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Troy Benton / Blog

Fish Mich

I've added a new song to the play list. It's a song I wrote with Brendan Ragotzy for a movie Brendan wrote called Fish Mich. It features Mr. Fee Waybill of The Tubes on lead vocals. Enjoy!

PRODUCTION CREDITS

PRODUCTION CREDITS ( * INDICATES MULTIPLE PRODUCTIONS) G=GUITAR B=BASS

AIDA (G) ANNIE (B) ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (B) ASSASSINS (G) BATBOY * (G) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (B) BIG RIVER (G) BLOOD BROTHERS * (G) CABARET *(G,B) CATS (G) CHESS (G) CHICAGO (B) CHORUS LINE, A *(G) EVITA *(G) FALSETTOS (B) FANTASTICKS (B) FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (B) FOOTLOOSE (G) FOREVER PLAID (B) FULL MONTY, THE (G) GEPETTO AND SON (G) GODSPELL * (G) GREASE * (G) GUYS AND DOLLS (B) HAIR * (G) JEKYLL AND HYDE (B) JERRY’S GIRLS (B) JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (G) JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT * (G,B) KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN * (B) LA CAGE AUX FOLLES *( B) LES MISERABLES (B) LIL’ ABNER (G) LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS * (G) LITTLE WOMEN (B) MY FAIR LADY (B) OKLAHOMA (G) OLD TIMER * (G) COMPOSER AND MUSIC DIRECTOR OLIVER (B) PIPPEN * (G) PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES (B) QUILTERS (B) REEFER MADNESS (G) RENT (G) SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (G) SHENENDOAH (B) SOME LIKE IT HOT (B) SUGAR BABIES (B) THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (G) THREE PENNY OPERA (G) TOMMY *(G) WEST SIDE STORY * (B)

Hair Review

Powerful and talented, Whole Art Theatre has a great `Hair' night Sunday, June 08, 2008 BY MARIN HEINRITZ Special to the Gazette There's a reason the groundbreaking '60s anti-war rock musical ``Hair'' has been around for 40 years, and there's a reason Kalamazoo area theaters from the Barn to Kalamazoo College have staged the show in recent years. The Whole Art Theatre Artistic Director Tucker Rafferty made that reason clear in his curtain speech Friday night. After asking the audience to first applaud those who fight for us overseas and then observe a moment of silence for those who have died, he opened the show by saying: ``Who's going to be the last to die for this mistake? And let's bring them home!'' With that introduction, a powerful monologue excerpted from poet Gil Scott-Heron's ``The revolution will not be televised'' and Jimi Hendrix's rendition of ``The Star Spangled Banner,'' an appropriate tone was set -- one that forces the audience to go deeper than the content that by now is more nostalgic than shocking. The show has about 40 musical numbers and a cast of 16. It's big, fun, wild and full of the kind of chaos one expects of ``Hair'': simulations of illicit drug use and sex, as well as actual nudity. However, this is well-rehearsed madness of a caliber one rarely sees from community theater. Even for audience members of a generation who know Hair's numbers primarily as Muzak -- that same group for whom the sentiment ``Thanks for nothing, hippies'' is as obvious as graffiti on a wall -- the Whole Art's production of ``Hair'' resonates. This happens because director Randy Wolfe made consistently smart choices: He gets it right. Rather than aiming purely for camp, he goes for heart. He's put together a strong, diverse cast of authentic, unique voices and bodies that capture the essence of the time: the confusion, self-acceptance, rage and love. The ensemble is greater than the sum of its parts -- as it should be, particularly in a show that draws on the collective consciousness of a revolutionary era. The big sweeping numbers ``I Got Life'' and ``Let the Sun Shine In'' provoke goosebumps, and individual performers more than hold their own. Alex Koch, as Claude; Frank Williams, as Hud; Kristen Utrecht, as Sheila; Lauren Ashley Zakrin, as Crissy; and Ryan Singleton, as Steve/Hiram, give standout performances. Clearly, the ensemble extends beyond the performers on stage. Music Director Courtney Phelps leads a great rock band ``orchestra'' and manages a good balance and big sound, especially considering the bold and wonderful move to not microphone the singers. Adam Carter choreographs to the actors' strengths, allowing stronger dancers to shine and less trained performers to look no less polished. This is no small feat. Impressive light design by Jon Reeves and sound design from Trevor Stefanick absolutely transport the audience to the 1960s. The Whole Art's production of ``Hair'' is surprisingly powerful. With careful, bold moves, they take what could be a silly, outdated cliche and deliver the kind of theater that inspires standing ovation. It genuinely entertains and makes an audience take a hard look at itself. THEATER REVIEW ``Hair'' -- Friday performance reviewed. Continues at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and June 20-21, 27-28, Whole Art Theatre at Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall. 345-7529, or www.wholeart.org.

