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Mayville artists meet Broadway composer

March 31, 2016
Westfield Republican

Two local artists, John Keating and Sandra Lowell (Makuch) of Mayville, were among the many invited guests who shared an evening with Broadway and Hollywood composer Stephen Schwartz at the City Theatre in Pittsburgh March 17.

In addition to hearing about his life and career in the musical theatre business, three members of Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP) were on hand to present their songs for feedback. Included in the presentation was "No Chance For Love," a song from the new musical "Kitty" with book by Keating and music and lyrics by Lowell.

"It was such a thrill to meet Stephen Schwartz, let alone get feedback on my own work from him! I found his response to my song encouraging and helpful, and his thoughts on the other two artists' songs helped me evaluate different songs in our show in a new light," said composer Lowell.

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Sandra Lowell (Makuch), a Mayville composer, meets Broadway and Hollywood composer Stephen Schwartz.

The process of writing new musical theatre work is often long and arduous. Schwartz generously agreed to listen to these songs and give his thoughts with the group and the presenting artists.

Lowell added, "I was impressed not only by Schwartz's amazing talent, but his gracious, nurturing manner toward the many aspiring artists in the room. He spoke to us as if we were all in the fray together. I especially loved that he allowed himself to be vulnerable, speaking openly of times of discouragement he had known in his musical theatre career."

Mr. Schwartz's most recent musical, "Wicked," opened in the fall of 2003 and is currently running on Broadway and in several other productions around the United States and the world. In 2008, Wicked reached its 1900th performance on Broadway, making Mr. Schwartz the only songwriter in Broadway history ever to have three shows run more than 1900 performances ("Godspell," "Pippin," and "Wicked").

A valuable portion of the program happened when Schwartz sang portions of three very different songs that he had written for his hit "Wicked" - all written to fulfill one specific, critical purpose in the show. The first two songs had been tried successively in early versions and had 'not worked.' The third song worked well and contained only the smallest remnant of the first, and it was given a new placement in the flow of the show.

"I came away understanding, more fully, that writing a musical is a process, like parenting or teaching or building a house. Your show presents you with questions, problems and choices, and you try all sorts of things to make it work. You have to be willing to rearrange, start over and scrap songs that are ineffective, even if you invested a lot of time creating them, even if they are good songs. All the parts of the show have to work together," said Lowell, who currently teaches music at the Westfield schools.

Earlier in the year, Keating attended the ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre and DreamWorks Studios (Disney) workshop in Los Angeles under the leadership of Schwartz. "Kitty" was among 140 entries to be considered this year.

"What a fabulous opportunity to watch Schwartz critique original musical works in progress in LA. Then, within a month, to have one of our scenes with a song performed in front of him in Pittsburgh was a bit overwhelming," said Keating.

Prior to the singing of "No Chance For Love" on St. Patrick's Day, Schwartz introduced the Keating-Lowell work by telling the audience that "Kitty" is the secret love affair between Charles Stewart Parnell, Ireland's Home Rule leader in the 1880s, and the English-born and married Katharine O'Shea. In one of the biggest scandals in political history, Parnell and Mrs. O'Shea were shunned by the Irish and the British for the part they played in destroying the sanctity of marriage and all hope for achieving Home Rule from England.



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