Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Britta Johnson And Sara Farb Discuss About Kelly V. Kelly

L-R: Britta Johnson, Sara Farb (Photos courtesy of the artists)
L-R: Britta Johnson, Sara Farb (Images courtesy of the artists)

You possibly can say composer/lyricist Britta Johnson is one among Canada’s most profitable writers of authentic music theatre. Her present, Life After, has had profitable productions in the USA, whereas one other of her musicals, Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life, can be slated to be mounted south of the border.

Guide author Sara Farb is finest referred to as a real Canadian musical theatre star. She was a stalwart at Stratford, however has latterly carried out the position of Delphi Diggory in each the Broadway and Toronto productions of Harry Potter and the Cursed Baby.

Their intriguing new musical, Kelly v. Kelly, is impressed by an outrageous 1915 courtroom case that happened in New York Metropolis. When the 19-year-old heiress, Eugenia Kelly, had an affair along with her married tango instructor, Al Davis, her mom, Helen Kelly, had her daughter arrested and charged with incorrigibility, which is equal to being declared a juvenile delinquent. Quel scandale! The case was a nationwide trigger célèbre.

Produced by The Musical Stage Firm, Kelly v. Kelly is presently in previews, and formally opens on Might 31 on the Berkeley Avenue Theatre, working till June 18.

Johnson, 32, and Farb, 36, discovered time throughout tech week to affix me in a Zoom name.

How did you two meet?

Britta Johnson: It was an instantaneous connection. We have been first paired collectively throughout The Musical Stage Firm’s NoteWorthy growth program, which matches playwrights and composers collectively to experiment with the musical theatre type.

Sara Farb: We additionally created a bit, He Is Coming, for the corporate’s REFRAMED program on the AGO in 2016.

The place on earth did you hear about this weird courtroom case?

SF: I heard it on a storytelling podcast referred to as The Reminiscence Palace which focuses on anecdotal occasions in historical past. I assumed it had nice potential so I introduced it to Britta. She listened to the podcast and was hooked.

You will have this supposedly properly bred, rich younger lady, Eugenia Kelly, partaking on this new craze — the tango — this seductive and disturbing new dance, and getting entangled along with her dance teacher, which her widowed mom Helen finds insupportable.

BJ: I thought of how a lot enjoyable it will be to attain as a result of the music might have a number of realities. A courtroom drama. Underground dance halls. A choral component. An emotional mom and daughter story. Additionally, cool music to borrow from — the jazz age.

I discovered treasured little on the case after I tried to do a little analysis.

SF: Our analysis got here principally from books and articles within the New York Occasions. In a approach, we don’t thoughts that there was so little data on the market, as a result of we might play with the information and do our personal dramatic retelling. And we do take liberties with the story. For instance, in our piece, Eugenia waives her proper to counsel.

BJ: You possibly can say we have been impressed by true occasions.

What occurred to Eugenia in actual life?

SF: At first, Eugenia was beneath home arrest. The trial lasted three days. The choose was recognized to Helen and ended up giving Eugenia a stern lecture on her must obey. I believe that what actually fearful Helen is that when Eugenia turned 21, she was going to inherit $1 million left to her by her banker father.

After the trial, Eugenia ran off with Al Davis, they usually have been collectively for six years. She in the end married a Peruvian diplomat. She and Helen sued and counter-sued one another over the property.

BJ: Eugenia appeared to benefit from the press and attracting consideration. For instance, she confirmed up on the trial in an emerald inexperienced coat. In actual fact, within the Nineteen Twenties, she grew to become one among New York’s main flappers. She was her personal individual.

What strategy have you ever taken to Eugenia and Helen’s story in your piece?

SF: It’s the collision of generations, and the way the relationships manifest themselves, and the way they’re in a position, or not in a position, to fulfill challenges. It’s an age of rising feminism, and ladies in the hunt for autonomy, and the way they slot in to that.

