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Dynamic Duo

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Creators & Besties Drew Gasparini & Alex Brightman Talk Laughing 'Til You Cry, Writing Musicals, & #FriendshipPride

March 10th, 2017 by

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story Creators & Besties Drew Gaspar...

Composer and lyricist Drew Gasparini & Tony nominee Alex Brightman (creators of the musicals Make Me Bad and The Whipping Boy and half of the comedy collective The (M)orons) debut their new musical adaptation of It’s Kind of a Funny Story at Feinstein’s/54 Below on March 20. The show, which stars Broadway’s Bryce Pinkham, Ann Harada, Colton Ryan, Molly Hager & more, is billed as a musical about the simpler things in life: anxiety, depression, and possible insanity. In anticipation, BroadwayBox caught up with Drew & Alex to hear from them about creating together, a friendship born over 3:30 AM karaoke, and much, much more.

Drew Gasparini & Alex Brightman- Kind of a Funny Story Musical- Interview


My first impression of him:

Drew:
I had been watching Brighty in YouTube vids as a fan for a few years before I met him in person.  In person, he surpassed any expectation.  What a heartthrob.  He had wit like a young Phyllis Diller and an ass like Marlon Brando. 

Alex:
When I first met Drew, he was walking the streets. A poor orphan boy of eight with the back hair of a sixty-five-year-old baboon. Me, an upper-crust fuddy duddy, strutting flamboyantly through Times Square. "Sir, may I ask of you a favor?" I doffed my cap and asked, "What can I do for you, my hirsute lad?" I assumed money, shelter, a shave and a shower. But I was wrong. All he wanted was a few moments at a piano and nice glass of warm rain water. I took him to the nearest piano bar and sat him down. And then he played. He played. Perhaps you have heard the sounds of the average piano. Perhaps. But weep? Have you ever heard a piano weep? You haven't. Because you weren't there on that cold, cold, sweltering hot day in June. You weren't. This boy, no no, this hairy genius changed my life that day. Since that day, we have been inseparable. And he's still just as hairy.


The moment I knew we’d have a special connection:

Drew:
The first time we ever hung out (almost 6 year ago to the day) was when I knew it was a lifelong partnership.  We went out for Mexican food, we laughed way too much, we began drinking, we ended up drinking way too much, and like the ending to most great dates, we wound up cracking each other up in a private karaoke booth singing Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" til about 3:30 AM.  Every bit of this story is true, and I immediately felt that we had a connection and would be pals.

Alex:
If you ask anyone that hangs out with us, they will tell you that Drew and I have a secret language. I have never laughed harder with a human about dumber sh*t. We are absolute enablers of each other's comedy and I'm totally okay with that. There isn't a specific moment that I can point to that relates to our special connection, I just know that perhaps we were separated at birth. It happens all the time at hospitals or so I just made up. But I'm happy for the mix-up, because we know each other now and we're both better for it.


If I had to describe our collaborative process in three words:

Drew:
Connected, communicative, electric.

Alex:
Outrageous, crash-helmet, calculating.


My favorite moment creating It’s Kind of a Funny Story:

Drew:
Alex and I were in Bloomington, Indiana working on one of our other musicals, Make Me Bad, when we got word that Universal green-lit our treatment for ...Funny Story. So, before any actual writing was done on draft one, my favorite part was just knowing that Universal trusted us enough with this material to do a good job.  The writing is where we have the most fun, but my favorite moment was hearing officially that we were being asked to do this.

Alex:
My favorite moment about creating any of our projects is discussing the visuals. We are very visual dudes and we love to dream big about what the show will look like. It's Kind Of A Funny Story is full of whimsical and fascinating visuals, the way we see it. One of the things Drew and I love doing is talking big, and dreaming bigger.


Moment that was most challenging in adapting this story:

Drew:
I think the most challenging moments for us are brought on by the fact that we are adapting both the Ned Vizzini novel AND the film into one cohesive musical. So, creating our own content while figuring out what works from the other two versions creates a lot of back and forth and page flipping.  But even so, it doesn't seem like a challenge because I get to work these problems out with my best buddy. 

