Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spotlight On...Toby Singer

Name: Toby Singer

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI (currently living in Brooklyn, NY)

Education: University of Michigan (degree in Music Theory from the School of Music)

Favorite Credits: Besides Wicked Frozen, co-writing with Jared Saltiel slasher musical at a summer music festival South By South Death, and writing the music for a trio of musical with Doppelskope, entitled Gruff, Grimm, and Growl.

Why theater?: As a composer, it's the place I've finally found that supports my particular melodic and harmonic vision, while allowing me the flexibility to tell stories through sound, in a way that I couldn't quite do playing in indie rock bands, or in my own singer/songwriter records. In other words, I can write a 90s-esque Weezer song for a show, and then flip into a jaunty big band romp, and then jump to some strange dance piece, without as much as flinching.

Tell us about Wicked Frozen: Wicked Frozen is a mash up of Wicked and Frozen, as told through the eyes of a young girl going through some troubled waters. It's zany and heartfelt, absurd and dark, and really gets at the heart of the universal human need of acceptance and friendship. Musically, it's a mix of genre homages to songs in Wicked and Frozen (for instance, Don't Hold On, and Chenoweth-inspired Social Success) and original stuff that runs the gamut from a comedic, jazzy ode to a favorite big box store, to a bizarre, whole-tone inflected deconstruction of...building a snowman.

What inspired you to write Wicked Frozen?: Zoe and I were discussing writing a show for the West Village Musical Theatre Festival, and this was right after "Let It Go" won best song at the Oscars. And we got to thinking about the parallels between Wicked and Frozen, and the fact at that time we had seen neither source materials--thus logically, it made complete sense for us to try and write a mash-up of the two. Only much, much later did we actually see Wicked or watch Frozen!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I'm always most inspired by musical theater that engages me in an honest way, song-wise. I don't often love songs that feel like dialogue-set-to-underscoring--I really am a bit of a throwback in appreciating songs that really rely on songcraft FIRST, commanding the words to first be elements of a song. In specific, I've been a huge fan of Dave Malloy's work--seeing Great Comet finally on Broadway this past summer was life changing. To hear compositional elements in a big commercial show, that reflect your approach to songwriting and theatre writing was inspiring to say the least.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd like to work with people that are inspired by art that spans the chasm between light and dark. To say in less melodramatic terms, I want to work with artists that understand that the best art is art that spans the whole of human emotional experience.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: As I mentioned earlier, I was really into Great Comet, and totally bummed when it closed. I continue to tell people about it, even now.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Hah, I'm not sure who would play me (pick some awkward Jewish guy, there's a few) but it certainly be called Toby Singer and the Storm. My love of meteorology runs deep. And you don't write music the way I approach music without having to work through a few storms, yourself.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I mean, considering I still haven't been able to see Hamilton, I'd settle for just going back to when it was at the Public, and having the foreknowledge to buy a ticket...

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don't know if its a guilty pleasure exactly, but I'm a monstrous sports fan, particularly of Michigan college sports, and Detroit pro teams.

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: a cantor. I mean, yeah. I married a rabbi, so it wouldn't exactly be a wild digression.

What's up next?: My musical Gruff is being produced at the Long Island Children's Museum this spring, and I'm anticipating readings and workshops for several other shows in development.

For more on Toby, visit For more on Wicked Frozen, visit