By Ed Kliszus
Recently, I came across a video of the dazzling new song Getting Closer from the musical Radioactive performed by actor-singer Hannah Corneau. The song features music by Will Reynolds, lyrics by Eric Price, and orchestrations by Tony and Grammy Award-winner Charlie Rosen. Corneau is most recently recognized for her star performance in the role of Ephaba in the Broadway production of Wicked and for her continued work with the a cappella group RANGE. You can see and hear Corneau with RANGE performing SIX in 6 minutes. Corneau’s performance of Getting Closer is outstanding and projects excitement for the opening of the musical Radioactive of which it is part. Getting Closer is but a hint of brilliance to come.
Radioactive and Marie Curie
The musical theater production Radioactive is an exciting, finely crafted work of musical theater with 25 songs based on the struggles and achievements of Marie Curie. Curie was a Polish naturalized French physicist and chemist who discovered radioactivity in radium and polonium and earned many distinctions, including the 1903 and 1911 Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry.
The song Getting Closer is set in a time before Curie’s discoveries and reflects her hopes, aspirations, and frustrations. When Curie discovers the beauty and positive potential of radiation, she is at the same time terrified of its inherent dangers. Price explains that a core message at the center of Radioactive is that something beautiful can also be destructive.
Radioactive is the product of the award-winning team of Will Reynolds, composer, and Eric Price, lyricist, who collaborated to ensure each song meets the meaning, semblance, and poetry of the text. The result is a context-rich, vibrant, meaningful, and beautiful musical work whose songs will certainly join the oeuvre of the American Songbook.
Creativity During the Pandemic
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Will Reynolds and Eric Price via google meet, Reynolds in LA, and Price in NY. These gentlemen are articulate, driven, intelligent, and dedicated to their craft. They explained how during the isolation of Covid they found ways to share their art and creativity through technology. That technology continues to evolve to new artistic heights and has become a means to share live productions worldwide.
Price explained the recent release of the music video Getting Closer as “a calling card for our musical out into the universe—that this song exists as a complete representation of a single moment in the show—a moment that happens to be about getting closer to an ultimate destination…[a metaphor] for a full realization of Radioactive as a musical on stage.” Price emphasized the value of taking a late 19th-century story and setting it into the present tense for contemporary audiences to experience the miraculous story of Marie Curie.
The writing duo has, in recent times, released works before the premiere of the associated live stage production. Reynolds explained that this practice evolved during the times of the pandemic with its isolation and dampening of face-to-face creative collaboration. Artistic minds emerged from the darkness of the pandemic through the development and expression of art forms through high-quality, studio-recorded cast albums before a live stage performance was possible. Besides, Reynolds notes that shows like Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar released cast albums before any live productions occurred, thereby presenting the “concept before the actual event on stage.”
Reynolds and Price noted that despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, they were able to enter studios and record with performance artists and technicians. Observing health safety protocols, they were successful in completing studio productions with orchestras with no occurrence of Covid infections. Music for their musicals The Violet Hour and Radioactive were recorded in this fashion.
The Violet Hour and More
Here’s a preview of the studio cast album for the musical The Violet Hour, with the acclaimed Jeremy Jordan singing the title song. The Violet Hour is set on April 1, 1919, when the founder of a new publishing firm discovers what happens to the world, his circle of friends, and himself during the next 100 years. Price authored the book and lyrics, and Reynolds created the music. Price notes that The Violet Hour follows the dreams of the young and what happens to those dreams over time. The Violet hour is emotionally rich, laughter can flow into tears, and darkness can intersect with light.
Reynolds is an accomplished singer and pianist and has performed the duo’s songs live from Radioactive and The Violet Hour at New York’s Birdland Jazz Club. We expect to hear and see more from Reynolds as a performer.
Songwriting May Sound Simple but it is Genius
I asked the duo about their compositional process, referring to the improvisatory nature of Paul McCartney’s collaborations from the piano or guitar with John Lennon on guitar. McCartney described the process at this link from the BBC Radio production “Sold on Song,” 2005.
Reynolds explained that for him, music emanates from the text, noting that “content dictates form” and “the world of a poem is a world unto itself.” That world possesses its own rules, context, character, laws of gravity, and unique sounds emanating from the poem. Price added how the signature or aesthetic connections of an artist is discernable in the body and variety of his work and that a work inexorably evolves to the next one. Price calls this signature a ”badge of honor.”
Sometimes the foundation of creativity emanates from a character, story, emotion, and, as Price affirms, the “exactitude of the dramatic situation.” Whether one improvises like McCartney or not, the challenge remains to grasp and refine the essence of what is to be expressed. Price notes that artists share the challenge of trying options until they work. Ultimately, it is as Stephen Sondheim noted in Sunday in the Park with George the Musical, that “every minor detail is a major decision.” While McCartney may discover an initial musical idea, it is explored and edited until a final distilled product remains.
Price explains that the artist creator is thoughtful, reflective, and creates with assiduous craftsmanship and integrity. Much is done with a little, as exemplified in the two-minute recording of Getting Closer performed by Hannah Corneau. Reynolds describes the song as a “bullet train” or “two-minute ride” with a great deal of text sung in a florid fashion by a gifted artist withal.
Artists as Intellectuals
Reynolds and Price are passionate creators and intellectuals of their art. Their work is an alchemy of surpassingly inventive and sympathetic creative minds. They prove that great prose creates great music just as each informs and enhances the other. They are direct descendants of the great songwriting teams who came before them, like Kern and Hammerstein, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, and Lerner and Loewe. Their music is fresh, emotional, rich in character, sophisticated, and affects listeners in a memorable and important way.
Watch for Will Reynolds and Eric Price as their creative energies launch into more and new meteoric musical stagecraft. Take a few minutes and enjoy the links to great music, follow them on social media, and share their successes as informed audiences. Plan to be at their next premiere.
For their Bios and more: