SYMPATHY JONES: The New Secret Agent Musical

 
 

Case History

AUTHORS' NOTE

Our secret agent musical began its life in the summer of 2004. The world of spy movies and TV shows struck Masi (composer/lyricist) as a great inspiration for a new musical, with its rich tradition of jazzy underscores, TV theme songs, and title tracks featuring singers like the great Shirley Bassey (to whom we pay homage with the song “Time Will Tell”). Wouldn’t it be fun to have a 1960s-era secret agent musical starring a female agent? After sketching out several characters and a few songs, including Sympathy’s I Want number and theme song “Every Day/Super Secret Agent,” Masi put out a desperate call for bookwriter recommendations. A mutual friend, the wonderful bookwriter/lyricist and novelist Ben Winters, introduced Masi and Brooke (bookwriter), and our work began in earnest.

The show has gone through many changes over the years. From early drafts presented in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop to our world premiere production in September 2007 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, to the high school premiere production in 2009 to more revisions in Stephen Schwartz’s ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in 2010 … there have been so many drafts! Characters were added, characters were cut, characters were renamed and reshaped. Songs were written, revised, replaced, and even spliced into scenes. The inexperienced agent Henry Greene got a lot of attention—you’d never believe how much thought went into his role in the manly spy trio “Get Your Gun.” And who would have guessed Kitty Hawk would go through so many villain songs before we finally thought to give her a rousing back-up chorus of henchmen in “Don’t Cross Kitty.”

One thing that was especially fun was figuring out how to take a genre that exists mainly on film and TV and make it work for the stage. For example, there is always the tech guy—think of Q in James Bond—who sets up the hero with cool new gadgets. In the movies, we get to see how these gadgets work through close-ups or special effects like X-ray vision. How would we make this work onstage? We decided to replace the gadgets technician with a combination gadgets/ fashion designer in Sympathy’s friend Caprice, who sings “Technical Disguise.” This way, our heroine’s spy gear could be larger (easier to see onstage) and more theatrical, but still stylish, of course! It’s also kind of tricky to have a speed boat or car chase onstage. But we found that a number where Sympathy and Henry are breaking into Kitty’s compound while dodging S.C.R.A.T.C.H. agents, “Think Fast,” works well in a vaudeville-meets-video-game kind of way. The number has been staged with hula hoops, ropes, electrical tape, and hand-held signs, and it works every time.


Our new studio cast album, Selections from SYMPATHY JONES, represents about two-thirds of the music in the actual show. In addition to the songs noted above, it includes two of the most beloved and oft-requested tunes from the show—the soft-shoe number for Kitty and her henchman Tick Tock, “If I Didn’t Have You;” and “A Story,” Sympathy’s big second act ballad, sung beautifully as ever here by our leading lady Kate Shindle. It also includes numbers that we have long wished to record fully, such as the Sympathy/Henry duet “You Don’t Have A Clue” and the epic first act finale “Before It’s Too Late.” If you want to hear the rest of the songs in the show, well, you’ll just have to put on a production! We’re delighted that the release of this album coincides with the publication of the musical by Playscripts, the company that also handles licensing for the show: www.playscripts.com.

It's been a considerable undertaking, but we are so excited that SYMPATHY has found her way and the show is now ready to be enjoyed by listeners and audiences around the world. Over the years, we have had the privilege of working with loads of amazing people who contributed their talents to the many readings, workshops, productions, and demo recordings that were instrumental in the show's development. We want to extend our sincere thanks to all of the wonderful artists who helped us develop the show. And to our generous supporters, including the extraordinary actors and musicians who contributed their artistry to this indie recording—especially our fantastic orchestrator and music supervisor Jason Loffredo—we can’t thank you enough.

As you listen to these songs and look through this site, we hope you enjoy meeting the colorful secret agents and conniving villains of our 1960s spy world as much as we enjoyed creating them. And we hope you’ll stay in touch! You can always drop us a line at facebook.com/sympathyjones or tweet @sympathyjones. We look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy!

The Authors