Bill is up to what all of us at The Musical Theater Project are up to—and this goes for most arts
organizations in Cleveland as well. We’re creating online programming as a means of serving
our participants during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the case of TMTP, that includes our new
weekly series, “Let’s Go to the Movies…at Home!,” an adaptation of our acclaimed school
program, “Kids Love Musicals!,” and specially selected song playlists that can be streamed on
Spotify. (And of course our two long-running radio programs on public stations and Sirius
continue, unaffected by the virus.)
But you probably know that a big part of our work is producing live concerts and cabarets, and I want to tell you about preparing our very first online show because it will help me make an
important point about TMTP.
The show, which you’ll be able to stream in October, is titled “Sing Me a Story”—and my
colleague Nancy Maier and I know it’ll be lots of fun because the songs we’ve chosen are so
much fun. As the title suggests, they’re all songs that tell stories, and they range from
Hollywood’s “The Ugly Duckling” (Hans Christian Andersen) to Broadway’s “Nothing”
(A Chorus Line).
We were doing just fine assembling the music for our two vocalists, Ursula Cataan and Eric
Fancher, when all of a sudden we hit a roadblock. I was determined to include “Cheerleader,” a
little-known story-song by the great John Kander and Fred Ebb that’s both funny and touching.
In 1979 I saw it performed in New York by the late Phyliss Newman in her one-woman show,
The Madwoman of Central Park West.
But the song wasn’t in the Kander & Ebb songbook, nor was it published…period. Well, that never stops us. We go to a friend of mine in New York who has tons of unpublished material in the performance editions used in the theater. He scoured his files; nope.
So…on to composer John Kander (a friend of TMTP) and his assistant. They spent two months
searching for that elusive cheerleader to no avail. I suppose a lot of people would have given up by now; after all, Nancy and I have 20 other songs in the show!
But heck, this is TMTP, so we pressed on. We asked our friend in New York to recommend
someone there who could transcribe the piano-vocal from Newman’s cast album. We found a
terrific arranger named Balint Varga, and a week later, voila! I just sent “Cheerleader” to Nancy
and Ursula. As Balint noted, “Just think: We saved a little gem from oblivion.”
I share this with you because it’s typical of TMTP; we are all perfectionists and we never give
up. That’s a big reason I’ve been here for 22 years…
Don’t miss “Sing Me a Story” in October, OK?
P.S. Naturally I sent “Cheerleader” to John Kander. His response: “Wow! Thanks—it is great to
The Musical Theater Project's authors include Bill Rudman, Heather Meeker and Joanna May Cullinan - and guest writers from time to time!