MT Fest UK

Semi-staged Presentation
The Other Palace
London, UK

The Astonishing Return of… The Protagonists!

Original music by Michael Shaieb, book and lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila for a two-act stage musical about middle-aged superheroes facing old foes and new midlife crises.

“Once upon a time, The Protagonists was a mighty group of superheroes bound against the forces of evil. Twenty years later, the powers of alcoholism, infidelity and super-egos have torn the group apart and left them all pining for their glory days. When an old nemesis re-emerges with a sinister new plan, can the middle-aged superheroes pull their dysfunctional lives together to save the world one last time? Stay-Tuned.”

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre featured a 45-minute presentation of The Protagonists starring Sutton Foster at the 25th Annual Festival of New Musicals with musical direction by Lynne Shankel & directed by Tony winner Christopher Gattelli.

MT Fest UK will present a semi-staged excerpt of The Protagonists at The Other Palace in London in February 2019.


Cross-posted from “Musical Notes ♫ Official blog of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre

About fifteen years ago when I graduated from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program, I was faced with the reality of what I would do for a living. I had some recording equipment and thought that perhaps I could start a recording studio. When I met my partner, Brent Lord, who had the technical knowledge, we formed a company which later became FatLab Music. We specialized in recording demos for music theatre writers and performers.

When I began writing The Protagonists with my collaborator, Kevin Del Aguila, the question was how do we record our show to convey the different stylistic choices we created for our world. The Protagonists contains a world of
funk, classic pop and epic superhero music. It’s difficult to showcase this on just a piano. So as Kevin and I were writing, I built the song tracks using the many tools of my trade to create the demo that we have today.

As far as the vocals go, we invited our actors in separately and recorded them one at a time which gave us more flexibility during the mixing process. And because it’s our own space, we have the leisure of taking the time we need since we’re not on the clock at another studio.

Regarding the use of instruments, real or sampled, I always ask the question “Can a listener understand the world of the show with just a piano?” Believe me, I would prefer the ease of doing a demo with just piano and vocals. But when the style of the show is also a character, I think that the extra time and effort is definitely worthwhile.

So here we are, demo in hand, about to showcase The Protagonists at NAMT. We are very thankful for this opportunity. I have to admit, my favorite thing is being in the recording studio, and I’m very excited to share our demo with everyone.

A Big Week Ahead

Alot of research, planning, and work culminates this week with some exciting things. We’re changing notation programs, installing acoustics improvements in the studio, and completing vocal tracking of Mike’s demo with a visit from a Tony-winning Broadway star.

Switching to Sibelius

I’ve had misgivings about Finale’s seriousness toward the Mac ever since Sibelius released their Mac OS X native app 18 months before Finale. Some of Finale’s OS X implementation (i.e. printing parts as PDF) is still broken even 5 paid upgrades later. Finale’s yearly upgrades are $100, the file formats are not backwards compatible so upgrades are essentially mandatory, yet serious bugs remain unfixed and new features are rarely worth the cost (either pandering to the education market or playing catchup to Sibelius). In addition, I couldn’t even launch Finale 2008 (a “MOTU bug“, they said), but it mysteriously fixed itself in Finale 2009.

We’ve demoed Sibelius 6, tested MusicXML file transfers out of Finale, and had our friend and professional music copyist Alden Terry give us a quick walkthru of Sibelius. The tipping point was Sibelius’ support for ReWire — a potentially exponential timesaver letting us sync vocal arrangements in real-time to our DP projects. We’re convinced, and today we start our transition.

Most of the Sibelius vs. Finale posts I came across were horribly outdated, so I will be live-blogging our transition — warts and all. Look here for my series of blog posts about switching from Finale to Sibelius.

Acoustic Improvements

Last fall, we reconfigured our studio (featuring a snazzy custom desk from KK Audio). This new layout made the acoustic imperfections in our room even more troublesome, but theme park season and general lack of acoustic theory kept me from addressing it.

I saw a college friend’s studio pictures on facebook, and he pointed me in the direction of RealTraps. Mike and I had been reluctant to just ignorantly plaster our walls with (honestly, ugly) acoustic foam, so the panel design already appealed to us. I’ve been corresponding with RealTraps’ on-hand acoustics expert “JWL” who looked at photos of our room and was really helpful in identifying what configuration would give us the most improvements.

I’ve measured our room’s frequency response in its current state, and I’ll do the same afterward. Look here for the results!

Broadway’s Alice Ripley

Mixing is progressing nicely on the 3-song demo for the new Kevin Del Aguila/Michael Shaieb musical, “The Protagonists“. The last vocalist is now confirmed, as Mike wrote earlier.

This Thursday, we’re happy to have Alice Ripley (Next To Normal, The Rocky Horror Show) joining us in the studio singing the part of “Eagle Woman”.

(Fans of Go-Go Beach will also know her from demo track #14: “The Love That Cannot Be”.)

Alice recently won a Tony award for the role of “Diana” in the Broadway musical Next To Normal, and we’re thrilled to have her back again.

In The Studio

We are almost finished recording the cast in our studio. Thought I would share a few pictures that we took with Marc Kudisch, Andy Karl, Michael Marcotte & Lisa Howard. We record our singers in the room known as our bedroom, usually with a lab or two on the bed watching. (Sometimes snoring – it’s not unusual for a singer to stop a take and say: ‘… um, your dog is snoring”).

Just one of the perks of recording at FatLab Music!