Tag Archives: “Dogfight

Paul And Pasek: “The Youngest Old Souls On Broadway”

With Dogfight — their off-Broadway musical debut — getting largely positive reviews*, Staples grad Justin Paul and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek are already looking ahead.

And with A Christmas Story, The Musical! headed for Broadway in 3 months, they’re generating plenty of buzz themselves.

Yesterday, the New York Observer took note. In a long story headlined “The Youngest Old Souls on Broadway: Dogfight Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hit the Big Time,” Harry Huan introduced the still-just-27 duo as Perhaps The Next Big Thing.

Benj Pasek, Peter Duchan and Justin Paul (at Justin’s wedding).

Among the highlights:

Whether Pasek & Paul become this millennium’s Lerner & Loewe remains to be seen, but they are on the right track and coming at a respectable speed out of the University of Michigan’s theater department, old school ties flapping in the wind.

“We developed an appreciation for all those classic musicals and began to really analyze them and try to figure out what made them so great,” Mr. Paul explained. “Not that we write in their style necessarily, but we understand their craft.”

Two-time Tony winning director Joe Montello said, “It has been so exciting to collaborate with three people (Staples grad Peter Duchan wrote the book) who are at the very beginning of their careers. Their enthusiasm, their optimism—infectious!”

Godspell‘s Lindsay Mendez added, “It’s unbelievable to be able to debut a score of this caliber. Every song is so unique and special and fits the moment so perfectly. It’s a dream to get to sing their stuff.”

As for A Christmas Story, actor John Bolton praises, “I genuinely believe this score that they’ve written is not just a serviceable score for a contemporary holiday show, but I believe it to be a classic American score.”

Dogfight ends its run at Second Stage Theater August 19. A Christmas Story opens November 19 at the Lunt-Fontanne.

There’s still time to get tickets for both.

*(Except for some idiot from the New York Post.)

(To read the entire New York Observer piece, click here.)

Peter And Justin’s “Dogfight”

Peter Duchan and Justin Paul met at Coleytown Middle School. Peter was a big 8th grader, Justin a lowly 6th, but both were cast in “Peter Pan” and became friends.

The friendship blossomed through the Staples High School arts program. In 2001 — toward the end of his senior year — Peter thought it would be great if, at their final concert, the choir could sing a song he’d written.

The only problem, he says, was that he couldn’t write music.

But Justin had grown up around gospel songs. Peter said he’d write the words if Justin would take care of the actual notes.

“When Justin sits down at the piano, fun stuff happens,” Peter explains.

Justin wrote what Peter calls “a fantastic, upbeat song. My words were really not good, but that was secondary to the sound of the music.” (He advises ignoring the title: “Variations on Themes of Sorrow.”)

“It was different from the other stuff we did,” Peter recalls. With choral director Alice Lipson cheering them on, the choir loved it.

Peter did not know it then, but that was the first song Justin ever wrote.

It was far from his last.

(From left) Benj Pasek, Peter Duchan and Justin Paul — at Justin’s wedding.

At the University of Michigan, Justin met Benj Pasek. They became songwriting partners, collaborating on projects like the song cycle “Edges,” and the upcoming “A Christmas Story: The Musical!”

Pasek & Paul won a Sundance Institute Fellowship, and the 2007 Jonathan Larson Award.

Peter, meanwhile, graduated from Northwestern University. He co-wrote the screenplay for IFC Films’ “Breaking Upwards” and “Unlocked,” an Official Selection of the Tribeca Film Festival, among others.

In New York, Peter pitched plenty of ideas to Pasek & Paul. Nothing clicked.

Finally, more than 4 years ago, Peter suggested a musical version of “Dogfight.”

The Warner Brothers film, set in 1960s San Francisco, follows Eddie Birdlace, a Marine about to ship out to Vietnam. He and his friends hold a cruel competition — a “dogfight” – during which each man brings the ugliest date he can find to a party.

Justin and Benj’s agent helped obtain rights to the material. Throughout 2009 the duo worked on the music and lyrics. Peter wrote the book. The 1st workshop took place at the end of that year.

Finally — though this is not a long time frame for a musical — the show is in previews. It opens July 16th, at Second Stage Theatre in New York.

This period right before opening night is “nerve-wracking,” Peter admits. They’re still making minor tweaks, but soon the critics — and audiences — will have their say.

“Justin and Benj’s songs really push the show forward,” Peter praises.

But the show would be nothing without its book. Story, dialogue, structure — that’s all Peter’s work.

None of it would have happened, though, if Peter had not kept suggesting ideas to his friends, until one clicked.

Which in itself would not have happened, if Peter and Justin had not met on the set of a Coleytown Middle School production of “Peter Pan.”

Click below for a YouTube video of the first “Dogfight” rehearsal at Second Stage Theatre: