put together, together | Arts and Entertainment | Salt Lake City

The cast of Shucked!  performs a - preview concert at Pioneer Theater - BW PRODUCTIONS

  • BW productions
  • The cast of Shucked! is conducting a preview concert at the Pioneer Theater

Initially, the interviews were individually scheduled with songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. When various annoyances cropped up – car damage in one case, technical difficulties in another – it was best to talk to them together. And it’s hard to imagine that there was a better way for these two creative partners.

Clark and McAnally have been working together for years, most recently on the new musical shaken, which is getting its pre-Broadway premiere at the Pioneer Theater Company ahead of a scheduled run in New York. Set in rural America, the comedic tale is an ideal setting for the two veteran country hitmakers, who previously worked on a musical based on the old Cornpone comedy TV series Hi haw. While each has been a successful composer and lyricist in their own right, they form a musical songwriting team that operates a little differently than the traditional model of dedicated lyricist and dedicated composer.

“Shane always put it best. We see the world the same way,” says Clark. “We like what each other is doing, and we like it enough that we can say what we’re doing Not how. We finish each other’s sentences lyrically and musically.”

One of the key components of their partnership that both songwriters agree on is that the outside perspective of a trusted collaborator can help you get out of the point where you start to feel like everything you do repeated. “We know our own tricks,” says McAnally. “It’s going to feel like something isn’t working in my head. But Brandy is going to be like, ‘No, that’s it.'”

Similarly, Clark adds, “I don’t always trust myself musically because I’m sick of myself. Shane gets it; I can cheat myself out of great things. When I do it in front of him, I’m like, ‘Eh’. and he’ll say, ‘I really feel something.’”

To the shakenthe third leg of their collaborative stool is Tony Award-winning author Robert Horn (tootsie) with whom they have also collaborated Moonlight: The Hee Haw musical. According to McAnally, their working relationship has also evolved into a different level of trust. “We started out years ago with Robert having a concept and saying, ‘This is where the songs should go,'” he says. “Over the years we realized that our greatest strength as a team was that we all spoke the same language. He writes at the same cadence that Brandy and I write songs. So we’ve found a lot of benefits when we all sit together at the origin of a song.”

“Robert is a very generous employee,” adds Clark. “When we hear a line in his lyrics that we think could make a great song, the first thing he says is, ‘Go ahead and take it’ – which happened shaken where he had a line, ‘independently owned and operated’, and that’s a song now.”

The experience of working on a musical previously taught them something about the form, but it also taught them a lot about how they do it should not change their own songwriting to fit Broadway mold. “In the beginning we thought we had to be different types of songwriters to do this,” says Clark. “We tried to write ‘Musical Songs’ and it doesn’t work.”

“The reason we were hired to write this,” says McAnally, “was for what reason we do.”

Still, there are unique components to creating songs for a theatrical performance. McAnally notes that hearing the songs with full orchestration for the first time is a unique experience; “It always blows my mind,” he says. And Clark observes that the “team sport” nature of a theatrical production leads to a tremendous respect for what the individual actors can bring to the interpretation of the songs.

In this production of shakenAlso, there is the reality that the out-of-town tryout is a chance to observe the work in its completed and ongoing form and learn from the crowd’s reaction, whether the desired reaction is coming in the right places or not even if additional songs need to be added to flesh out the story. “Once you let the audience in, see what you’ve got,” Clark notes.

“We’re seeing audience reaction to what’s on the page,” says McAnally. “But it’s different when something moves than when someone just reads [in a workshop form]. It’s a little scary to think about distracting from what’s already there. A lot of shows depend on the staging and we have to make sure it doesn’t get in the way.”

Still, the experience of being in Salt Lake City and building the show’s first production together is one the creators don’t want to miss to look forward to the next phase shaken. “[With Moonshine]”I had a lot of expectations,” says McAnally. “When will this come out of town, when will it go to Broadway. I just enjoyed This Time to work with everyone. I see that as a win. Making the show is the magic. As excited as we are to go to Broadway when the time comes, that’s it. It will never be like this again.”


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