BJ: I agree. The principle theme is the generational divide and the need on the a part of Eugenia for extra freedom — to interrupt free from her gender and station. The purpose is that even a girl of standing didn’t have management of her personal life. The world in 1915 was altering, nevertheless. It’s the battle between a Victorian mom and a flapper daughter.

What concerning the construction of the piece?

SF: I’d say our construction is huge and daring. We’ve taken dangers. It’s not predictable nor linear. We’re inviting the viewers to come back on a experience. It’s difficult however there will likely be an amazing repay on the finish. We cope with huge themes of the human expertise, but the present can be intimate and private.

BJ: I ought to add that Sara understands residing inside a musical story. That’s why her guide is so sturdy.

Love And Cash, from Kelly v. Kelly, music & lyrics by Britta Johnson, carried out by Britta Johnson (Artistic Session by Tracey Flye; Association by Lynne Shankel; Filmed at Preto Loft)

What concerning the music?

BJ: The piece is minimal however neoclassical in type, with dense harmonies. Melodies have been my driver, however I transfer out and in of dissonance as required. Kelly v. Kelly is just not by composed, so there’s scene work. I’ve additionally written the ensemble to have a choral voice. I name it driving on a water of music.

As a result of it’s set in 1915, I’ve borrowed the flavour of ballroom and music corridor. I believe that the music is contemporary and emotional. I hope it sounds completely different.

Your director is Tracey Flye, who additionally occurs to be a gifted choreographer.

BJ: Dance is vital to the narrative language and the fluidity of the narrative. The story strikes in time. The piece is its personal dance suite, and the dance is folded into the narrative.

SF: The principle character lives within dance, so the story calls for dance. Tracey has made the dance sequences really feel seamless. She additionally drew inspiration from Rudolph Valentino. A part of the design is seeing the characters going out and in of dance halls.

You’ve wanted giant forces to mount this manufacturing.

BJ: There are ten actors. Eugenia, Helen and Al Davis, plus a seven member ensemble taking part in multitudinous roles such because the choose, lawyer, police, associates, dancers. It’s a fluid ensemble and really theatrical. The orchestra has 5 musicians with three doubling.

L-R: Eva Foote and Jessica Sherman in Kelly v. Kelly (Photos: Dahlia Katz & Elana Emer, courtesy of CanStage)
L-R: Eva Foote and Jessica Sherman in Kelly v. Kelly (Images: Dahlia Katz & Elana Emer, courtesy of CanStage)

Have been you concerned in casting?

BJ: We had a seat on the desk as a result of there have been complexities in casting. It was vital to me to have steadiness within the ensemble, significantly within the colors of the sonic palette. In actual fact, the casting has been beautiful, and I can’t consider that the voices are this good.

SF: They’re additionally stupendous actors and the chemistry is unimaginable. We’re discovering out concerning the characters by them. Additionally they benefit from the strategy of being in a course of, and being able to make fast changes.

What’s occurring to you each submit Kelly v. Kelly?

BJ: I’ve obtained just a few issues on the burner. My sister Anika and I are engaged on a brand new piece for Stratford, and each Life After and Dr. Silver are being achieved within the States.

SF: I’m ending the run of Harry Potter, and dealing on a brand new musical with Anton Lipovetsky.

What about your private lives?

SF: I’ve a companion, Josh, who’s not concerned within the arts.

BJ: And my relationship is with musical theatre, however you would say I’m single and searching.

Kelly v. Kelly was one other present that obtained caught by COVID.

BJ: We have been supposed to begin rehearsals in the midst of April 2020, so we have been a COVID cancellation. Now right here we’re, three years late.

SF: It’s a homecoming for us on numerous fronts.

The Musical Stage Firm, in affiliation with Canadian Stage/Kelly v. Kelly, music and lyrics by Britta Johnson, guide by Sara Farb, directed and choreographed by Tracey Flye, Berkeley Avenue Theatre, Might 26 to June 18. Tickets [HERE].


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Paula Citron
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