5 Questions with Michael Musial
TROY – Theatre Institute at Sage is presenting Benjamin Franklinstein the Musical! this Nov. 30 – Dec. 11. It’s an original work based on a children’s book which imagines Benjamin Franklin existing for hundreds of years in suspended animation in a child’s basement and brought to life to confront the 21st century. I spoke to its composer and lyricist Michael Musial who is also Professor of Music at Russell Sage College where the show has evening and school day performances.
PW: You’re reteaming with Matthew McElligot after Backbeard, how did that relationship come about and why does it work so well?
MM: The collaborative relationship came about when a former Sage student Brian Sheldon pointed out that he thought the “Backbeard” books by Sage Professor Matt McElligot would make a good musical. So, we met, and things progressed from there. Matt’s lifelong pal Larry Tuxbury joined us during the writing of Backbeard as well. I think the collaboration works well because we all like each other, share a similar sense of humor and like musicals!
PW: What’s it like working with a mix of students and community members in presenting a new musical – is this a World Premiere?
MM: This production is the World Premiere – as far as working with student and community actors – it is always an enriching experience for the material and for us. Everyone has been so generous and patient as this is not an easy process of writing, workshopping, and staging. We are very lucky to have the production team and cast and crew that we do – we literally couldn’t do it without them!
PW: Where did you go to school and what opportunities do you remember especially well from your school experience?
MM: I attended SUNY Buffalo as a piano performance major – we had many performance opportunities and worked with many guest artists through my years there. My fondest memories are of making music with my colleagues and teacher.
PW: What is the play or musical that changed your life and why?
MM: Hmm – that’s a tough one – but I think I would have to say seeing Les Miserables as a young man and noticing the humanity in the piece struck a chord with me that still resonates with me in my creative work.
PW: What is your dream production for TIS that you would really like to take a crack at?
MM: I have been blessed and lucky at TIS, Sage and NYSTI to do a wide variety of shows and favorite works – I am always happiest in the rehearsal process with the piece I am currently working on!
Benjamin Franklinstein the Musical! runs 11/30-12/11