I Can Breathe Again

The cast of New Line Theatre's LOVE KILLSLove Kills is over. As many people know, we ended up canceling the last week of our run because of a death in the New Line family. But it was a really strong show with a really strong cast, a really strong band, and if I do say so myself, some very strong direction. The audiences were smaller than we're used to (we're used to selling out a lot), but they were such good audiences, really tuned in, really listening, really focused. And surprisingly enough, considering the crazily intense content, we even had a few repeat customers.

The show's author, Kyle Jarrow, was very pleased with how seriously we approached his material, how well the show worked (it had been produced for six performances at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, but Kyle did major rewrites before giving the show to us), and how well it was received here (the earlier version was not all that well received in NYC). Hopefully, armed with quite a few great St. Louis reviews as proof of how well it works, the show will have a further life. New Line did that for High Fidelity -- none of the New York licensing agents would represent Hi-Fi because the New York production was such a mess and a failure, but because of our incredibly well reviewed production, many other companies have gone through us to contact the authors and arrange further productions. I hope the same happens with Love Kills.

Guitarist/conductor Mike Renard playing LOVE KILLS However, as great an experience as it was for all of us, there was a genuine tragedy. Our guitarist Mike Renard passed away before the run was finished. Mike was a real artist with a guitar (and, on occasion, a banjo, a mandolin, whatever we needed). He played almost every New Line show going back to our first Bat Boy in 2003, when Mike was still in high school. He could play any style and was so terrific to work with. He was uncomfortable with compliments, but I hope he knew how much he brought to our shows and how much we all respected his enormous talent and how much we loved working with him. He was such a good guy and a consummate artist, and we will miss him terribly. I realize as I type this that we don't have any good pictures of Mike because he was always in the background, but I cropped this shot from Love Kills of Mike in action -- this was the first time Mike was both guitarist and conductor for us (there's no piano part in this show). He rose to the challenge as he always did and impressed the hell out of everyone once again. It will be so weird to do shows without him now. You ROCKED, Mikey!

Still, despite the sadness of this past week, I feel so proud of Love Kills. We took this tough, emotional, disturbing little show and we did what we do best -- we fashioned the most honest, truthful performances we could. In my not-so-objective opinion, this show had some of the best, most subtle, most truthful acting we've ever had on stage. It was a genuine pleasure to watch these four actors -- Alison, Zak, Phil, and Taylor -- work every night. What an amazing foursome they were, unbelievably connected to each other every night on stage, sometimes seeming more like a brilliant string quartet than four actors in a rock musical.

As the American director Alan Schneider has said, "There are no secret shortcuts, there are no formulas, there are no rules. There's only yourself and your talent and your taste and your choices." I love that quote. And then there's this one, from director Robert Falls: "I learned from acting teacher Edward Kaye-Martin about courage and using your fear in your work and always striving. He had a saying, 'Go for the gold,' which means always make the richest choice. Not the most obvious choice. The scariest choice, the juiciest choice."

That's what Alison, Zak, Phil, and Taylor did every night on stage, and it was a joy to witness. So thank you to everyone involved -- the cast, the band, Vicki and Ann in the lobby, Matt on sound, Trish on lights, our designers, everybody -- and most of all, thanks to Kyle Jarrow. I could not be prouder of this show.

Now on to The Wild Party!

Long Live the Musical!