Posted on March 27, 2023 at 5:10 pm
It’s surely one of the less expected things on my résumé, but for a brief period of time in 2003, I put on a cowboy hat and boots every night and led the band of the Broadway musical, Urban Cowboy. Today is exactly 20 years from the opening night of that show, and while the musical itself was indefensibly ridiculous, that experience was one of the best times of my life, and I celebrate the craziness of Urban Cowboy whenever I can.
(For those of you under the age of 50, Urban Cowboy the Musical was based on a phenomenally successful movie from the 1980s that ignited a craze in the US for mechanical bull riding. No, seriously, that was a huge thing. The movie is not much better than the show was, but watching a young John Travolta and Debra Winger smolder and gyrate sort of makes up for how dumb the story is.)
One of the more amazing facts about Urban Cowboy is that we actually were nominated for a Tony Award for Best Score – we deservedly lost to Marc Shaiman, spoiler alert – which was pretty crazy since the score consisted of several old country songs from the movie soundtrack, a couple of more recent Nashville hits, and then a bunch of original songs, many of which I wrote while I was stuck in Coconut Grove frantically orchestrating the premiere production. Among the other original songs, one was written by a schoolteacher from Long Island named Jerry Silverstein – how he got tangled up with all of us I’ll never know – and it was a great slow blues called “Dances Into Dreams,” which ended up being one of the highlights of the show every night. While the magnificent Rozz Morehead sang her ass off upstage, downstage was Melinda Roy’s greatest contribution to the show, a wildly funny and sexy ballet between Michelle Kittrell and Michael Balderrama.
We never made a cast album, because our producers could barely get their shit together enough to make sure the mechanical bull worked, but we did go into the studio to record a couple of the original songs. (Sadly, the great songs by Jeff Blumenkrantz did not get recorded, which means Jenn Colella and Sally Mayes’s epic performances of those numbers are lost to history.) “Dances Into Dreams” was one of the songs we recorded, and I don’t think it’s ever been released into the wild, so here it is. I’m playing piano, Gary Sieger and Gordon Titcomb are playing guitar, Dave Keyes is on the Hammond B3, Brian Brake is on drums, Kermit Driscoll is on bass, Jeffrey Lesser recorded and mixed it, and most importantly, Rozz Morehead is laying waste to everything in her path, as she always does. Happy Anniversary to all my Urban Cowholes – it’s been quite a ride.
(You can hear other songs from Urban Cowboy on this website – take a look here.)