An Interview with Musical Director, Brandon Adams



Brandon Adams is excited to be back at Center REP, having Music Directed Musical of Musicals, the Musical! last season. Some of his Bay Area credits include the West Coast premieres of The Last Five Years with Playhouse West and the David Henry Hwang version of Flower Drum Song at Woodminster Summer Musicals. Other favorite credits include Funny Girl, Girl Crazy, Me and My Girl, Too Many Girls, and Something for the Boys. Brandon is a graduate of Dartmouth (AB) and Indiana University (MM in Choral Conducting). He is a Music Director at the Urban School of San Francisco and the Pacific Boychoir Academy in Oakland.

What is your role as the "Musical Director" for Cabaret?

I conduct the band for the show from the piano, and I work with the actors on their singing. I also work with the director to provide a particular "take" on the score that suits her concept for the production.

What first sparked your interest in music?

I've been a singing and playing piano since Carter was president, but I can tell you when I first fell in love with musical theatre. When I was about 9, my piano teacher was playing for a production of Oklahoma! at our local high school. It was a huge production that featured over 80 performers. I was completely transfixed; in fact, I was so enthralled that couldn't stop thinking about the show the next day, and I went back to see the show for a second time the next night. I was lucky to have seen what is arguably the finest written musical as my "first time." (I wonder what I would have done if I had seen something dreadful like Cats?) This ignited my love for music theatre.

What made you decide to return to Indiana University for a Masters in Music for Choral Conducting?

I was drawn there because Indiana's School of Music is so big that the opportunities for study there seem endless. The teachers are all specialists, and I enjoyed studying diverse subjects from vocal ornamentation to vocal pedagogy to a class solely focused on the composer Heinrich Scheutz. Also, the choral conducting department's emphasis at the time was focused around the discipline of the craft, rather than on a cult of personality. I got a lot of "podium" time. Another nice bonus about attending a school of that size is that I'm always running into I.U. alums in the music community. Actually, one of my dear friends from I. U. is playing percussion in the show.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue this as a career?

I was pre-med in college, and in chemistry class I had four labs in a row that involved titration. After that last lab, I threw in the towel; I just lost patience with pursuing a "practical" career. I guess you could say I was successfully "weeded out." (But I still got an "A" in the class!)

What sets Center REP apart from other companies out there?

I feel like Center REP knows its community. I've worked for a few theatres who seem at odds with their subscriber base, either pandering to them or, on the other end of the spectrum, resisting what might be artistically accessible to them. I feel like Michael knows his audience, likes them, and brings to them plays that are both exciting and challenging.

What has been your favorite musical experience to date?

I have to say, with no arm twisting at all, that Musical of Musicals, the Musical! last season was a mountain top experience. I know the authors (I met them doing the show Cabaret way back in summer stock!), and it was exciting to interpret their fabulously funny score. Also, I loved Mindy's original take on the show. The tough thing in satire is to provide enough bite without insulting the original source material, isn't it? I thought she pulled off that difficult dance brilliantly.

Why should folks go see Center REP's production of Cabaret?

I think that when all is said and done, we may have racked up more hours auditioning for the show than rehearsing it. This is to say I think we've ended up with a dream cast of performers. We even have some "quadruple threat" performers who sing, dance, act, and play instruments in the orchestra!