Midtown Live: A Summer Concert
Aug 22 & 23 at 9
Alley Kat Bar & Lounge
3718 Main St.
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with musical theater knows the appeal of a first-rate song score. Musicals tell stories through song, and the best songs are direct portals into the souls of the characters onstage. If you identify with a character, their anthem invariably becomes your anthem. For someone who dances, it’s hard not to get misty-eyed when Cassie from A Chorus Line rages through “The Music and the Mirror.” And anyone who has mistakenly taken flirtation for real affection can’t help but feel the pain and humiliation of Desiree as she reflects in “Send in the Clowns.” However, there’s still a popular misconception that the genre is all about razzle-dazzle showstoppers and random bursts of song-and-dance.
PMT Productions, a new Houston-based production company, aims to break down the barriers between musical theater and popular music with this weekend’s Midtown Live: A Summer Concert at The Alley Kat Bar & Lounge. The show consists of a set list compiled from both worlds, and it might surprise the audience just how much the two have in common.
“We want to show that there’s a lot of contemporary musical theater out there that’s really accessible,” says Sarah Patterson, head of communications and marketing at PMT. “The show has a variety of music, and in some cases it’s hard to distinguish between pop music and musical theater music.” Broadway standards will be performed side-by-side with radio-friendly tracks like Paramore’s “Ain’t it Fun,” Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” and Leonard Cohen’s rendition of “Hallelujah.”
The American musical as an art form is finding a newer, younger audience base thanks in large part to the changing face of Broadway. The Great White Way is longer ruled by British megahits in the vein of Evita, Cats, and Miss Saigon. Rather, Broadway has been taken over by a new breed of operetta-style theater: the rock musical. Midtown Live draws much of its material from shows that fall under this category, like American Idiot, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, The Last Five Years, and the rock opera that started it all, Rent.
Since the songs on the set list are pulled from very different shows, they don’t weave a single narrative. Rather, they are used to create micro-stories that strike a more personal chord.
“During auditions, we asked each actor to prepare a story along with the song of their choice to show how the song really spoke to them,” says Patterson, who also performs in the show. “We’ve created multimedia presentations, with the artists sharing their stories and the context behind the tracks.” There’s also a distinctly H-Town element, as all of the cast and musicians are homegrown talent. The resulting vignettes highlight the power of a great song, and how musicals can touch lives beyond the theater, which is a point that’s also highlighted by the choice of venue.
The Alley Kat Bar & Lounge frequently hosts live music, but it’s also a place where bar hoppers go to simply enjoy a drink or two. The team at PMT Productions hopes to tap into this crowd of the uninitiated for Midtown Live. “I think it would be cool for people to turn and say, this is musical theater?” explains Patterson. “We want to change the perception or predisposition or bias against musicals.”