David Nehls, the music and lyric creator of BREACH, is bringing something new to your typical rock-musical. What that is, nobody can be sure because the world premiere is just around the corner. What we do know is that with a track record like his (he was the man responsible for The Great American Trailer Park Musical), an awesome team of musicians, and other Denver heavy hitters like Nick Sugar and Amanda Earls, he could show us a musical called, Killer Wigs from Outer Space and we’d eat it up…oh wait, that is his next project and we’re already chomping at the bit to know more. But back to the topic at hand, we caught up with Nehls to talk about Breach and just him in general.
303 Magazine: What brought you into music and specifically musical theatre?
David Nehls: I don’t know. When I was a kid, I started playing the piano at the age of 4. I think it’s because my sisters were taking piano lessons and I kind of got jealous. So I started playing on my own by ear because I was over them. Then, at the age of 6, I started taking formal lessons.
As for theatre, I don’t know either. It’s always been something I was sort of obsessed and fascinated by. Then when I went to college I was a piano performance major and got cast in my 1st semester in a children’s theatre play. So then I was like, “this is stupid” and changed my major.
303 Magazine: What was your first big break out of college?
David Nehls: Well, I was really lucky because I went right from college to working in the Washington, D.C. theatre scene. So I did a lot of dinner theatres and small theatres. Then in 1998, I was cast in the national tour of Me and My Girl, so I guess that was my big break…
303: So on to Breach, where did it stem from?
DN: It’s weird because both Michael Domitrovich and I were commissioned by a producer in New York named Susan Vargo. She wanted us to write this two character rock musical and not a lot happened right away. I’d say maybe like five songs were written when I came on board in 2006. Nothing really transpired until 2008, I was in Florida and I took the script down with me and I don’t know why but I happened to have it on me. And while I was there I just got it. I knew what it was and what its voice was, and I just started writing it. All the songs came out that fall. I called up Michael and we workshopped it in New York in 2009. It went terrifically but then our producer got pregnant and the story ends there. (Laughs)
303: How did the process differ from GATPM?
DN: Completely night and day. Trailer Park came from my own head. It was weird because from started from my head and it wound up being this perfect blend of the two of us (Betsy Kelso). Breach was totally a job for hire and Michael and I have only been in the same room, maybe twice while writing this thing. I think it will show, but I think it’s appropriate for this piece because it’s definately a play with music. It was a completely different experience. Also, Trailer Park was a lot more laughing because it’s a laugh out loud comedy but Breach, it takes itself a little more seriously.
303: What were some of the biggest challenges in creating Breach?
DN: Well, deciding what it was. At first we thought it would be what it is now, but I went through this period where I thought, “maybe it should be an opera.” (Laughs) Which is a dumb idea. Having two people sing constantly for an entire evening is not smart and I think that was the biggest challenge, what is this? That and making something that is about music, musical without being gross. The male character is a typical guy you find in the music industry and how do you make him have a voice? How do you justify him singing, and that’s been really tough but I think we cracked that just this week.
303: So, why now?
DN: It seemed like the right time. I called Michael last summer and asked if he had a new copy of the script. I had been doing theatre out here for 8 years and I’m starting to get really embroiled in the theatre scene. It was around the time we were teching for Hedwig and I went, “this is the theatre for Breach.” So I contacted him and he was like, “Yeah, let’s see what we can do.” We are both a little burned out with New York, not saying this shouldn’t be in New York but getting a show up in this enconomy is difficult. It just kind of burns you out. So having a production here in Denver, is much more attractive to us.
303: So what are your expectations for Breach?
DN: My expectation is that it can now have a life. Now it’s got a production, it’s been branded a bit and now hopefully we can get a licensing company on board and have it licensed in other regional theatres.
303: What do you thinks sets Breach apart from other rock-musicals?
DN: The script. The dialogue is so different from anything we’ve seen on stage. And I think the music while it isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, I’m specifically writing things in the style of pop stars of today. So like Pink, Paramore, Avril Lavigne, Skunkanansie. I’m trying to keep it very rooted in the music scene as opposed to writing a musical. A lot of rock-musicals, still are musicals and they still sing their thoughts. With Breach they are performance songs or they’re writing as they’re singing, it’s a lot less theatrical.
303: I like that concept.
DN: And you know we’ll see if other people do too. The audience that this has been in before was only that workshop audience in 2009, and it was a tough audience but they all loved it. Now this is gonna be in front of people who are paying for their seat.
303: So when David Nehls is not working, what are you doing?
DN: I’m drinking Stranahans. (Laughs) Just kidding. I don’t think I know how to relax anymore because when I do have a night off I lay in front of the television with my dog. Which I think is lame, normally I would go see a movie or go listen to bands. But I think it’s cause we have a dog now. You care about the dog so you want to go home and be with them. +
Breach tells the story of Joanne Donetti, a singer-songwriter from Long Island….here we’ll just let you read for yourselves:
“Joanne Donetti is a singer-songwriter from Long Island who performs what she feels and does as she pleases, needing no more recognition than a few free drinks at the end of her wait shift. That is until Lou Valentino, New York record exec and all-around go-getter, happens into her bar on an uneventful evening of scouting and catches her closing number. Lou’s interest in Joanne is her dream come true, but is his adoration for the woman he discovered or the star he wants to create?
Honest, raw, gritty, and surprisingly funny, BREACH examines the agreements we make in a world where both love and fame require a contract. And with music inspired by the likes of Pink, Paramore, and Joan Jett, it puts on one heck of a rock concert in the process.”
Buy your tickets now to see BREACH playing at the Avenue Theater May 6-27, in rep with Hedwig and the Angry Inch (if you see both, you might notice some familiar faces.)
Evolution Theatre Company announces the World Premiere of
A New Rock Musical
Book by Michael Domitrovich
Music and Lyrics by David Nehls
Directed by Nick Sugar