[Editor's Note: Once a month we have a producer take you behind the curtain, into the rehearsal process, backstage, or on the road to illuminate more the of Broadway's Next Hit Musical process. This month it's producer and artistic director Rob Schiffmann]
Recently, the Phony Awards occupied the stage at The Triad Theater. I was fortunate to once again be among the nominated. (This is all a fancy way of saying that Broadway's Next had shows at The Triad not too long ago). Being in the show is a total pleasure. It is a show that audiences love and that constantly challenges its performers, myself included. At one of those performances, my song title, "I Fell For a Toad" was voted the winning song. It was a blast to perform, especially with the music given to me by our Music Director, Gary Adler.
When the Initial Suggestion Seems Too Obvious
My first challenge came when I read the title because the first thing that came to my mind was the idea that it was about a guy who fell in love with a toad. Duh! It certainly is the most obvious place to go with that title and yet, being obvious can sometimes feel uncomfortable for improvisers. In fact, artists in general struggle with being obvious. It doesn't feel interesting to be obvious. However, being obvious allows your audience to connect easily to your material and the truth is that what makes something interesting is not, in fact, the top level connection to its title, theme, etc.. It's the small details within and the nuance around delivery that creates that spark that we recognize as “interesting.”
Once I overcame this initial internal doubt, I was able to move on and we all collectively created a lovely scene and song. Special mention goes to Katie Hammond who played my wife to whom I was confessing about my new love and to Deb Rabbai who provided off-stage toad sounds to woo me. The scene became a confession and the song became a love song about my affection for the toad.
Stream this song, “I Fell For a Toad”
When You Mistake a Frog for a Toad
When I initially described the song to the audience before we did the scene, I made the mistake of saying that I had fallen in love with a frog. An audience member called back to me that it was a toad, not a frog. I did not know there was a difference. However, this little mistake then became the basis for the entire musical. The brief synopsis is that I was a happily married “swamp-worker” who then met a toad and fell in love. I told my wife about it and ran off to live with the toad but when I then called her a frog “accidentally,” she became offended and shunned me and thus I went home to beg forgiveness from my wife.
The true secret of this success belongs to Deb Rabbai who reacted in a HUGE way to me calling her a frog and thus she left me and thus I returned home. It was yet another great example of how mistakes are gifts. It also was an example of the pro that Deb is that she knew to accept that mistake in such a big way that it could become the gift it was.
The little mistakes help!