Backstage Pass Newsletter | November 2019

Meet Daniel Mertzlufft!

Q&A with the Composer for Construction Site on Christmas Night

Ella Sobel, Bay Area Children's Theatre Student Leadership Team Member, sits down with Composer Daniel Mertzlfft and talks about inspiration, influences and choices.

Ella:  Could you say your name and your title?

Dan:  I'm Daniel and my last name is Mertzlufft. I am a composer, music director, arranger, all sorts of things!

Tell me about an experience you had as a child in theater that influenced or inspired you.

I very distinctly remember when I was in seventh grade and the first time I ever heard “Seasons of Love” from Rent. I had been in musicals in elementary school, but they were little half-hour shows that were very nice and cute--I enjoyed the experience, but the music was always “OK.” And to hear that (“Seasons of Love”) I realized this is incredible--it is moving, the singers are incredibly talented . . . and it is so well written, and I just remember listening to that over, and over and over, and finding the original Broadway cast and comparing the movie cast. That was the first time that I heard what professional musical theatre could be. And I’ve just been going ever since.

Why choose theater instead of sports?

I played sports, so I don't think one is better, although clearly I chose theater. You know I think both are really important, but I think theater provides something different . . . . I guess I feel like theater allows you to talk about emotions and talk about things that sometimes are difficult to talk about, and it allows us a place to be able to talk about those things and express our emotions.

If there were one person in the theatre world with whom you could sit down and have a cup of tea, who would it be, why, and what would your first question to that person be?

This is so hard . . . there's a million different ways, and I think it would depend on the day, but it would have to be Stephen Sondheim, just because I think he is the most prolific composer in the craft and he appreciates the craft . . . . All of his rhymes are perfect--he talks about that: “Do you know what a perfect rhyme is?” He loves the craft and also loves teaching, and I would love to just sit down with him. My first question would be, I just want to hear everything about West Side Story, like everything about West Side Story! What was that process like? I can't even imagine being in that room, and I’ve watched a million interviews, but to be able to sit with him and ask and actually chat. Although, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I’d be able to talk. I feel like I would just be staring at him and just start crying. Steven Sondheim, yah, but also Patty Lupone--that would be the other one I would do. But I feel like with Sondheim I would want to talk about craft and writing. I like that you say have a cup of tea because that is really what I want to do with Patty Lupone, “Just tell me, like, all of the gossip.” But Steven Sondheim first and then Patty Lupone.

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