The Pass, a musical by Denise Marsa
October 11, 2019: It was 2016 and I was thinking about my life as a singer-songwriter and how it all started for me. I recalled pretending, at the age of 14, to play piano at my mom’s Art Deco vanity table, singing songs that popped into my head and sometimes writing down the words.
I have sung most of my life, starting as a child performer: in musical theater, in bands, talent shows, choir, you name it, I sang it. I had my first top ten hit record in the UK in my early 20’s, singing the female part in a duet. By this time I had moved to NYC and had taught myself the piano, sneaking into NYU’s practice rooms, teaching myself to play and at the same time I was writing songs. I was playing shows, from Max’s Kansas City, Reno Sweeney’s, to Trax, an Upper West Side Club popular at the time, as well as touring in the UK to promote my hit record. Despite all the exposure, and the adventures that went with it, I was already disgruntled and somewhat disappointed at the music business and all the games, egos and double standards I was facing as a young woman in the music business. I became determined to change this business for the better.
Forty years later, I am still here. With more stories to share than I ever imagined my somewhat naïve and optimistic psyche would be able to digest yet alone remember! My stories are about performances, managers, lawyers, contracts, publishers, producers, dozens of musicians, recording sessions, as well as relationships…family drama…paying the bills, thanks to an array of jobs and learned skills that helps others define me as a Renaissance woman.
In 2017 I performed the first run through of THE PASS, my new show, which is pretty much my life and times told through music and vignettes. This show debuted for a select audience in the salon of Gretchen Cryer, my brilliant mentor. I worked with Gretchen for over a year, developing the script, learning so much about saying more with less words, and about the value of timing. I was totally obsessed with putting my show out there, with getting my music heard; it was something I had to do to validate my life’s work. I define myself as a singer-songwriter; it is my life’s passion. You could say my successes as a songwriter have remained unsung. Sure, I have had publishing deals with Warner Brothers, Warner/Chappell and, most recently, BMG yet my songs are virtually unknown. And I am a good songwriter. Has this been due to bad timing or is it just not in the cards? How much of a role has fate played in my musical career? I’m still looking for that answer.
Back to The Pass–at the beginning of our work together I kept asking Gretchen is there something here, does this show have “legs”? She said everything I wanted and needed to hear, and she meant it. I’ve come to know her as one of the most honest and diligent professionals I have ever worked with. She is a big part of THE PASS.
In 2018 I returned to London, where as a young woman filled with hopes and dreams, I’d experienced my first hit record. For two nights in late September I performed my show at The Playground Theatre in West London. Having never performed it other than at Gretchen’s, I was all in. Much to my relief the reviews were really good–the intention of the show, was understood. I could breathe a little better the next few months. Accomplishment set my blood on fire, made me grateful I had not given up.
The experience of mounting a musical, taking care of the lights, sound effects, projections, was challenging to say the least; however not overwhelming. The day before the show I realized the set consisted of just a table and a microphone; so my niece and I went shopping and got a rug. There was also a beautiful grand piano featured stage left, brilliantly played by my pianist Tracy Stark. It was an amazing experience, I had come full-circle; it was the highlight of my career thus far.
On Tuesday, November 26th Tracy and I are performing THE PASS again at The Revelation Gallery in NYC. It will not be a full production; this is more about keeping the machine oiled and adding a few new songs to replace a few existing ones. Songs do not appear in sequence, the stories do. We urge anyone who wishes to be inspired, to enjoy some good stories and heartfelt music, to come out and support us.
Today is October 11th, 2019 and we have sold two tickets! I wonder how many tickets we will sell and if people will be curious enough to buy a ticket for a show about a virtually unknown singer-songwriter who lives in the West Village? Here is the link to tickets: https://thepassamusical.eventbrite.com. Special free download: THE PASS Medley with every ticket purchased! Please visit www.ThePassMusical.com for more.