Songbird premiered Off-Broadway in 2015 to much critical acclaim, earning a New York Times Critic's Pick.
Now the musical, written by Michael Kimmel along with music and lyrics by Lauren Pritchard, is gearing up for its run at Two River Theater in Red Bank.
Pritchard, who starred as Ilse in the original cast of Spring Awakening on Broadway in 2006 and performs now as LOLO, sat down recently with WBGO's News Director Doug Doyle to talk about Songbird and her career.
In Songbird, fading country star Tammy Trip returns home to the honky-tonk that launched her music career, planning to help the son she abandoned launch his own.
Dreams, ambition, love, and heartbreak—along with a good deal of whiskey—all collide in this acclaimed new musical directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch.
Pritchard was born in Jackson, Tennessee. She spoke about the how the show developed.
"Country music was very new for me. I was born and raised in Tennessee, so country music was something I've known my entire life and loved, listened to, appreciated and have a deep understanding of, but as a writer, it's not something I've naturally done. So it was interesting to begin the process, there was something very cathardic about working on this piece and really being able to show my love and appreciation for the place I came from that really ultimately taught me everything I know about music, life and love and loss and all those kinds of things we talk about in this show."
The musical is based on Chekhov's The Seagull.
"Michael has done a beautiful job of keeping very true to the text of the play, but also making it feel very modern, relevant, understandable and translatable to how it completely applies to us right now and also how things have not changed. How we are still dealing with all the same issues that we've been dealing with all these years: love, loss, desire, heartbreak, wanting, yearning,"
Doyle saw Pritchard in Spring Awakening on Broadway, a show that won eight Tony Awards. The singer-songwriter fondly remembers those days at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
"It's interesting to think about Spring Awakening and what happened with the show in 2006 because I think about what on earth the experience would be like if it had happened now with all the social media. Twitter didn't even exist except in semi-beta form in 2006. People were still my spacing. Facebook was still for only college students. We lived in just a different world than we do know.
Pritchard says it was encouraging to see younger audiences show up to watch smash musical Spring Awakening.
"It was really amazing watching people our own age come and feel as connected to the story we were telling as we were telling the story."
Doyle asked Pritchard "Without Ilse, is there a Songbird?"
The soulful singer paused for a brief moment.
" Yeah, probably, but it would be different."
Pritchard admitted the role was a tremendous part of her life.
"It was a life-altering thing, so there's sort of like my life before Ilse and then everything else after."
That "after" includes her singing career as LOLO. You can see the powerful performer's videos at lolomusic.com
Songbird runs at Two River's Joan and Robert Rechnitz Theater June 9th through July 1st.
Click above to hear the entire interview with Lauren Pritchard.