PLAYBILL PICKS: The Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know, Part Two

By Michael Gioia
16 Oct 2012

Deborah Abramson

Songwriter and musical director Deborah Abramson, a graduate from NYU's Musical Theatre Writing Program, found inspiration from a few of her professors: Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel and Michael John LaChiusa. "I moved through my idolatries and picked up pieces of them, while simultaneously ruling out sounds that I decided I didn't want coming out of my pen anymore," said Abramson, the recipient of The Max Dreyfuss Award through ASCAP. "That process continues. I'm chipping away at the parts I don't like, while trying to open up and agree to satisfy the listener's ear more often. I'd still take a swing at trying to write in just about any style, but it would all surely come out sounding like me — restless, emotional, avoidant, complicated."

Abramson frequently collaborates with lyricist Amanda Yesnowitz. Together they have developed a song cycle entitled While I Wait (check out "Another Day," performed by Spring Awakening and "Glee" actress Lea Michele); and The History of War, the story of a 12-year-old boy who conjures up seven of the most famous tyrants of all time that features a book by Chip Zien and was seen at the 2010 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) (watch "I Will Conquer You" from the musical, performed here by Evita's Max von Essen). She has also composed for Marco Polo, with Peter Mills, and Songs of Innocence and Experience, with William Finn. "I finally got to conduct its New York premiere last winter at the Allen Room," said Abramson about Songs of Innocence. "One of the best nights of my life. Now that's a group of my songs that I would love to have recorded. Lisa Howard recorded one of them on her solo album. She chose the quirkiest one of all, ['How To Make Delicious Chocolate Pudding'], but she delivers gorgeously."

"I want to write songs with other people who get me," added Abramson. "Honestly, my secret fantasy has become that lyricists will start sending me text messages saying, 'I read your Facebook status update this morning and I've already started turning it into a lyric for you to set... In the end, I think I'll be wise enough to simply wish that I am leaving behind songs that will move people to endure, to love, to reconcile, to laugh, to get born." One of Abramson's favorite tunes is a song she wrote by herself for her niece, "Liliana," performed here by Ryah Nixon (9 to 5 national tour).

Listen to "Essential Me" from Songs of Innocence and Experience, performed by Abramson in the initial private demo for Finn:

"The Essential Me"




Listen to "Waiting to be Won" from Marco Polo, performed by Megan McGinnis:

"Waiting To Be Won"