began each night. "Much of the writing was actually done in the pit of the show. Literally five minutes before the show every night when everyone was warming up, I would be throwing around ideas for my little side project. It was like that, just five minutes every night."
For a composer who counts among his non-theatrical influences Billy Joel, Elton John (the musts for any pianist, he insists) and Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five, Lipton doesn't want this new baby pigeonholed as a theatre piece or a cabaret act or even as a pop song cycle, something he finds wholly pretentious. "It's not a theatre piece. I don't want people to think that it intends to be a show or that it intends to be staged. It's an album. That's what it is...[As a performance piece] the whole thing falls between every crack," he said.
Joining Lipton on the CD are Clarke Thorell (Titanic, The Who's Tommy), Chicago actress Kate Baldwin (the upcoming Finian's Rainbow) and Chicago-based musician Colby Beserra.
Where Would I be Now?
Remember the Kiss
Time and Money
A Ways to Go
That's the order Lipton wrote the songs in, actually. The first was composed in San Diego at the start of Floyd Collins and the last in Chicago, where the CD was then recorded during the final week of performances at the Goodman Theatre.
As for his musical theatre career (a career he is not necessarily set to, as he enjoys composing in the pop and film veins as well), Lipton is currently playing rehearsal piano on Marie Christine and fine tuning two theatre projects, including Joe!, with his partner David Rossmer. Like Lipton, Rossmer is working on a solo project which Lipton hopes will accompany "Travelogue" in future performances.
It won't, however, Oct. 10 at the West Bank Cafe, where Thorell, Beserra and Kim Huber (Floyd Collins, Marie Christine) will accompany Lipton on his "Travelogue." The group plan to perform again Nov. 1 at Macor, a new space on 68th and Columbus.
-- By Christine Ehren