Words mean more to me than just about anything. I’m always researching some piece of text, either for work or pleasure. So it seemed natural for me to focus on lyrics as I make my contributions to The Song of the Day. I’ve dedicated much of my time in NYC to the development of new musicals, and I’ve gotten to know many of the form’s contemporary writers, including Sam Carner and Derek Gregor. If you’re a lover of musical theater, you should know these guys. Together they have won The Richard Rodgers Award, The John Wallowitch Award, been nominated for 11 Mac Awards, and Sam was also the recipient of the Kleban Prize. I could go on about both of their virtuosity, but since Sam is the lyricist I’ll focus on singing his praise.
First off, if you continue to explore Sam’s canon, you’ll find that every character he writes for has a unique vocabulary. He unearths a very specific vernacular for the setting of every one of his shows, from post-Katrina New Orleans to fictional far-off ‘back then-ish’ places. Sam’s lyrics are so specific, informative and character driven; they are a gift to an actor.
It was hard for me to choose just one song, but I thought “Savin’ It” would a perfect introduction to the brilliance of his perfect rhymes. (I also know myself, and there’s a risk of me writing about some serious ballads for the rest of the week, so let’s start with something light-hearted.)
I first heard “Savin’ It” while I was directing one of Sam and Derek’s musicals, Island Song, in Paris. (Although we live three blocks from each other in NYC, the three of us actually met in France.) Sam performed this self-written standalone piece at an open mic during a night off from rehearsal. Every punch line got a boisterous response from a bar full of musical theater-loving Parisians. You can always rely on Sam for unforeseen twists, uncanny puns, and some multi-syllable rhymes.
This lyric will always impress me:
“When you’ve chased a tiny waist,
it’s a waste if the waist
you’ve chased is chaste.”
“Savin’ It” Music by Derek Gregor, Lyrics by Sam Carner
Featured in the video is the very talented Stephen Christopher Anthony, (Book of Mormon and Dear Evan Hansen), doing great justice to Sam’s words.