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Interview With Lyricist/Librettist Michael Colby

Interview With Lyricist/Librettist Michael Colby

Michael Colby returns to Southern Florida, where his musicals have include the acclaimed Here’s To Danny (a tribute to Danny Kaye co-written with the late Bruce Adler) and Tales Of Tinseltown (Coconut Grove Playhouse). Colby is now collaborating with the filmmaker Susan Seidelman and the Broadway orchestrator Ned Paul Ginsburg on Boynton Beach Club: A New Musical in Concert, playing February 10 -12 at the Park Vista Theatre in Lake Worth, FL.

Boynton Beach Club began as a 2006 movie directed and co-written by Susan Seidelman. She developed the movie based on an original story from her mother Florence, who lives in Boynton Beach. The movie was filmed in various locations all around the Boynton Beach and Delray area, incorporating many of the local residents as extras. The cast included a group of veteran movie stars, Dyan Cannon, Brenda Vaccaro, Joe Bologna, Sally Kellerman, Len Cariou and Michael Nouri. John Lariviere of Arts America held this interview with Michael Colby as he prepared for this production of Boynton Beach Club.

J.L.: How did you come to work on Boynton Beach Club?

M.C.: Ned and I were seeking a new project after the success of our first collaboration, They Chose Me!, a musical about adoption, which has received several regional productions. Ned recommended I see the Susan Seidelman movie Boynton Beach Club and I flipped over it. Here was a unique source for a musical – a celebration of life after 50 that’s upbeat, hilarious and – dare I say it – sexy! Ned swiftly contacted the owners of the film, Susan Seidelman and her mother Florence, who’s a Boynton Beach resident (In fact, Florence used local experiences as an inspiration for the movie). Susan loved several songs Ned and I wrote on spec. Soon after, she joined us as librettist of the musical.

J.L.: What was the most challenging part of the process?

M.C.: Boynton Beach Club is a grab bag of compelling characters—six leading roles and their colorful community whose lives interweave. Many musicals are about one or two central characters – Hello, Dolly!, The Music Man, The King And I – whose plot takes a direct path. It’s more of a challenge and balancing act when you have a larger circle of leads, but this structure has its special rewards. Cabaret, Guys And Dolls, On The Town have four or more leads and give the audience a cavalcade of stories to enjoy.

What was easiest was writing songs for these very funny and touching characters. After seeing the movie, ideas just poured out of Ned and me. I like to think of the musical as a “Grease for Baby Boomers.” The film’s NY Times review aptly described it as “a high school romantic comedy whose teenage characters are played by their grandparents.” I also greatly identified with the theme that it’s a whole different world for people over 50 than in past generations. I’m a 60-year old writer who’s something of a Peter Pan. Except for a few scars I wear like badges, I’m in comparable shape to what I was in my 20s. I feel age can be entirely relative. As a character sings in the show, despite the passing of time, when he looks in the mirror “It’s Still Me.”

J.L.: What was the most rewarding part of the process?

M.C.: The wealth of talent that have been attracted to this show. The fact that the actors seem to be having so much fun is infectious and—during our readings—seems shared by the audience. Moreover, it’s been exciting how younger audiences—and devotees of musical comedy in general—have embraced the show during our public readings. And now, we get to bring Boynton Beach Club to the very neighborhood where it all started.

J.L.: What is your ultimate goal with Boynton Beach Club: A New Musical In Concert?.

M.C.: We’re doing the show in concert as a kind of preview of what we hope will be a full-fledged production (where tickets will be a lot more than $25 each). It’s a situation like the popular Encores! Series of staged reading (at City Center, NYC), where shows like the revival of Chicago began at affordable prices—script in hand but a fantastic event nonetheless. The trade-off is that we can engage top actors, otherwise in-demand, to commit to the short period of our 4-performance run. Our cast included many actors who’ve originated and played starring roles in Broadway musicals (e.g. Alan Campbell, the Tony-nominated actor who played opposite Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard; Barbara Walsh, Tony nominee for Falsettos; Heather MacRae; soap star Janice Lynde; and Barbara Minkus of TV’s Love – American Style). Ultimately, it is our fervent wish that this musical becomes a perennial for the extraordinary array of multi-talented actors over 50 in this youth-obsessed culture.

Michael Colby (Lyrics) is the librettist/lyricist of such musicals as Charlotte Sweet (Drama Desk Award nomination), Tales Of Tinseltown, North Atlantic (Show Business Award), Delphi Or Bust, Ludlow Ladd, The Human Heart (Billy Rose Foundation grant), Slay it With Music, They Chose Me! (Tada!), and Mrs. McThing. He was named for inclusion in The National Playwrights Directory, 2nd Edition (published by the O’Neill Theatre Center). In 2001, Amas Musical Theatre presented Quel Fromage, a benefit tribute to Mr. Colby, featuring alumni from his musicals. Mr. Colby is a member of BMI and the Dramatists Guild. For more information, visit