The Back Story for Version #1

September 1, 2010

MERCI MILLE FOIS! A thousand thank- you's to the dozens and dozens of our supporters who helped us raise more than $6,300! Over 150 fans attended the two evenings of staged reading and another 30 or more sent in donations from near and far. I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.

Three very intense and creative months. We lived a "Summer on the Seine" and how apt it was. The script by Amanda Hartley was perfectly matched by an incredible "dream team" of singer-actors.

The talk-back sessions, the discussions by phone, email, in person were immensely positive and constructive. Everyone agrees the music is glorious. So now we have to revisit key elements of the show to strengthen the book, dig deeper into the poetry and meaning of the songs, and come out with a new project—or three! Fortunately, Eric Lieberman has signed on as my co-producer to keep me on course.

First up: members of the cast will record the songs with Arnie Johnston's English versions as the Jazz Fauré Project Volume II: Summer on the Seine. Amanda and I will finally get to sing a song or two ourselves. I've submitted a proposal to the Anna Sosenko Trust Fund and will launch another fundraising campaign fairly soon.

The second step is to create a theatrical song cycle that can tour with a smaller cast, without staging. This is a matter of getting together with my collaborators to give it structure and shape.

The third step is to strengthen the book musical. The more I learn about Fauré's songs, his life and the life of his poets, the more there is for us to work with. Leitmotifs that are grist for our mill: water (spring, river, sea), flowers (roses and gardens), and women, especially women. Like our character René, Fauré was a great lover of women if not always accessible in return.

"Looking forward to having Fauré and Renoir give Sondheim and Seurat a run for their money!"

Update #1—Eye Candy: Projected Images

Update #2—Frequently Asked Questions

Update #2 posted July 19, 2010— Frequently Asked Questions

Fans have questions. Here are some answers:

-- I didn't know Gabriel Fauré wrote songs, too? He's the one who wrote a Requiem and the "Pavane", but he also wrote 100 sublime songs for salon and concert from 1874 to 1922. The jazz harmonies are his own. That's what's makes the music a natural for a modern rendition.

--How much is this like the album and concerts of the Jazz Fauré Project? Fifteen of the songs come from our 2005-2006 project with Dennis Luxion and Bobby Schiff. For "Summer on the Seine" Bobby is arranging several new songs and adding chorus to a few of the duos in the original. The songs are all set for jazz quartet with grooves ranging from bossa nova and blues to rock and pop.

-- Will these be sung in French? This time and for the first time the lyrics are in English. They've been written by the very talented Arnold Johnston whose adaptations of Jacques Brel have won the unique approval of the Brel family.

-- Is this a "book musical" with plot and characters? Yes, singer-actress Amanda Hartley Urteaga (with help from Deborah Ann Percy) has created a play with plenty of action set in the 1880s on the banks of the Seine, with characters breaking out in song at the slightest provocation. Listen in ---

LYDIA (while posing for the artist René): You make me out of light and colors bright like a field of poppies. And I love you for it. RENÉ responds in song: LYDIA, ON YOUR CHEEKS NOW BLUSHING....
GUSTAVE, frustrated, dropping his paintbrushes, half drunk, half in a nightmare, sings the blues: TEARS RAIN WITHIN MY HEART AS RAIN FALLS ON THE TOWN

-- Aren’t staged readings kinda stodgy; after all there are no sets, no costumes, right? A staged reading means actors have script in hand. But with such a fabulous cast, we’ll soon forget the books and focus instead on the characters being brought to life in front of us. Those of you who know the musical theatre and cabaret scenes in Chicago will recognize the Actors Equity veterans like Johanna McKenzie Miller, Nathan Alan Johnson, Cory Goodrich, Ron Keaton, KT McCammond, John Eskola, Ann McMann, not to mention Johnny Rodgers who is flying in from New York to participate (he's the one who knocked ’em dead this spring at the Algonquin Hotel and on tour with Liza Minnelli).

And we’re providing eye-candy with projected images to set the scene and “dress” our characters. We're talking French impressionism here, so wait until you see what Renoir and his colleagues have given us to feast on.

-- Are you going to sing? No. This time I'm going to be in the audience listening and applauding (and counting heads like all good producers do). Oh, maybe I could sing an encore if you insist. After all, there are a few tunes that didn't make it into the show. Hmm…

--What’s this going to cost? It’s costing about $7000 to put on the show. Oh, you meant, what’s it going to cost to attend! Nothing. Admission is free and open to the public. But you'll understand why we're asking everyone to help out…every $10 donation counts!

-- How do I get tickets for the show? There are no tickets, no box office required. If you’re a donor, your name will be on the list at the theatre door and a seat will be reserved for you. Just let us know which night you plan to attend. Otherwise, be sure to arrive before 7:15 to assure your place.

-- How’s the funding so far? We've raised $3000 in about three weeks. This is where I run out of adjectives for grateful, thankful, wowed, overcome by generosity. I cannot thank you enough. Every gift, whether $10 or $300, has been special and affirming to all of us.

There’s still time to join the effort and different ways to do so. If you want to make a large tax-deductible donation, the folks at Stage 773 at the Theatre Building are serving as our non-profit fiscal agent. If you don't care about tax deductions, we're taking pledges large and small in two other ways.

You can make modest pledges and join the fun at by following this link here. You can request a form to send in contributions large and small, deductible or not, by check or credit card. You can use Paypal here at our support page. And everyone gets a unique thank-you gift.

-- Will the show go on even if you don't make your goal? The answer is YES! THE SHOW MUST GO ON! For two reasons:
1) There are so many people invested in the process -- 13 cast members who are learning their songs, directors and arrangers and designers working away and
2) I'm confident we will raise the funds because the enthusiasm is there and the need is modest. Just think what $10 can buy!

As a fan said this week, "Looking forward to having Fauré and Renoir give Sondheim and Seurat a run for their money!" I couldn't agree more!

-- Is there parking? There's street and paid parking. Or take a five-minute walk west of the Brown and Red Line Belmont station to the Theatre Building at No. 1225.

-- Are you going to do this again? The next step should be a full production of "Summer on the Seine". The staged reading is our enticement to producers of musical theatre to make this play their own. We'll definitely keep you posted as we make progress "selling the show" to a college or theatre company. And if you know a musical theatre VIP, please let them know about the reading!

-- I have no funds, how can I help? Come see the show, BRING YOUR FRIENDS, pass along the basic info. Post up the attached flyer. Share this on Facebook, Twitter, Email, snail mail, telephone, and by WORD OF MOUTH! (Or as we say in French, "from mouth to ear"!)

Update #1 posted July 17, 2010—EYE CANDY

Ours is a staged reading, script in hand, with a difference. EYE-CANDY in the form of projected images to set the scene and "dress" our characters. Renoir and his colleagues have given us a panoply of paintings to feast on.

During the reading to set the scene and essential stage directions, we’ll project Title Cards (shown in blue background) and images from Renoir's milieu. It's been a lot of fun finding the "perfect" image -- and how much fun to know that "Lydia" was truly one of Renoir's models as well as the name of a young woman sung about in Fauré’s song.

  • Titles_and_images_page_03
  • Titles_and_images_page_05
  • Titles_and_images_page_06
  • Titles_and_images_page_07