Between Radio City Music Hall and the Gershwin Theatre stands an eleven-story building with a gold art deco façade. Thousands of people probably walk past it every day, oblivious that it is, in many ways, the birthplace of modern American pop music.
This historic landmark is the Brill Building. From the late ‘50s to the early ‘60s, teams of songwriters worked there in small cubicles with pianos to churn out countless chart-topping hits. From "This Magic Moment" to "There's Always Something There to Remind Me," many of these hits are still part of American culture today.
“People have recommended that we do a Cabaret about the Brill Building and its music, which became known as the 'Brill Sound,'” said Lead Developer Rebecca Hopkins. “These songwriters created an amazing array of songs that mixed in elements of different musical styles, including Latin rhythms, R&B, and Rock & Roll."
FST's original music revue Up on the Roof celebrates these legendary songwriting teams —like Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Burt Bacharach and Hal David—that crafted hit after hit for the girl groups and teen idols of the '50s and '60s.
"These young and incredibly talented writers captured universal emotions and experiences in their lyrics," said show director Catherine Randazzo. "But their songs also had memorable melodies and catchy hooks. This combination gave the songs mass appeal, shooting them to the top of the charts."
The funny thing is, these songwriters didn't think that the songs they were composing were particularly long-lasting. To them, lyricists like Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin were the great artists of the day.
"But here we are, 60 years later, and these are the songs that have lasted," added Hopkins, referring to the numerous classics that came from Brill Building songwriters. "These are huge songs that will likely last for decades to come."
Up on the Roof jams more than two dozen of these enduring hits into just two acts, taking audiences on an entertaining adventure through the genesis of modern American pop music.
Bringing these cultural staples to life onstage is an accomplished cast, including two returning FST guest artists.
The one-and-only Jannie Jones, who has been in over 20 other productions at FST, is back to lend her voice to such hits as "One Fine Day" and "Walk on By." Jones was most recently seen in last season's record-breaking Cabaret, The '70s: More Than A Decade.
Brandon Wardell, who was part of last season's celebration of movie music, Reel Music, also returns to FST. In Up on the Roof, Wardell will charm audiences with his renditions of "This Magic Moment" and "A Teenager in Love."
After playing leading roles in productions of Anything Goes! and Spring Awakening, Jacquelyne Paige makes her FST debut with Up on the Roof. For Paige, the songwriters who created the "Brill Sound" delivered both quality and quantity in their music.
"Not only were these artists extremely prolific, but they captured the quintessential human struggle in simple and beautiful ways," said Paige. "'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' isn't incredibly complex, but it is extremely effective in portraying the human experience."
Up on the Roof begins playing September 27 in FST's Court Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.
Header Image: Jacquelyne Paige and Jannie Jones. Photo by John Jones.