The year was 2009 when I was first introduced to singer/songwriter Drew Brody when he not only opened for singer/songwriter Jay Brannan, but Drew also co-produced Jay's album In Living Cover. I've been a fan ever since.
Over the past few years, the musical theatre world has been very lucky to have Drew's composing/writing. From Cutman: A Boxing Musical at Goodspeed Theatre to Derma at the Piccolo Spoleto, Drew's talents are finally arriving Off-Broadway with the new musical Curvy Widow, starring Tony nominee Nancy Opel. It's been a few years since Drew & I have spoken, so I thought now would be the perfect time to catch up with Drew. Much to my delight, Drew once again answered my call.
Curvy Widow is based on the true story of a sassy, witty, & feisty fifty-something widow whose adventures inspire laughter and, in the least expected places — reveal truths about life, love, and sex. From surviving hilarious first dates, to her intimate conquests, this widow navigates her way through it all with humor and perseverance. Featuring a brilliant cast of best friends, a dead husband, and a myriad of potential suitors — "Curvy" learns the hard way what it means to start life over in the modern age.
Curvy Widow plays at The Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. It's so great to catch up with you Drew! You are the composer/lyricist for the new Off-Broadway musical Curvy Widow. How did you come to be involved with this show? I was introduced to Bobby Goldman through our General Manager, Aaron Lustbader. I had just finished up Cutman and was looking for new projects and collaborators. He told me he had someone he wanted to meet who was looking for a composer on an original show. I met Bobby and she had an idea for a different show, not Curvy, and I agreed to write a song to see how well we could collaborate together. In order to prove to me that she could string a sentence together, she sent me the manuscript of the memoir version of Curvy Widow. I started reading it on a plane ride, and by the time I landed, the margins were full of notes, lyric ideas, scene ideas—it was so clearly a musical to me, it was jumping off the page. I sent her an email saying "You know this is a musical, right?" The response from her had too many expletives to print—who wants their life to be a musical? But when I went to play her the song I had written for the other project, I told her I had something else to show. It was an early version of the song that’s now called "Turn the Page." By the end of the song, she was in tears, and said "Ok, we’ll write the stupid show, you jerk."
2. What was your process in writing the music/lyrics for this show? The process changed at different stages of the show. At first, I really mined the memoir for lyric ideas and song inspiration. At this point in the process, the lyrics came first, and the song styles followed. As we came to know our show more, this process reversed, because I wanted to diversify the range of song styles and tempos. For example, we had a scene where Bobby visits several gynecologists in a row to try to address an issue. When we decided to turn it into a musical number, it was very clear that of course this needs to be a tango number, and the lyrics followed. Throughout I worked very closely with Bobby to make sure I stayed in her voice, and then later in the process with our director Peter Flynn and with Nancy Opel, who plays "Bobby" in the show, to make sure the music and lyrics were consistent in tone and comfortable and consistent with the character that we were developing.
3. What was the hardest song to write and what was the most fun song to write? The hardest song to write was the opening number. I wrote about seven different opening numbers for this show, and then changed it completely between Asheville and New Jersey. I had to let go of a lot of exposition over time as we came to understand exactly what information we needed to get out in order to launch our show. I really struggled with how it should sound and we also struggled about whether or not the inciting incident for our show - "Jim’s" death - should happen in the opening or right after.
The most fun song to write was the song of "Bobby’s" first date after "Jim’s" death, "A New Hand." I was laughing out loud as I wrote it—"Bobby" has no idea how to be on a date because she had been with "Jim" since she was a senior in college. Her date’s not much slicker. It’s a scene/song that plays out so well between Nancy and Alan—they’re perfectly awkward and it’s everything I imagined when I wrote it and more.
4. Which character in the show is most like you? Which character were you glad not to be? I don’t think any of these characters are like me very much, although I relate to the journey.
5. Curvy Widow tells the story of a gutsy, recently widowed 50-something woman as she immerses herself in the modern dating scene who discovers the unexpected truths about love, life and sex. What do you feel most people will relate to about this show? I’ve been surprised at how much people relate to this show, even if they have very little in common with the main character. Any one who has experienced loss that causes them to start over again—whether that’s through death, divorce, breakup—can relate to the feeling of needing to look at everything through a new lens and say "Which part of this life is me and which part was us?"
6. Since the character of "Bobby" is a gutsy woman, what is the most gutsy thing you've done so far in your life or career? The gutsiest thing I’ve done in my career was the original decision to pursue music as a career. I came to New York with a scholarship to law school and my life was heading full speed down that track, and I decided to take a major left turn. I saw very clearly what that life would have been like and had no idea what a life in music was going to be, but it was and is my passion and I felt I needed to take the risk.
7. In composing this show, what did you learn about love, life, and sex? I learned that there’s a universal struggle between wanting to be with someone and wanting independence, and everyone needs to figure out for themselves where on that spectrum they’re most comfortable. Those desires can be different at different periods of life, but the question itself—where’s my balance between independence and wanting a partner?—is always there.
8. In this show, "Bobby" learns the hard way what it means to start life over in the modern age. Has there been a time in your life thus far where you felt you had to start life over? Coincidentally, I did go through a breakup a couple years ago, and I found myself going through many of the stages that our lead character goes through in the show, from reclaiming space through piecing together a new life. It felt completely like a new beginning, in all the ways that new beginnings are terrifying but also opportunities to create a new way of being, with new habits, new patterns, new relationships, and ultimately a new sense of who I am entirely.
9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I’m trying to be less wasteful; it would be great to reduce that by one percent every day. My main effort in this department has been to cook more and more for myself.
Drew Brody tunes present a rare treat for singers. "A seemingly effortless and brilliant marriage of content, character, and music." Quote from Beth Malone, star of Fun Home, in an Out.com feature, July 28, 2016
Drew Brody is a New York City-based songwriter who brings his experience in the rock, pop, and folk music world to his musical theater sensibility. His unique background allows him to work comfortably across many genres, and his songs have been sung by Broadway stars including Alan Cumming, Nancy Opel, Beth Malone, Robert Cuccioli, Sally Mayes, Lilli Cooper, Justin Sargent, Adrienne Warren, and many more.
Drew wrote the music and lyrics for Curvy Widow, a new musical based on a memoir by Bobby Goldman, starring Nancy Opel and directed by Peter Flynn, which had its first commercial production at NC Stages in November 2016 and a second run at George Street Playhouse in New Jersey in May 2017, now it's running Off-Broadway in NYC at the Westside Theatre. He’s also written music for the comedy Oh, Hello, starring Nick Kroll and John Mulaney and directed by Alex Timbers, which opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theater in October 2016. Additional credits include: music and lyrics for Cutman: A Boxing Musical, produced by Goodspeed Theaters in the spring of 2011; music and lyrics for Derma, which ran at the Piccolo Spoleto festival in 2013; music and lyrics for Wilshire, with a book by Bobby Goldman and a stage reading directed by Rob Ashford; music and lyrics for Mudge Boy, an adaptation of the Showtime movie, in collaboration with Brett Smock; and two other new musicals currently in development. Other theater credits include the underscoring music and lyrics for the play Lightning Field, which won Outstanding Play at FringeNYC in 2005.
Drew wrote and recorded two albums with Richard Rodgers award-winning composer Derek Gregor as the rock band M-LAB, with which Drew performed as lead singer and toured during the 2000s. Drew also released two solo albums on Baskethouse Records and co-produced two albums for songwriter Jay Brannan. Recently, Drew composed the score for the acclaimed film, Stephen Winter’s Jason and Shirley, which premiered at the MoMA and has been touring movie festivals, and released an EP, A Little Single, in collaboration with fellow singer-songwriter Lance Horne.