The Green Room is a musical comedy about four friends navigating the turbulent waters of theatre college. With book by Stephen Foster and Rod Damer and music and lyrics by Chuck Pelletier, the show has seen considerable success and enjoyed productions in the US (including Off-Broadway), Canada and Ireland. With Coronavirus closing theatres for the foreseeable, the creative team have now created a brand new website for their very funny and much loved show. The site gives would-be audiences access to the full score and a generous helping of filmed moments from the show’s musical numbers. Featuring the likes of It’s All About Me, Nothing’s Gonna Stop My Boys and Waiting in the Wings, a trip to The Green Room site offers some very welcome entertainment in lockdown. I caught up with Foster and Pelletier recently to find out a little more about the show…
Can you tell me a little bit about where the original idea came from to create this musical centering on four actors in college?
CHUCK: At some point after college, my best friend Rod Damer wrote a one-act play called THE GREEN ROOM. He and I had gone to high school together, and then we had gone to different colleges. He gave me a copy of the one-act play, and I immediately thought it would make a great musical. I think I came up with one of the song ideas right away, and wrote some lyrics and music for that, and maybe one other. But it was years and years before I finished all the songs for a one-act version of the musical.
The website you’ve created for the show is very generous in its material and I’ve enjoyed working my way through the whole score. What prompted you to create the site and include that free content?
Stephen: It came about because of the coronavirus and shut-down. We literally HAD to build it because we had an Off-Broadway run and we had NO “official” site! Chuck and I were on the road the past few years peddling our comedy short “That’s Opportunity Knocking” at film festivals. Building the website is part of the roll out of our small production company Round Earth Entertainment. We had the information and materials (scripts, songs, sheet music, videos, press & reviews) in random places like youtube, facebook and we wanted to give our fans and new friends a one-stop place for the materials for the show. Since our musical is so small and easy to produce, we want people to have access to it. When we put the website together, we got to see all the wonderful independent productions and were reminded how vital this show is.
Your characters each have their recognisable defining trait; the diva, the nerd, the jock and the princess. How did you arrive at those four from the wider pool of comic archetypes?
CHUCK: Those are again from the one-act play, flushed out a bit as the songs developed. There are sort of a finite number of types of people in any theater department. There are the ones that get the leads, and then the ones that don’t. So Jock and Princess, that’s a must, and then the others are just so common in every theater program, it just seemed right.
If Chuck Pelletier’s music and lyrics are anything to go by, this is a very funny show, so I’m wondering what your comedic influences are, either in the realm of theatre or beyond?
Stephen: Chuck’s songs are funny and 5 of them were in the original one-act, so when we expanded the show, we had to craft the book and characters to “match” the tone of the songs. I had written the play “Legends and Bridge,” which was a comedy, and many screenplays before that, and I had done comedy acting and stand-up so I brought those paint brushes to the canvas.
Having never seen the show, I’m basing some initial impressions purely on the music and I detected some Avenue Q vibes with a little (significantly tamer) The Book of Mormon flair thrown in. Are you content to have those similarities drawn?
CHUCK: Without a doubt. Especially Avenue Q, which, aside from the complexity of the puppets, is a very simple show, but constantly fun and funny. And great songwriting. I know several of the people that were involved in Avenue Q, but at the time we saw it on Broadway, I had not yet met any of them, or heard any of the music. We didn’t know what to expect. But Stephen and I left the auditorium in New York singing the tunes and laughing about the characters. What else is there to talk about? That’s what musical theater should be, right?
The Green Room dips into a range of themes and subjects, going beyond the silly college antics to familial frictions and troublesome relationships. Is there a central message you hope audiences will take away?
Stephen: The Green Room is a shadow box of what theater life is: quick, fast and charged with positive and negative emotions. In love one day, broken up the next. Not cast in the play today and get a scholarship the next. The four characters in the green room journey together and have issues with each other and the world at large.
The website shouts proudly about the show’s relevance and value for college productions, small theatres and start-up theatre companies. Is it important to you to reach and support those sectors specifically?
CHUCK: Absolutely. That’s where all three of us lived for years. I remember when I first started doing equity shows, big houses with fancy dressing rooms that housed 20 cast members, each with our own make up space and circle of lights, it seemed so foreign from the world of 99-seat theater. I’ve always been someone who likes to make something out of nothing, to take a diamond in the rough and polish it up. So small theaters, educational theaters, I have a huge heart for all that. And I’ve taught at both high school and college levels, so I feel kin to that, too.
The Green Room has been a hit with audiences and critics alike. Are you hoping to see it revived on a similar or larger scale when the lights go back on?
Stephen: That is the hope. We have several productions, concert readings and even Zoom performances pending. Our niche seems to be smaller theater companies and college student run productions and we hope to expand on that. The college age students are the ones who love the show as it speaks to them and their struggles and hopes.
And finally, what would you say makes The Green Room a standout and a knockout amongst other new musicals arriving on the scene?
CHUCK: It’s fun. The stakes are high throughout, with relationships and life-altering decisions, yet the show never stops being fun for more then the length of a song. In every production I’ve ever seen, the audience laughs from beginning to end. That’s what I’m most proud of.
So there you have it! Why not head over to the website to listen to the full score and find out more about the show’s journey so far? You can find more information about gaining rights here and you can keep up with the show via Twitter and Facebook too.