Neil Berg and the Rockin’ Roots of ‘The 12’

Neil Berg. Photo by John Moore.

Composer and co-lyricist Neil Berg traces his interest in musicals to an unlikely origin: seeing Annie on Broadway as a boy. “While everyone else loved ‘Tomorrow,’ ” he remembers, “I loved ‘Maybe,’ her ‘I Want’ song.” In an “I Want” song, the protagonist expresses her dreams (e.g. “Annie wants parents”). It’s telling that the budding composer was interested in the song that sets the entire play in motion. Prologue spoke with Neil during rehearsals for THE 12, the rock musical he created with book writer/co-lyricist Robert Schenkkan.

“From the time I could play the piano, around 9 or 10 [I was writing musicals]. I was the youngest of three and rock ‘n roll was what I grew up listening to. From my brother I got The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My sister was into folk — Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul and Mary. And my mother and father were into classical, jazz and opera. Being the youngest, it all trickled down. When I came into my own, I was into the classic rock movement. My favorite albums were all those rock operas — The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ and Genesis’ ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,’ but my very favorite was probably Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall.'”- Neil Berg

To read the full interview by Douglas Langworthy and to see clips of the Denver production of THE 12, click here.

4 Stars to THE 12 by Neil Berg at the Denver Center

The cast brings a vigor and inspired diversity of voices to "The 12."

“Something visceral and vivid is taking place at the Denver Center, where the musical THE 12 is receiving its world premiere.  Robert Schenkkan wrote the book and Neil Berg the music. The two share credit for the lyrics of this boldly compassionate work that imagines the disciples’ very human angst in the hours after their teacher was executed.  Let there be long shadows. Let there be anguish and suspicion. Let there be deep fear and hard-wrought faith. So might go the promise of this beautifully performed work.”

Reviewer Lisa Kennedy gives THE 12, a musical explaining the anguish-filled moments after the Disciples learn what has happened to Jesus, a 4-star rating.

To read the full raving review, or to learn more about ticket information and the musical, click HERE.

 

THE WIZ to be NBC’s Next Live-Musical Event, Produced by Cirque-du-Soleil

The Wiz 1

NBC has revealed that The Wiz will be the network’s third annual live-musical event. The latest adaptation of the 1974 Broadway show, Book by William F. Brown with Musical and Lyrics by Charles Smalls, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with an all-black cast and a Quincy Jones-produced soundtrack, will be co-produced by Cirque du Soleil’s theatrical division.

After the musical airs live on NBC on December 3rd, the new Wiz will then “Ease on Down the Road” to Broadway with a revival scheduled for the 2016/’17 season.

To read the whole article by Rolling Stone, click HERE.

Neil Berg’s THE 12 to Premiere

THE 12, which premieres at Denver Center Theatre Company March 27–April 26 under Richard Seyd’s direction, began as a concept by composer/lyricist Neil Berg, who initially had the idea of “conflating iconic rock figures with the apostles,” said Robert Schenkkan in a recent phone interview. That specific idea appealed to Schenkkan less than the notion of “both Christianity and rock and roll as revolutionary moments.”

…Traditionally the disciples were said to retreat to an “upper room,” in many accounts the site of what had been their last supper with Jesus, until reports that Jesus’s tomb was empty—and that some in the group had seen and spoken with their slain leader—began to spread.

“Essentially, they’re hiding out, but 72 hours later they leave the room having somehow overcome their terror and their grief, their sense of betrayal, ready to preach a whole new doctrine,” said Schenkkan.

So what happened in the interim? Given that Jesus is not listed as a character in the playbill, we can assume that Berg and Schenkkan’s answer is not the obvious reverential one. But, as Schenkkan explained, there are sound dramaturgical and even theological reasons to leave the purported grave-break offstage.

To read more about THE 12, please visit the American Theatre’s article: http://www.americantheatre.org/2015/03/13/what-would-jesuss-disciples-do-in-new-musical-the-12-they-rock-out/.

Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan.