Lord Graham Russell (Photo: Denise Truscello via The Broadway Blog.)
One of the most anticipated shows of this summer’s New York Musical Festival is an epic story of love, war and reconciliation. A Wall Apart follows the story of three brothers and three generations in East Berlin as a family and a nation face life in post-World War II Germany. Book writers Craig Clyde and Sam Goldstein sought the musical expertise of Lord Graham Russell, one of the founding members of Air Supply, to bring their story to life. The award-winning musician chatted with The Broadway Blog about the show’s forthcoming premiere.
What is the inspiration for A Wall Apart?
Well, first of all, the synchronicity with what’s happening in the world right now and the story we’re telling is just amazing. I was asked by Craig and Sam if I’d be interested in writing music and lyrics for the story and was immediately taken by the subject matter. I felt attached to it right away. And it felt important — the younger generation doesn’t necessarily know why the wall went up or why it came down.
What has been your involvement in the creative process for the NYMF production?
We initially had a reading in Salt Lake City. It was very low key and we just wanted to make sure we were on the right track, refined the script a bit, etc. I was there for two days of rehearsal last week and it’s been great to see these kids take it on — many of whom weren’t even born when the wall came down in 1989!
Most people aren’t aware that your career began in musical theater.
Yes, I was in Jesus Christ Superstar for 18 months and that’s where I met Russell Hitchcock. I had played on my own in coffee bars and pizza parlors, but meeting him changed everything. We shared the same name, our birthdays are three days apart, and we both loved The Beatles. We’re now in our 42nd year of touring and it just knocks me down every night that we can do what we love.
How have you approached writing the score?
I love writing to a story. People will ask where a song comes from and it has to come from a story in my head. I’m constantly watching people. For a musical, the story’s already there so it’s easier for me to grasp it and propel it forward. It is a different animal.
I’m learning slowly and really enjoying the process. There are so many people involved — the director and other members of the creative team — but sharing in that process gives me more confidence. I’m a believer in the synchronicity. If you take a step forward the universe will give you a couple of steps to help you along.
As far as the story, it’s compelling that the world allowed something like this to happen, a huge country like Germany divided in two – it’s quite a lesson. There’s a danger there and I hope people say, “Whoa!” and recognize what can happen if we don’t learn from history.
A Wall Apart
New York Musical Festival
410 West 42nd Street, NYC
July 25-30, various times
Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor, read more of his writing at wexlerwrites.com.