Alex:
This show is an adaptation of a novel and a movie. Our job with the musical adaptation is to tell this incredible story in a way that can only be told on stage. In the process of adapting the story, we had to cut a couple things that we loved from the book and the movie. We miss those moments, and perhaps they will return, but having to cut the moments we love will continues to be the most challenging things about this process. 


 I think the most we’ve ever laughed together was when:

Drew:
Every time we are together.  Ask anyone who knows us.  I don't think there has been a time when Brighty and I don't eventually fall apart laughing through tears.  All we do is "yes and" one another.  It gets insane but it keeps us wildly entertained.

Alex:
Oh lord. This is a tough one. I'm just going to pick one. And you're not going to understand it. But let's just say it involves a Steven Tyler impression, a perfect light and music cue, and a lyric about a walnut. Feel free to weave your own story. But I will tell you this...any time one of us brings this up, we laugh ourselves to big gross tears.


Moment I’ve felt most proud of him:

Drew:
I'm literally proud of everything he does, but there was one moment that left me basically speechless I was so proud: before any Tony nomination, before School of Rock even opened on Broadway, I think I was most proud of Alex when I watched him make his debut as Dewey Finn in School of Rock at the Gramercy Theater, pre-Broadway.  I watched Alex go in for the callbacks for the show but getting to watch him be a huge part of the success of that show, and to see him so deserving and so ready to take on something like creating such a BIG role in such a BIG show.... it was overwhelming.  One of my favorite NYC memories was seeing that performance. 

Alex:
There are tons of moments where I am full of pride for my good buddy. But I would have to say that I am most proud when I see him in his element. And his element is on stage, playing his own tunes, with his fantastic audiences. I honestly can't believe how hard he works. It's mind-bending sh*t. I'm proud to even be associated with him in any fashion, and I can't believe that I have tricked him thus far to work with me. I'm most proud when his hard work pays off. The smile on his face when he's at his piano or behind his guitar and the audience is going nuts. That smile should be on greeting cards.


I’m in awe of his ability to:

Drew:
Everyone knows Brighty is one of hell of an actor, one of the best in our business for sure, but what people are starting to learn is that Alex can write the absolute hell out of a script.  He may be one of the best actors in our community, but he is EASILY one of the best writers out there as well.  From his own standup material, to TV show concepts in any genre, to writing books for musicals in any genre.  He is well-versed, versatile, and has more words to use than he knows what to do with.  I'm glad people are starting to see him as a writer as well as an actor.  He's equal parts amazing in both fields. 

Alex:
Drew's ability to write song after song is absolutely ludicrous. I believe he wrote something like 200,000 songs last year. I was around for at least 100,000 of them and I still can't believe it. I don't know when he sleeps. I don't know when he pees. I definitely know when he poops because he texts me about it. But the dude is a non-stop songwriting machine with no off button.


My favorite moment in It’s Kind of a Funny Story so far:

Drew:
The opening sequence.  From the song to the scene, it's such an epic intro to the world this show lives in.  Not to toot our own horns too hard right now, but I really feel like Brighty and I nailed it with this one. 

Alex:
Right now, my favorite moment in the show is the very first moment. The curtain rises, we hear far-away noises of New York City, the curtain continues to rise, we see the Brooklyn Bridge, the curtain continues to rise, and suddenly we see a seventeen-year-old kid standing dangerously on the safety rail. He takes one foot off of the rail, panics, and then puts it back down. He looks down at the frigid water below. And then he looks straight at the audience and says, "It's so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself." And then blast into the entire show. Thinking about that visual being fully realized in a production gives me so many chills.


Fictional character that reminds me most of him:

Drew:
Alex is the Artful Dodger.  Not because he's a thief, but because he looks adorable in a top hat.

Alex:
Drew is a mix between George Costanza, Kramer, and Jerry Seinfeld. There's even some Elaine in there. He's like the show, Seinfeld became a person.

Don't miss Drew & Alex's debut of their musical 'It’s Kind of a Funny Story' at 54 on March 20.