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article imageTony winner Rupert Holmes talks Broadway, recognition, technology Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jun 7, 2019 in Entertainment
New York - Tony winner Rupert Holmes chatted with Digital Journal about his forthcoming award, the "Albert Bergeret Living Legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan Award," that he will be receiving next week, on June 12, by The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players.
Regarding this recognition, he said, "In my career, I have had more than my fair share of magically circular thrills, each so overwhelmingly meaningful that I have trouble expressing how they (and I) feel."
"While still not even in his teens, my younger brother—internationally-renowned lyric baritone Richard Holmes—had already begun the journey that led to his becoming one of the world’s leading experts regarding all things operatic. As my younger sibling, his passion, insight, and expertise in Gilbert and Sullivan spread to me by osmosis, and by our bonding as brothers, and by the volume at which he played G&S around our house," he said.
"If I am receiving this singular honor from the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players because some of my work has resonated with the operettas that my younger brother shared with me in my teens, then it is miraculous that this same kid brother, who has been a cherished fixture of NYGASP and the Metropolitan Opera for decades, will perform some of the songs I’ve written at the upcoming award ceremony, for it was Richard who truly launched that music within me. This event feels as if I’m completing a grand round trip, as do several other near-supernatural honors in my life," he elaborated.
"For example, when I wrote a musical suggested by Charles Dickens' final and unfinished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I used as my guide a Penguin paperback edition of the novel, one which quickly became dog-eared and spineless, with almost as many notes written by me in its margins as Dickens originally inscribed in its paragraphs," he said.
"After Drood won the Tony Award for Best Musical, Book and Score, Penguin published the exact same edition but replaced its cover with the poster from my musical, and put my name on the volume's back cover. How astounding that I would adopt a book which would then adapt itself to me."
He continued, "Similarly, I once dined at the home of film composer Richard Rodney Bennett, at his invitation, and as we sat down to dinner, I told him how his film scores for Murder on the Orient Express and Billion Dollar Brain had inspired my songwriting and arranging. Without a word, he stepped to his record collection and, smiling, withdrew my first five albums from a handy shelf."
"When I was eighteen, I got my first start in the music business writing copyright lead sheets for Scepter Records on the fourth floor of 254 West 54th Street," he said. "In 2012, I stood outside the exact same building and observed my name on the marquee of Studio 54, Roundabout’s Broadway theatre, located at Scepter Record's old address."
"Can I possibly convey to you how these mind-boggling experiences make me feel? In my lifetime, I’ve unbelievably found myself collaborating with many of my boyhood heroes," he said. "I gave voice, both lyrically and literally, to Jerry Lewis's best-known character. I've written with the same Charles Strouse and Lee Adams whose recorded scores I purchased with the money I earned mowing lawns."
He continued, "I've adapted for the stage the same Agatha Christie mystery that I borrowed from my English teacher’s personal library, adding a few extra twists to Dame Agatha’s wicked puzzle. Paul McCartney once told me he was a big fan of my work, and when I reflexively rolled my eyes and said, 'Yeah, right,' his wife Linda insisted to me that they listened to my albums together."
"One surreal midday, I found myself being interviewed on television by a popular news anchor, only to slowly realize during the segment that I was talking to my former high school drama teacher, neither of us aware of our connection because we had both changed appearance, she from brown hair to blonde, me growing a beard, and both of us adopting professional names in the ensuing years," he elaborated.
"Finally, when Edwin Drood, set in the Victorian London of 1895, made its West End debut, it was at the same Savoy Theatre where, in the 1890's, Gilbert and Sullivan had launched their classic comic operettas, the very role models for my score of Drood," he said. "So now, to receive an award from the renowned New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players for my work, when my work has been so greatly inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan since my teens, is yet another Möebius strip moment that borders on time travel, and fills me with something far beyond gratitude… more like a giddy, sheepish sense of wonder that causes me to blush at my implausible good fortune."
Regarding the key to longevity in Broadway and theatre, Holmes said, "Never underestimate your audience's intelligence and never overestimate their patience."
For hopefuls who wish to pursue a career in theatre and Broadway, Holmes said, "If you're considering a career in theatre in the way you might consider what courses to take in college or what entrée to order from a menu, then I suggest you definitely not pursue a career in theatre."
"Whether you're an aspiring actor, playwright or composer, the endeavor comes with a money-back guarantee of heartbreak, frustration, injustice, and rejection which can only be endured by those who have absolutely no alternative vision for themselves or their future," he said.
"93 percent of the people who work in theatre, according to a poll I just took amongst my tropical fish, are self-compelled to do so, like it or not. The only hope for escape is attempting to have a family and/or a life or deciding that you no longer wish to ride on an abandoned, condemned, termite-ridden roller coaster whose frequent plunges often terminate in boiling tar pits. But please don't let me discourage you," he said.
On the impact of technology on Broadway and theatre, he said, "Just as they did to audio recording a decade earlier, computers allow mere mortals to achieve precise control over myriad, often simultaneous moves, making attainable with stunning consistency a level of finesse and detail hitherto impossible eight times a week."
"Theatre is still a gloriously analog medium, involving human beings saying and singing things to other human beings on a platform usually not much bigger than a tennis court as opposed to a football field," he said.
"At the core of a great musical or play is the same craft that Shakespeare and Shaw and Lerner and Lowe plied, inevitably relying more on heart and spirit than on bells and whistles," he added.
On his plans for the future, he said, "I am currently at work on three different musicals with some brilliant and legendary collaborators: one about baseball, one about America's greatest artist and the third set in China during the Japanese occupation of 1937."
"I'm finishing my third novel for Simon and Schuster. I hope to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if can successfully convince its Advisory Board to create a category for Speed Typing. Incidentally, I just now broke my old record," he said.
On his definition of success, he said, "Truth is, for me artistic success is making another person forget for a few hours that they have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow. Making them laugh on a very bad day. Writing a tune they find themselves humming, or a lyric that makes them more compassionate toward a rival."
To learn more about Tony award-winning author and composer Rupert Holmes, check out his official website.
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