Enter director, Logan Ellis.
Ellis, who grew up both as a Tom Waits fan and a classical violist, had a few connections to the piece before choosing it as his graduate thesis at Yale School of Drama. A mentor from his days in a youth symphony happened to be the violinist on Tom's concept album; she was also his cousin, and provided him a means of contact. Schmidt, who wrote the (German) libretto when it toured Europe in the 90s, was a professor at Yale later in life, and released the English translation in a university publication. With rights approved, a talented creative team, and a cast of MFA candidates, Logan just needed someone to take on the musical reins, after a student music-director had to step down due to illness. Logan and I had a great chat on the phone, and I was brought on board.
There were no theatrical arrangements or orchestrations for the show whatsoever; the only materials given to us by the music publishers were what I call "songbook" arrangements, based off the 2002 concept album, and a couple lead sheets of incidental tunes. The music didn't match the libretto, nor did the materials specify the gender of characters, or vocal designations. My favorite detail was a list of instruments (some quite obscure) that Waits used in his recording, and instructions that basically said, "have fun!" That may seem frustrating, but it was very liberating to the team; we had the freedom to basically do whatever we wanted. I reconstructed the score from the ground up, trying to preserve some semblance of the "Tom Waits Sound" while making the arrangements approachable to the audience, and in service of the book. I was given six talented student musicians, and wrote an orchestration to feature them as best as I could. Thankfully, my work was deemed a success, with some especially kind words from my old boss, Michael O'Flaherty, who came in from Goodspeed to see the show Opening Night.
Music and Lyrics by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Libretto by Paul Schmidt
Directed by Logan Ellis
Music Direction, Arrangements, and Orchestration by Dan Pardo
Costume Design by Meg Powers
Scenic Design by Anna Grigo
Lighting Design by Riva Fairhall
Sound Design by Dakota Stipp
Projection Design by Brittany Bland
Production Dramaturgy by Evan Hill
Technical Director: HaoEn Hu
Stage Manager: Bekah Brown
Photos by T. Charles Erickson.
Robert Lee Hart
Ilia Isorelýs Paulino
John Evans Reese
Jackeline Torres Cortés
Jillian Emerson – Cello
Nate Huvard – Guitars/Banjo
Dan Pardo – Piano/Celeste/Concertina/Melodica
Some press about ALICE
"Filtering the adventures of Alice through Waits and Brennan’s Beat carnival sensibility provides a curious and delicious oddity not to be missed. Then filter those songs through arrangements by music director Dan Pardo as sung by some fine voices from the Yale School of Drama that lend them the heft and glow of opera and Broadway and that indeed should be attraction enough.” –Donald Brown, New Haven Review