Chasing the Song (La Jolla Playhouse)


Today many musical artists write their own songs, but this wasn’t always the case. In the late 1950s – 60s, New York song shops housed in the 11-story Brill Building in Times Square was where a majority of hit songs were produced. The songwriter’s goal would be to get a popular recording artist to perform their song and with any luck the song would hit the top of the Billboard charts. Kitschy songs about love and tragedy seemed to have been the main theme, but as times changed with protests of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, so did the music. Soon song shops would no longer exist as the British Invasion took over in the U.S. and the Beatles made history in April of 1964 by having the top five songs on the Billboard Top 100 singles chart.

David Bryan and Joe Dipietro have created a new musical production, Chasing the Song, that is refreshing and filled with high-energy choreography. Not only do the actors sing and dance, but play musical instruments, like the piano and guitar, which is very fitting for the song shop setting and a wonderful component that will make you love the play even more.

There are many surprising creative elements, including the transformation of the four pianos that sit on stage. As the musical moves from scene to scene the pianos open up to create different props, like a bar, recording studio, and a fire escape.

There’s no doubt the fire escape scene will be a favorite with audience members. It begins with the male songwriters contemplating their future. As they sit and ponder, one starts a rhythmic beat on a wooden box. Soon the others follow with their own beat with snaps, slaps, and an outstanding tap dance (performed by Jake Weinstein) creating a sound that makes you want to get up and dance,

I loved this play and would have seen it again if I hadn’t attended one of the last few performances. Since this is a page to stage production, the show I saw had already been developed and finessed into a Broadway worthy musical. I’m sure of it – it’s that good!