Listen: Duncan Sheik Created a Monster

The singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik burst onto the musical theater scene with his raucous rock score for “Spring Awakening,” which swept the Tonys back in 2007, and since then, he’s worked steadily on stage — but a lot of his newer projects, including the current “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” have a much quieter sound.

Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below:

That’s also true of “Whisper House,” his new musical that arrives in New York hot on the heels of “Bob & Carol,” which is now playing in an extended run at Off Broadway’s New Group.

“‘Whisper House’ is even more of a chamber musical, because it’s not like big rock guitars and drums and bass,” Sheik said on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “It’s more focused on the acoustic instruments and the horn and wind arrangements. ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’ is also very intimate sounding, so I might get in trouble for doing these more quiet musicals. But — I have to say, I feel like maybe I helped create a monster with ‘Spring Awakening,’ where every musical is so loud now! So I’m interested in things where you can hear the specifics sonically of what’s going on.”

Sheik also let slip his somewhat controversial opinion about the function of songs in musical theater. “I don’t really like to forward plot in any of my songs, so I get in trouble for that,” he admitted with a laugh.

Popular on Variety

He continued, “I think of music much more the way people think of songs in film or TV where, if you’re watching ‘Peaky Blinders’ and you hear a PJ Harvey song or Radiohead song, and it just fits the vibe and the mood of the moment. Obviously PJ Harvey and Tom Yorke didn’t write that song for ‘Peaky Blinders,’ it just happens to be really cool and it fits. I like there to be sort of a remove in some way, where the song is not necessarily commenting, but you’re understanding something about the inner life of the character, maybe, and it’s just amplifying what’s happening in the story at that moment.”

Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, Sheik gives listeners the skinny on what he’s got coming up, including new iterations of his musicals “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Spring Awakening,” a developing stage version of “Ma Vie en Rose,” an album of his own work as a singer-songwriter — and, just maybe, a record for kids.

New episodes of Stagecraft are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher and anywhere that finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

More Legit

  • MCC theater presents 'Alice By Heart'

    Steven Sater On Adapting 'Alice By Heart' From a Musical to a Book

    When producers approached lyricist Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”) to adapt Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into a musical, his initial reaction was to recoil. His initial thought was that the book didn’t have a beginning, middle and an ending. But Sater pulled it off with his production of “Alice By Heart.” After an off-Broadway [...]

  • The Lehman Trilogy review

    Sam Mendes' 'Lehman Trilogy' Kicks off Ahmanson's New Season

    Sam Mendes’ “The Lehman Trilogy,” which took London’s West End by storm will be part of the Ahmanson’s lineup for the 2020-21 season. It will be joined by Broadway hits “Hadestown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the season that will also feature four fan favorites and another production to be [...]

  • Zoe Caldwell Dead

    Zoe Caldwell, Four-Time Tony Winner, Dies at 86

    Zoe Caldwell, an Australian actress with a talent for illuminating the human side of imposing icons such as Cleopatra and Maria Callas in a career that netted her four Tony Awards, died on Sunday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to her son Charlie Whitehead. She was 86. Caldwell occasionally appeared in television and [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band interview

    Listen: How 'Cambodian Rock Band' Became One of the Most Produced Plays in the U.S.

    One of the hottest trends in American theater this season is Cambodian surf rock from the 1970s — and that’s thanks to “Cambodian Rock Band.” Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below: Playwright Lauren Yee’s genre-bending stage show, part family drama and part rock concert, has become one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. this season. [...]

  • Revenge Song

    Vampire Cowboys' 'Revenge Song': L.A. Theater Review

    There’s highbrow, there’s lowbrow, and then there’s however you might classify Vampire Cowboys, the anarchic New York City theater company whose diverse productions . It’s radical, “good taste”-flouting counter-programming for the vast swaths of the population left unserved by high-dollar, stiff-collar theater options. Vampire Cowboys’ raucous new show, “Revenge Song,” is unlike anything else that’s [...]

  • THE VISIT review

    'The Visit': Theater Review

    Director Jeremy Herrin’s extraordinary take on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play “The Visit” is less of a production and more of a show. A wordy one, to be sure, which is no surprise since it’s an adaptation by Tony Kushner that, including two intermissions, comes in at three-and-a-half hours. It’s never going to be described as [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme review

    'We Are Freestyle Love Supreme': Film Review

    For any Lin-Manuel Miranda fans whose hearts sank almost as quickly as they rose upon hearing that, yes, there’s a “Hamilton” movie, and no, it won’t be out for another 20 months, succor may be on the way in the form of a probably faster-arriving movie that features Miranda in almost as big a role, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content