The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #31 – Susan Birkenhead

Susan Birkenhead is one of the most in-demand theatre lyricists. She made her Broadway debut as a contributor to Working in 1978. Her songwriting has been featured in many productions both on and off Broadway, including Jelly’s Last Jam, Triumph of Love, High Society, Hats!, Radio Girl and most recently The Secret Life of Bees. Susan Birkenhead has written with some of the best composers including Charles Strouse, David Foster, Jule Styne and others. In fact, with Styne, Birkenhead wrote two songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.

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Frankie Keane: Singer-Songwriter, Stage & Screen Actress

Seeing a theatrical or musical performance is a shared experience.  As Jacques said in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”   We all experience a birth and a passing – a beginning and an end.  Or maybe it doesn’t really end after all?  “Hereafter” is a musical that  brings to the stage an exploration of what happens after that inevitable final curtain call.

In the Big Apple, along comes an artist named Frankie Keane.  Within her was an intense desire to sing, write songs and act.  Where else could you go, but the city that never sleeps?  Eventually she met Vinne Favale, whom she helped in the creative process of writing the musical “Hereafter.”  In addition to being a part of the creative team, Frankie Keane is a cast member playing the role of “Anita.”

In our interview with Frankie Keane, we encounter someone passionate and open, with a desire to bring her heart to the stage and into the lyric and melody of the songs she writes and sings.

Let’s meet Frankie Keane.

Maury Yeston: Composer, Lyricist, Educator & Musicologist

Maury Yeston allows us into his musical mind!  He is a composer, lyricist, educator and musicologist.  Perhaps best known for his music and lyrics heard on the Broadway stage, Maury Yeston wrote the lyrics and melodies for “Nine,” (based on Fellini’s film 8½ )as well as “Titanic.”  Maury Yeston is a Tony award winner.  He wrote the music and lyrics for “Phantom,” based on the 1910 novel “The Phantom of the Opera.”  Yeston also wrote a great deal of songs for the Broadway musical “Grand Hotel.”
In addition to several original Broadway cast albums of his songs, a compilation album of his songs was released in 2003, entitled “The Maury Yeston Songbook.”  Broadway actress Laura Osnes released an entire album of his songs entitled “If I Tell You (Songs of Maury Yeston).”

If you are fascinated by the art of songwriting or a lover of musical theatre, this interview will be of great interest.  He freely expresses his thoughts and recollections.  Writers and lovers of songs alike will enjoy this fascinating interview.

Baayork Lee: Singer, Dancer & Actress

BAAYORK LEE has lived a life in the performing arts that many could only dream of.  Born in New York City’s Chinatown, Baayork has performed as a singer, dancer and actress.  Behind the scenes she has worn the hats of choreographer and theatre director.

Baayork Lee made her debut as a dancer on Broadway at the age of five in the 1951 production of The King and I.  She met the legendary dancer Michael Bennett at the High School for Performing Arts.  Her creative relationship with Michael Bennett endured throughout his life.

In 1975, Baayork Lee was invited by Michael Bennett to participate in the workshops which resulted in the famed musical A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante.  The original Broadway production ran for 6,137 performances.  The role of “Connie Wong” was based on Baayork Lee.

Baayork Lee has been one of the loudest voices in the enduring legacy of Michael Bennett’s work.  With encouragement from Michael Bennett, Baayork Lee turned to choreography.  She has directed many national and international theatrical companies.  Ever active, Baayork Lee serves on the Board of Directors of the National Asian Arts Project (NAAP).  Most recently, Baayork Lee is choreographing a performance of OLIVER! at the Pershing Square Signature Center June 5-7.

In celebration of the performances, Baayork Lee had a very spirited conversation with us and we hope you can find her enthusiasm as inspiring as we do.