You’ve bought your ticket to A Christmas Carol the Musical, found your seat, and settled in for an hour of entertainment. The lights dim and a hush falls over the audience. The first thing your senses pick up? The sweet, melodic tones of the vibraphone, punctuated by bell chimes. You immediately know this is going to be a light-hearted, magical journey to another time, and you are pulled into the story as the curtains rise.
For Michael Sgouros, composer and owner of the Players Theatre in the West Village, NYC, telling a story begins with sound.
“The instrumentation and music we use to accompany our musical productions are chosen for their ability to tell a story—sleighbells for winter, tubular chimes for Big Ben. Instantly you know you are in London during wintertime.”
A Christmas Carol the Musical, written by Brenda Bell and composed by Michael, is currently running at the Players Theatre. It is one of 13 productions Michael and Brenda have created together over the years. Brenda writes the scripts and Michael composes the music, which is written specifically for percussion.
“I always liked that percussion has an infinite number of acoustic timbres—the range is just enormous. You’ve got really tiny instruments to huge instruments, and that’s why, with our shows, we don’t use any electronic instruments. I like the challenge of being able to create things acoustically, using all the percussion instruments to create the sound. In NYC, we’re probably the only theatre that has a house marimba, vibraphone, tympani, and wind machine.”
Michael’s love of percussion began with drum lessons at a local music shop when he was 11 years old. He went on to attend the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, and then Juilliard to study under Elden Chandler “Buster” Bailey, the famed professor and member of the New York Philharmonic. After that, he worked with Ringling Brothers Circus, American Symphony Orchestra, on Broadway, and with Ethos Percussion Group.
“The circus was a lot of fun. Six weeks at Madison Square Garden—I felt like a rockstar. One night a leg fell off the “Globe of Death” with two high-speed motorcycles racing inside. The globe started oscillating toward the band. The sax section ran! I kept playing. The cycles stopped with nobody hurt, including the sax section”.
After touring with Ethos, Michael began his search for a place to call his musical home. He purchased the Player’s Theatre in 2006 and shortly thereafter began working with Brenda Bell whose companies include Be Bold! Theatre and Literally Alive. The two continue to write and compose shows together and were married in January of this year.
When asked what advice Michael might have for aspiring musicians, he said: “One thing I would advise is to always play what you feel you enjoy the most. You should always find what’s interesting about any type of music, and then you’ll do well with it.”
For more information or to see A Christmas Carol the Musical, visit scroogeinthevillage.com