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

By Michael Gioia
28 Jan 2014

Zoe Sarnak

Composer-lyricist Zoe Sarnak's musicals Mixtape (a series of vignettes that track the lifelong friendship between two record-store owners, Thatcher and Louise, and mixes pop, rock and soul tunes with original song) and A Lasting Impression (about two sisters, a composer and a painter, and the young journalist who uncovers their family secrets) were recently seen in concert in New York City. Mixtape was presented in January at 54 Below with Richard H. Blake, Kristy Cates, Mykal Kilgore, Taylor Noble, Zak Resnick and Kacie Sheik. (Listen to "Here to Fix You" from Mixtape, performed here by Sheik.) A Lasting Impression was seen in summer 2013 with Meghann Fahy, Sheik, Tony winner Alice Ripley and Preston Sadleir. (Listen to "Unfold" from Lasting Impression, a favorite of Sarnak's that is performed here by Sheik, Taylor Noble and Allison Case.)

"Let's call it folk/rock/pop/soul/theatre," said Sarnak of her musical style. "That's a Billboard category right?" (Check out "Give Words of Love," performed here as part of the Playbill Video Hot Off the Ivories series with Ghost's Caissie Levy and Taylor Noble; and "Give Me Strength," performed with Godspell's Eric Michael Krop. The songs both exemplify Sarnak's musical theatre influences with traces of folk, rock, pop and soul sounds.) The composer-lyricist, the winner of Pace New Musicals 2012 and the 2013 NJ Playwright's contest, also said that her musicality is influenced by The Beatles. Why? "I think that's because it's a damn good answer," she said. "I also love singer-songwriters like Sara Bareilles, Gavin Degraw, etc. I have a soft spot for Britney [Spears] because of when I grew up. Musical theatre wise, my 'know-every-word' favorites are probably Rent and Hair... though there are so many other shows that are near and dear." (Listen to "The Flame," performed by former Next to Normal actresses Ripley and Emma Hunton, that has a rock feel.)

Sarnak has also written The Quad, which was produced at Harvard University's Loeb Experimental Theatre in 2009 and received the Ann Radcliffe Trust, and PainLess, which she is developing with Michael Kimmel (The Last Goodbye). On her favorite songs, Sarnak said, "As cliché as it might sound, that's like choosing a favorite child. I do have a few songs like 'Unfold' and 'I Had Today' that have special meaning personally. Still, no playing favorites!" (Listen to "I Had Today," performed here by Taylor Noble, Gabe Violett, Krista Pioppi, Emily Kay Shrader and Tim Young.)

Listen to Sarnak's popular song "If Your Child," performed by Spring Awakening's Lauren Pritchard:

Listen to "Unfold," performed by Taylor Noble: