Analog & Vinyl’: The devil visits a record shop in world premiere musical
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | June 26,2014
Photo by Tim Fort
Preston Sadleir, left, is Harrison and Sarah Stiles, Rodeo Girl, in “Analog & Vinyl,” Paul Gordon’s musical comedy, premiering tonight-July 12 at Weston Playhouse.
Looking to create a new musical, veteran composer-lyricist Paul Gordon remembered a song from his singer-songwriter days, “Analog & Vinyl.”
“I wondered if I could create a song cycle with my already existing songs,” he said. “The first draft was called ‘Analog & Vinyl: A Jukebox Musical of Songs that Were Never Hits and Nobody Ever Heard Of.’”
But what he ended up with was not a jukebox musical, a revue, but a full-fledged story musical about a desperate record store owner, an even more desperate girl — and the devil.
Weston Playhouse will present the world premiere production of Gordon’s “Analog & Vinyl” June 26 through July 12, opening Vermont’s oldest professional theater company’s 2014 main stage season.
“‘Analog & Vinyl’ celebrates the great joy and nostalgia that accompanies vinyl music, through its story and its character-driven, diverse and very tuneful score,” said Michael Berresse, the show’s director.
“It’s a very human-scaled story about the ways in which we struggle to connect in this fast-paced, media-driven world,” he said. “Perhaps most importantly, it is a quirky, comic fable about the temptation to rewrite the life we have and the danger of concealing the truth of who we know ourselves to be.”
Set in a vintage record shop, the musical comedy follows struggling young store owner Harrison and his volunteer employee Rodeo Girl, when a customer with unusual powers makes them an offer they can hardly refuse – all set to a pop-rock score.
Harrison is obsessed with vinyl and the original pop recordings pressed into it — even to the point of being myopic.
“I feel the balance between analog and digital is actually a wonderful thing and can be embraced,” Gordon said. “Now, the character of Harrison doesn’t quite feel that way. So it’s an interesting dichotomy and I have a lot of fun realizing what I relate to in him and what I don’t.”
Rodeo Girl is something of a hanger-on, taking on the identity of those she follows. Yet she is a deeply authentic character. Beresse finds that particularly attractive.
“I find her fascinating because she wears her heart on her sleeve and, at the same time, she doesn’t trust the deepest truth of who she is — until they finally find a way to be who they really are,” Beresse said. “And I think that’s an important lesson for the world we live in.”
Vinyl is also another important character, representing the direct connection mechanically that today’s world finds so difficult emotionally.
“Michael came into the project with his own ideas,” Gordon said. “One of those is that records are tactile, they’re like people, they’re fragile like we are.
“It’s the metaphor about ourselves and trying to stay true to who we are,” he said. “For me, it’s interesting to merge those two worlds, technology and analog. It means so much more than it did when I started this. It has grown into something I never imagined.”
“We were in the rehearsal room and we got a live record player and I almost burst into tears because I had a very visceral response,” Beresse said. “The world of vinyl in the show reminded me of writing a thank you letter; it reminded me of pen to paper; it reminded me of family dinners; it reminded me of all kinds of stuff that felt very present and personal — that came bounding back in my mind.”
Beresse said, “This is a very, very ‘of the moment’ idea. “They’re selling vinyl everywhere — and I think it is because of the simple connection.”
It didn’t start out that way. Gordon has had great success writing musicals set in the 19th century. His “Jane Eyre” ran on Broadway 2000-01, and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical Score. His “Emma” premiered in 2006, and continues to have success in regional theaters.
“I was really anxious to come back to now,” Gordon said. “I was fascinated by jukebox musicals. I really wanted to write one, but I don’t own the rights to any major catalogue. I don’t own anything except my own.”
So he started to create one, with a bit of a story to justify it.
“As I started to create the story, I didn’t know where I was going,” Gordon said. “As I went, I wondered what scene I could write that could bleed into this song interestingly. As I finished the first draft, what I discovered was that I was so much more interested in the story than I was in the songs.”
Songs began to disappear, only to be replaced by story.
“So this piece started to morph into a hybrid of pre-existing songs and new songs,” Gordon said. “As the piece developed and Michael came on board, most of the original songs are gone, and almost everything is new.
“The piece really told us where it wanted to go. Instead of maintaining it has to be like this, I just sort of let it write itself,” Gordon said. “Now it’s turned into this piece that’s special and meaningful to me in a way that I never thought possible.”
Creating “Analog & Vinyl” has also resulted in a newfound respect for vinyl.
“I’m so sorry I got rid of my vinyl collection a few years ago,” Gordon said. “I got married and we needed more space. And than this happened — and I then I went, why didn’t we use all of the vinyl I got rid of?”
“Analog & Vinyl” runs 80 minutes with no intermission. Pre-show dinner is available at the Playhouse in its Café at the Falls. The post-show cabaret was Yankee Magazine’s 2014 Editor’s Choice for “Best Place for a Nightcap.”
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company presents the world premiere production of “Analog & Vinyl,” by Paul Gordon, tonight through July 12 at Weston Playhouse, Park Street (off Route 100) in Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, plus 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets start at $25; call 802-824-5288, or go online to www.westonplayhouse.org.