They say it takes a village to raise a child. You know what else takes a village? Producing a concert. Which is kind of an appropriate comparison, given the fact that wrangling a show to life on stage, in the moment of wrangling, feels very much like corralling a dearly-loved but extremely rambunctious and stubborn toddler into a snowsuit.
If you’re us, that village includes a co-producer who knows literally everything (including how to talk you off a ledge six times a day), a director who knows basically everyone and is so hot he makes you feel more attractive by osmosis, and a music director who is a literal genius and has some of the world’s most ridiculously talented musicians for friends. It also includes a passel of actors who are more generous than you have any right to expect, and smarter, more talented, and more charming than anyone has a right to be.
In the days leading up to Feels Like the First Time it honestly felt like I’d never done anything so stressful in my entire life. That’s maybe untrue. I was pretty stressed when I graduated college and still didn’t have a job, or more than $200 to my name. I routinely juggle multiple projects for Fortune 500 clients at once while still trying to keep this website alive, and occasionally do boneheaded things like staying out until 4 am the morning of the biggest creative pitch meeting of my life, but shh, don’t tell my boss.
Maybe it’s just that this was a whole new kind of stress. And every time we turned around, every time we solved one problem, there was another waiting for us.
Found someone you trust who knows all the things about concert producing? Sweet. Now you need a director. Score someone who gets your vision — and even enhances it — to direct your show? Wonderful. Now you need a music director. Find someone ridiculously talented who loves your idea and has the time to arrange and make charts for all the songs? Great. Now you need a venue. And a date that doesn’t conflict with the team’s schedule, or too many of the other 10,000 cabaret concerts happening in the city of New York on any given night. And then you need a band. And a cast of brilliant, compelling actors who all also happen to be free for the days surrounding your concert so they can be in your show and rehearse and stuff and things. And who don’t get called away last minute for pilot season.
And even once all that is set, there’s like… questions about how to set the instruments up on the stage. And transporting heavy, expensive synthesizers, and worst of all, selling tickets, which can be really, really hard. You better pray it doesn’t snow. And don’t forget to print big set lists before the show, not just for your musicians, but for the lighting designer and the booth crew and your MC who like… needs to know what’s happening when. Because if you do, you’ll end up running around Greenwich Village at 4:30 pm with your big over-styled hair and sparkly evening makeup, buying a notebook, and a sharpie, and finding a place to make copies all looking like you’re on an extremely crazed walk of shame. People will stare.
But if you’re lucky. Really, really lucky — and we so were — those amazing people who agreed to help you put on your show will, at the moments you most need them, pick up the ball you feel like you’re about to drop and sprint it across the goal line. Your director will take a cast of relative strangers and make them feel like a team. Your music director will fill the room with music so lush you can hardly stand it. Your MC will be so pitch-perfect, so off-the-cuff and hilarious and quick on his toes that you can’t imagine the night without him. And you.
You will sit down at the back — all the questions finally answered, the show finally a real thing happening before you — and you will cry. Because each and every person who sets foot on that stage will knock it out of the park. They will tell stories that make you laugh and cry, and sing songs that tear at your heartstrings or blow your mind. They will take risks, like accompanying themselves on piano in public for the first time, or confessing about a terrible date. And they will do it all with grace and aplomb and more fucking talent than you can even possibly imagine having. They will chat with you about YA novels one minute and then get up on stage and turn on some superhuman light within, and become this other thing, this super-elite artist at the very top of their game, with heart and vulnerability and enough star power to keep the world spinning. They will make sly Grindr jokes and you will almost die of happiness.
And in those moments, when the show is so perfectly yours — so perfectly the thing you’ve dreamt of for years — and so perfectly not yours at all, because it belongs to the audience now, and the universe, too, so much bigger than you could ever be… all that stress will have been worthwhile.
Feels Like the First Time was a dream come true for us. The generosity of our team, from co-producer Katie Riegel, director Colin Hanlon, and music director Stephen Oremus, through each and every musician and actor who gave us some of their precious time, was deeply incredible. We helped a sweet little boy and his family weather a really shitty time in their lives, and we put on a great show to boot.
Every time Lucky and I look back at the show, we have a new favorite moment, a new favorite song. When you work with that many stars, it’s kind of impossible for every moment not to be incredible. The very minute we have video, we’ll be shouting about it from the rooftops. But for now, at least, here’s an album of fucking gorgeous pictures of gorgeous people to click through to get a taste of that glorious night.
And thank you. To anyone who helped us — whether it was talking us through something or putting programs on all the tables. To all of the brilliant people who were a part of our show. And to anyone who found the time to come by and cheer those stars on. You are all rock stars. Or Broadway stars. Or both! Like Billie Joe Armstrong.
ps. Shoutout to our ridiculous, ridiculous band. Without them none of this would have been nearly as gloriously beautiful: Mat Fieldes, Jake Schwartz, Allison Seidner, Gary Seligson, Adam Souza and Hiroko Taguchi.