Meet the prolific, in-demand Dallas songwriter you've never heard of
It's one week before the staged reading of his show A Taste of Beauty, and songwriter Adam C. Wright only has five minutes to talk.
Tonight he is accompanying the cast as they rehearse, quietly singing out forgotten cues and gently guiding missed notes. That weekend, he'll begin playing in the band for Uptown Players' Pageant. A week earlier, he was the subject of the weekly cabaret Mama's Party in Grand Prairie, pounding the piano keys while a who's who of DFW musical theater belted out tunes written by Wright and his late partner, Jeff Kinman.
For all he has contributed to the Dallas-Fort Worth theater scene, it's possible few outside the industry know Adam C. Wright's work.
Five of those songs were from A Taste of Beauty, which is being presented as a staged reading March 31-April 1 at the Rose Room at Club S4. Four more hailed from Project Youth, another Wright/Kinman score (with book by Stephanie Riggs) that will be produced April 30-May 4 at Our Productions Theatre Co. in Lewisville.
Wright also music directs at Dallas Children's Theater. With so much going on, it's kind of amazing that he even found five free minutes.
For all he has contributed to the Dallas-Fort Worth theater scene, it's possible few outside the industry know Wright's work. Beauty and Youth have had the most robust performance histories of the four full-length musicals he's written. Youth, which takes place in a dystopian future where all children live in a bio-dome, received a production in Flower Mound in 2008. Beauty premiered at the inaugural Uptown Players Pride Festival in 2011.
Mark E. Berry, a longtime friend of Wright's, saw that original staged reading of Beauty. He has been passionately working to give the show another life — and hopefully secure a future full production from one of the area's professional theaters.
"I just decided it was time more people heard Adam's work," Berry says as he records the night's rehearsal on his iPhone. He's the producer this time around, working with director Jason Robert Villarreal and librettist John De Los Santos on the revised version.
A campy, fun romp through the mod world of 1960s high fashion, Beauty follows ugly duckling Muriel le Pamble (Laura Lites) as she prepares to take over the revered House of Solange fashion empire. The glamorous designers and models cruelly sabotage her, leading to a near-fatal accident that leaves Muriel suddenly beautiful — thanks to emergency plastic surgery — but insane with revenge.
"Jeff wanted to write a scary, funny musical," Wright says. "Even though the book has changed a lot [from the original reading], the score remained almost the same. I only wrote one new song in the second act."
If you ask Wright if he's always wanted to be musician, he'll tell you no. His childhood dream was to be a gymnast or figure skater, until a growth spurt intervened. His father, however, is a singer and musician, and it was listening to one of his father's friends play piano that sparked the interest in Wright.
In fifth grade, he began taking lessons with the express goal of playing Beethoven's "Sonata Pathetique." A dabbling in violin also followed — "I'm more comfortable pushing these black-and-white buttons," Wright chuckles — which Wright says is helpful nowadays when orchestrating with stringed instruments.
"When he was about 16," Berry says, "Adam spread out alphabet cards over the piano keys and then selected the notes that corresponded to his friend's initials. M-E-B became a musical theme, which he then filled out into a fully orchestrated piece."
As if on cue, Wright's fingers fly over the keys as he plays the aforementioned bit of music. "I haven't played this in years," he laughs.
"You see?" exclaims Berry. "It's been, what, 20 years and he just starts playing that like it's nothing. When I played the cassette tape he made me for other people, they were like, 'This isn't something a teenager does; it's a graduate thesis.'"
Our time is up, as the cast files back onto the stage and prepares to channel 1960s New York. For his final question, I ask Wright if he's ever considered doing anything else.
"This is my comfort zone," Wright says, waving his hands over the keyboard. "I just sit here, and everything else works."