This is not your father's musical (part 2)

In 2000 we headed into a local recording studio to record a CD of the project. By this point the book was finished and we had the songs....the next logical step is to shop it around...and we certainly didn't want to present it with recordings that sounded like they were done in someone's garage (they were in fact done mostly in my apartment's bedroom). We toiled for a couple of months and with the appearances of some incredibly talented singers and musicians the CD was completed. In 2001 we decided to mount a production of the show at the Barn. We landed Leif Garrett to play the role of Milano, the show's bad guy, and he did a great job. We felt that if we could present the show to some New York producers we might have a shot of getting it picked up. We had great response from audiences and press alike and the producers that came to the productions agreed we had someting exciting and new. We would be talking to some producers in the fall! Then the unthinkable happened. 9/11 would change things for us just like it changed for the rest of the world. Broadway, like much of the rest of America, went into a tailspin. Everything got put on the back burner and then, with time, it seemed to have gotten taken off the stove altogether. Well, Brendan and I really believed in the product. We felt it was original and fresh and deserved to see the light of day. We were able to mount a successful reading in New York (this time enlisting the talent of Tom Wopat and Gary Cherone as the leads). Again we were met with praise and enthusiasim...but nothing came to fruition. It was 2007 when Brendan approached me about doing Old Timer at the Barn again. We did. We were once again met with encouraging responses from public and producers alike. This has led us into talks with some producers and new plans to pursue. Hopefully Brendan and I will see our baby born into the venue we created it for. Since it's conception there have been talks of a movie adaptation, and while this would actually be a viable vehicle, Old Timer belongs on the stage even if it's not your father's musical.

This is not your father's musical (part 1)

In 1998 I was working as a pit musician for The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI. Now the Barn Theatre is a well known, equity, summer stock house and many great actors and actresses, singers and dancers have come through it's doors. It's been in exsistence for 65 years and has a very rich history, you can visit their website at www.barntheatre.com to learn more about it. I had started there the year before while they were staging The Who's TOMMY (I've been there ever since so I guess the saying, "theatre gets in your blood", is true). Well one day I came to work as normal when the Barn's Producer, Brendan Ragotzy, approached me and stated he needed to speak with me. Now I had, at this point, never really had any conversation with Brendan. Oh, the occasional, "good morning" or "how's it going", but I didn't really think he even knew much about me. We went into his office and he told me to close the door. At this moment my heart sank. I had discovered this theatre and really felt as if this was the path I wanted to pursue and here I was, probably going to get fired because of god knows why. So, as I sat there sweating (and wondering why I was getting the ax) he said he needed a writing partner for a new musical idea he had. I relaxed and we both laughed when I told him what I was thinking (he did, however, raise an eyebrow and ask if I had been up to something he should know about). We talked for a bit about our likes and dislikes of the paths some modern musical theatre was going and decided that we would concentrate on songs. Remember, there used to be a time when the popular music of the day were songs from the musicals that were on broadway. We agreed that he would provide me some lyrics he had and that I would write a song on spec. 4 days later I presented him with a scratch tape recording, done on a cheezy 4 track recorder, for the song Reflections Of My Tears. He liked what he heard and we immediately began collaborating on what would become Old Timer. Over the next couple of years we began showcasing the songs we were writing in the Barn's after show cabaret. The response we recieved encouaged us that we were onto something. I remember rehearsing the songs with the apprentices and sitting white knuckled as they performed them for the public, all the while convinced someone was going to discover what I hack I was. I mean, here I was...this long haired rock and roller, writing rock songs (some of them are even metal), surely we're going to give the older folks heart attacks right? Well, so far my secret's safe. The response was overwhelmingly positive (even from the older folks, who told me my music moved them and was powerful and passionate. With that we decided to take the next step of faith.