Like a Hollywood movie
New play by young couple voted audience favorite
By Jerry Tallmer
Dear Monty David Singer:
Let me tell you something about your mommy. Youre only five-months-old now, and probably not quite ready to see the Off-Broadway musical at the Variety Arts that your mother, Melissa Levis, wrote with David Weinstein. It began life as an Off-Off-Broadway revue in last years Fringe Festival a big, big little hit and do you know how your mommy did her research for it?
She spent a year reading the sex letters in Penthouse magazines Forum section.
The show is The Joys of Sex, entering previews this Friday, April 9, toward its May 12 opening, and let us now allow Monty David Singer, son of Melissa Levis (Singer) and realtor Ben Singer, to concentrate on his crib mobile, while we meet none other than his mommy herself, who wrote all those naughty lyrics, and David Weinstein, who wrote the music they jointly wrote the book sitting side by side at a rehearsal break in a large white room, beaming like a couple of cats that licked the cream.
The way this show began, she says, is first came the title, and then came the piano, and then came David.
I was taking this class for an MFA at NYU a class in producing, conducted by Margo Lion, the conceiving producer of Hairspray. She told us: You have to be realistic about the economics. You dont write for a cast of 20. You write for a small cast, a small set. Look at little shows like Forever Plaid or I Love You, Youre Perfect or Nunsense.
So, Melissa Levis says, I woke up one morning, thinking: Forever Plaid, that was about the 50s and nostalgia, I Love You, Youre Perfect is about dating, Nunsense was about religion. What subject can be funny and universal?
And the answer came: Sex!
When she received that MFA she went out and bought herself a piano.
At that time I was given the opportunity to write some songs on spec for Fox, and I met this guy who could write music, and hired him for $300, and he said: For what you pay me I could be flipping burgers at McDonalds, and he split.
So then I remembered David, whom Id met through friends . . .
David Weinstein now pipes up. I was working at MTI, he says. Music Theater International, doing arrangements and orchestrations, and working with musicians who were condensing classic musicals . . .
. . . and I called David and said: Ill pay you anything, and he said: Dont pay me, just buy me dinner, and we went and had an $18 Japanese dinner at East, and that night I propositioned David . . .
. . . about writing a show . . .
I said: David, did you ever do a three-way?
And. says Weinstein, boyishly, bashfully, I said: Of course.
He lied, says Ms. Levis.
I lied, says David Weinstein. I wanted to be a nice guy.
But Ive come to realize, says Ms. Levis, that writing songs together is a lot like having sex together. Now David and I are like . . .
Laurel and Hardy? he throws in.
Odysseus and Penelope?
No! Like Carole Lombard and . . . and . . .
John Barrymore, a helpful journalist supplies.
David and I are now working on our next show, which will have a cast of 20. Its taken from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Want to hear the working title? Ithaca, Gods, and Greeks, Oh Troy. What do you think of it?
The journalist stares out the window. Except the room doesnt have any windows.
Well, were working on the title. The Joys of Sex is a lot catchier, isnt it?
Anyway, I applied to the Fringe in January of 2002, and got in in May. We were booked for five performances at the 14th Street Y, were held over for two more, and it was cool because out of 195 shows in the festival we were voted Audience Favorite, and our Jeremy Dobrish was named Best Director.
Whats even cooler is that on the Friday night a member of the audience was Ben Sprecher, producer/owner of the Variety Arts, Third Avenue just below 14th Street.
His partner Bill Miller had come on the Wednesday and sent Ben on the Friday. It was like a Hollywood movie. He stuck out his hand with a card in it, and said: Kid, you wrote a hit, and Im gonna produce it!
Also greatly helping in the genesis of that hit, shed like it known, are my best friend Beth Saulnier, whos worked on the dialogue, and our dramaturg Julie Kramer. The four actor/singers are Ron Bohmer, David Josefsberg, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and Jenelle Lynn Randall.
Melissa Levis was born January 19, 1970, in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in Manchester, Vermont, where her mother and psychiatrist father own and operate the Wilberton Inn.
So I was always performing, putting on shows. The innkeepers daughter.
David Weinstein was born April 17, 1975, in Riverdale, and grew up in Spring Valley, New York a pretty good suburban childhood, always banging on drums and on an old piano handed down from my great-grandmother.
When he was just horsing around before a school talent show, a music teacher asked him: Can you do something else? David sat down at the piano and, just like that, made up a song that came pouring out.
The Joys of Sex is now whats called a book musical, its two young men and two young women play various diffident, wild, repressed, macho, nerdy, etc., etc., types, and the song titles include I Need It Bad, O No, Should I? Shouldnt I?, Intercourse, One-Night Stand, The First Time, and, of course, The Three-Way.
Hey, you there Melissa, David what was your own first time?
Come and see the show! she says.
Ill just say that my first time is in that song, Weinstein says.
Me? says Ms. Levis. Oh, Im boring. Freshman year in college. Its in the song too.
Shed like to note that whereas The Vagina Monologues is essentially a political enterprise, our show is fun, and people do open up.
I think people see our show and go home and have a wonderful romp, says Melissa Levis.
Monty David Singer, its time for your nap