Indecent (Original Broadway Cast Recording) [CD]
Indecent is inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance—a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel. The play charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it.
Some time in 2012, I managed to track down Lisa Gutkin in New York. I had known her primarily through the Klezmatics, and had heard one of her songs on Wonder Wheel, the very lovely compilation of Woody Guthrie lyrics that they set to music. With Rebecca Taichman joining us at a bar, I explained the play in my head: seven actors, three musicians—an accordionist, violinist, and clarinet. Oh, and those three musicians were part of the cast of characters in an unfolding drama that I was then calling Rehearsing Vengeance. I had already listened to over 300 songs from Ale Brider to Rodgers and Hammerstein, a cornucopia of Jewish music.
We intended to write the play around songs, but needed a composer to create the motifs and through-compose. Tentatively, a small group—Rebecca, Lisa, Aaron Halva (who would become co-composer), a friend who played clarinet, two MFA actors and I—assembled in a drafty rehearsal hall at Yale School of Drama to play together: what would a scene between two women in love, Manke and Rifkele (from Sholem Asch’s 1907 The God of Vengeance), sound like with underscoring? Thoughts, themes, and theories were spilled out in that room, and some eight hours later we left with the creative team that would stun audiences with the haunting score of Indecent.
Aaron, who knew his way around the stage having worked on commedia dell’arte with Christopher Bayes, found a new synergy with Lisa Gutkin; an Iowan Cuban guitar player fusing his sound with a klezmer/celtic violinist who had never before acted on stage. The score grew in complexity and power as we cut, rewrote, and made changes daily for that evening’s previews in New Haven, San Diego, and finally in New York. Not only did the music learn to dance under the tutelage of the brilliant choreographer, David Dorfman, but our two composers—joined later by Klezmatics’ clarinetist Matt Darriau—danced their way across the stage nightly while playing instruments, a vital part of the ensemble. Joined by a magnificent troupe of actors, Adina Verson, Katrina Lenk, Richard Topol, Tom Nellis, Mimi Lieber, Steven Rattazzi and Max Gordon Moore, our musicians created an indelible soundtrack.
I am so glad and fortunate that we have the music arranged and composed by these two artists now to dance across our memory.
— Paula Vogel
Produced by Michael Croiter, Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva
A Yellow Sound Label Release
Release Date: January 25, 2019