Conrad Askland presents: Romeo and Juliet (The Musical).
When William Shakespeare meets musical theatre.
*Original article on the BandCampDiaries website at: https://thebandcampdiaries.com/post/652902300001714176/conrad-askland-presents-romeo-and-juliet-the
June 2021 – It’s safe to say that Conrad Askland is not your average artist and composer. His creativity transcends “traditional” music release formats, in favor of a broader approach, which touches so many different genres and influences. From pop and uptempo folk-inspired dance music, down to musical theatre and plays, anything goes. Conrad has recently released a brand new project, Romeo and Juliet (The Musical). Any theatre enthusiast will tell you that tacking a Willam Shakespeare work is not easy, especially when it comes to turning such a well-known classic into a musical with a different twist! Thankfully, Conrad really managed to accomplish something amazing with this one, and listeners won’t be disappointed, even those who might not be familiar with the original version of Romeo and Juliet! If anything, this adaptation could be a great incentive for someone to go and pick up the collected works of The Bard! This happens to be Conrad’s third full-length musical theater project, and it still stands out as one of his most distinctive achievements. Although the musical play premiered in 2015, it was released as a full-length Youtube Video over at the artist’s official channel, linked at the bottom of this article.
This amazing project is a perfect example of what it’s like to produce great musical theatre pieces with a focus on great scoring inspired by neoclassical music composers.
One of the most distinctive traits of this rendition is certainly the energy, and the drive that fuels the performance of the ensemble. The actors follow the music perfectly, and their performances feel very animated and spontaneous, an obvious sign that the score is working, enabling each stage performer (and the audience) to genuinely connect with the storyline, in a much deeper way. Conrad’s original music provides a really excellent emotional framework for the storyline to unfold. This is particularly cool, especially when you consider the implication of working with a play that’s as famous as this one. What I mean is that most people who will watch this musical are probably already familiar with the story: they know what’s going to happen and they are probably already familiar with the characters and their journeys. However, the music is a way to reframe the whole narrative experience, giving the audience a different perspective
In addition to the personable and edgy performance value, this release is also quite distinctive because of the sheer quality of the production. Everything on stage is on point, and the video of the whole show has great sound and clarity, making it enjoyable even to those who watch from home. The mix is balanced and very detail-oriented, making for a lively, edgy and stark sonic approach. In other words, there are many subtle nuances in this piece, which really add to the richness of the musical rendition. The frequency spectrum of the mix is also very balanced, with a tight, yet deep low end working wonders along with a smooth top end, which adds a sense of clarity to the music.
Romeo and Juliet (The Musical) stands out for its “classical meets modern” compositional approach, but although the production is quite polished, it is never overproduced, allowing a lot of wonderfully organic and “human” elements to really add liveliness to the mix.
Conrad’s score will amaze you for it sonic variety, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat due to its catchy, yet unpredictable arrangement. I always love to hear from artists who set the bar higher and push the envelope when it comes to their productions: this certainly appears to be the case!
If you like musical theatre and you’re a Shakespeare fan, this is a no brainer- If this is your first time, you’re in luck! This is a fun and entertaining introduction to a truly timeless classic, reimagined with some well-scored and immersive music. Find out more about Conrad Askland and do not miss out on the artist’s most recent projects, activities and events:
Official Website: https://conradaskland.com/
YouTube Channel: https://youtube.com/c/ConradAskland
We also had the opportunity to catch up with the composer and ask him a few questions: keep reading for more.
What makes Romeo and Juliet stand out among other Shakespeare works?
It is arguably the most popular of Shakespeare’s works. The story was wildly popular even in Shakespeare’s time before he wrote his version of the story. It’s also one of the most accessible stories to the public as far as being able to understand and relate to the storyline. Sadly, the lessons we learn in Romeo and Juliet are still as pressing today as they were in Shakespeare’s time. We learn the lessons of the high price of hate and division.
Do you have a particular character you feel more attached to, and if so, why?
I have particular characters I am drawn to in certain moments in my musical. I resonate deeply with Romeo in his solo song “Direct My Sail” and with Juliet in her solo song “Come Gentle Night.” Even though I wrote the piece, I still cry every time I hear Juliet sing “Where Is My Romeo” in the final tomb scene. Her innocence at that moment just destroys me.
What other Shakespeare work would you mostly be interested in turning into a musical?
I’ve had several suggestions thrown my way since the debut of my Romeo and Juliet. My answer is that I would gladly score any of Shakespeare’s works to music, but only after “Romeo and Juliet” has gone to the next level and been picked up for a professional run. It took a lot out of me to score Romeo and Juliet, and I would only want to go through that pain and artistic focus again if I knew that there would be an audience to appreciate it.
When approaching a project of this large scale, what is the first thing you do when trying to match Shakespeare’s writing to a piece of music? In other words, how do you know what works and when it works?
All of the music was written directly to Shakespeare’s text. There was never a song that was written first and then “made to work” with the Bard’s words. This was one of the first rules: All music had to be written directly and only to serve Shakespeare’s magnificent text. Then really it is a matter of composing sections, taking a break to work on different parts and then coming back to music with fresh ears. It was normal for me to write five versions of a line of text before finally committing to the final. The most important part is being highly critical of yourself as an artist and never ever saying “that’s good enough”. Most of the music stayed intact through the rehearsal process with little changes for the actor’s best key. The underscores were written during the rehearsal process where we got a feel for how long was needed for set changes or stage movement. The fight music was all written after the combat choreography was in place.