Posted on June 14, 2007 at 4:20 pm

It’s no big deal to admit this: I have been known to spend hours searching for my name online. I have been known to do this every day. Most days, the rewards are negligible. Some days, however, there’s this:

Anyway, back to the Planet Earth.

Or not. As the title of this entry proclaims, I am turning 37 in less than a week. I have absolutely no problems with this; I love being old enough that people think I know what I’m talking about, and I love that I’m still younger than Michael John LaChiusa. Win-win, as they say. Some people, however, apparently think I’m a little older.

Logan Culwell, in only the latest of three hundred emails to me, asks:

I have a composer demo of Smile by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman. I’m pretty sure one of the guys on it is Howard himself and the other one… I swear… sounds EXACTLY like you do on that Parade demo. Were you ever involved with that show and/or the demo?

JRB, patiently but with tension in his jaw, smiles and says:

Logan, Logan, sweet Logan. Smile opened on Broadway in 1986. I’m going to assume that the demo was made before the show opened. Let’s just say 1985. Was I involved with Smile in 1985?

My voice hadn’t even changed in 1985, Logan! I was fifteen years old! Elaine Flynn wouldn’t have rejected me if I were involved with a big Broadway musical! (Oh, yes, I’m still pissed off about Elaine Flynn, twenty-two years later. I asked her to the prom and she said no, but now I just found out she asked my friend Gene to go with her instead … and HE’S GAY. Oh, the story never ends.) Let me tell you, if I could have even hung around big Broadway composers when I was fifteen years old, I would have given up Skittles. But no, I kept eating the Skittles and I just had a root canal three days ago. I take back what I said about enjoying getting older. Apparently, I’m just finding new exciting things to be bitter about.

Simone Becque, having too much time on her hands, asks:

I just was noticing how a lot of your songs (especially in Songs For A New World) have a lot of boating / water themes. Do you just like the metaphors (I know I do) or were you ever a big boat/water person?

JRB responds, a little too loudly:


Looking to expand her audition book, Andrea Liacos smiles coyly and writes:

Saw you last week at Birdland with a friend. By far and away one of the most enjoyable cabaret style nights we’ve had in a LONG time! Kudos! Where, if anywhere, if ever, can I find a copy of the song in the first set – I want to say “One More Thing Than I Can Handle”?

JRB, who always hates to disappoint a fan, sadly utters:

I’m so glad you like that song, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve written, and it’s especially fun to play. But it’ll be a while before it’s “out in the world.” I’m hoping to include it in a recording project I’m working on that will perhaps be ready some time next summer. Until then, I’ll program it on my concerts as often as I can find someone who can sing it (Benanti did a gorgeous job with it, and I wrote it for the sensational Kate McGarry), so keep coming to the shows; with any luck, you’ll be able to hear it there.

Matthew Baughan, still desperately trying to pay off the engagement ring, scrawls:

My fiancée and I can’t wait for the Donmar Parade in the autumn, but while you’re over here are you planning to throw in some concert dates somewhere? …and the thought… On 7th July we’ll be dancing the foxtrot (if we’ve learnt it in time) to “Grow Old With Me” for our first dance at our wedding in deepest Hampshire – if you’re in the UK that weekend there’s a baby grand you’d be so welcome to play!

JRB, who’s been listening to Brits doing American accents all week in “Parade” auditions, puts on his best RP and declaims:

Why yes, my boy, I am currently in negotiations with several excellent establishments to perform some concerts whilst I am in what I teasingly call “the Uck.” I have to do those concerts because living in London is so unbelievably expensive that I can’t afford to come to Parade rehearsals unless I get a little extra dosh. I’ll let the website know as soon as those concerts are scheduled (pronounced “shed-yooled”). And while I’m chuffed to be invited to your forthcoming nuptials, I must respectfully decline, both because I won’t be in the Uck yet and because if I said yes to you, Ryan Moody would beat me with a hammer. He’s probably still mad at me for that entry anyway.

Brian Perry, pouring salt in old wounds, asks:

My disappointment with not being able to make it out to DC for the Songs concert is bigger than you know. I travel all over to see you live and see your shows and it just didn’t work out. Any luck in securing that financing to record the show?

Quietly, with a single tear descending from his eye, JRB responds:


And finally…

A. John Porcaro asks, while at intermission:

Hey there! I’m currently in the Boston production of Parade and having a great time! I have a question about something that has become a favorite moment among the ensemble: in the section going into the Trial – is there any hidden significance to the references to “Jimmy” and his apparent affinity for windows?

JRB, wracking his brain to remember why he did anything ten years ago, writes:

Congratulations in Boston! I’ve heard great things about that production, and I wish I could get out there, if for no other reason than to support Joe Delgado, an incredible musician and a great pal.

Those of you who haven’t actually performed in Parade will have no idea what A. John is referring to, because it’s buried fairly deep in some very heavy contrapuntal writing. When I was writing those crowd scenes (and there are many of them in Parade), I was very conscious of how Sondheim used the ensemble in “God That’s Good” at the beginning of Act II of Sweeney Todd. If you look through the score of that number, you’ll see that for all the chaos that seems to be happening, there are several stories being very clearly told. It doesn’t really matter if the audience gets all of it, but it certainly helps the actors if they have something specific to play, rather than “Merry Villager Eating Pie Made From Humans.” So whenever I had to write those big crowd scenes, I used that number as a model; at the very least, I always aim to give the actors something they can hang on to. So within the Trial sequence, I knew that two of the actors (eventually I think we had Melanie Vaughan and Randy Redd) would be a mother and a teenage boy, and the teenage boy would be peering in through the courthouse windows from outside. (This really happened. The courtroom was so hot that the windows were open during the trial, and people on the street would lean in and yell at Leo Frank or whoever else was on the stand.) The boy is named “Jimmy” as a special tribute to one of my heroes, legendary billiard genius the “Whirlwind” Jimmy White. I totally made that up, but I hope Jimmy White looks at his webstats and sees a big bump coming from this site and is like, “What the hell?”

That’s that, then. Happy Birthday to me, and to all of you out there who wish you could have a birthday in June. (Which kind of sucks: I was always the youngest person in class, even before I skipped fourth grade.)