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posted: 6/20/2014 5:30 AM

Algonquin native ready for takeoff with Wright brothers show

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  • Algonquin native Eric Svejcar composed the music for The New Colony's "Orville and Wilbur Did It!"

      Algonquin native Eric Svejcar composed the music for The New Colony's "Orville and Wilbur Did It!"

  • The New Colony's production of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" is an adult take on children's theater.

      The New Colony's production of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" is an adult take on children's theater.
    Courtesy of New Colony

 
By Megan Swindell
mswindell@dailyherald.com

He may spend most of his time behind the scenes, but Eric Svejcar puts the soul in a show.

As a composer, the Algonquin native's role is to get audience members tapping their feet during a performance and humming the songs long after a musical ends.

"Composing has always been the number one thing that I wanted to get into," he said.

So in between playing the piano at Broadway auditions for shows such as "Mamma Mia!" and "The Book of Mormon," Svejcar -- now living in New York -- composes and arranges musicals.

His latest work is for The New Colony's "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" in Chicago.

He worked with playwright/lyricist David Zellnik to create what Svejcar describes as "synthesizer-happy," "caffeinated" and "aggressively cheerful" music for a children's musical within the play.

"Orville and Wilbur Did It!" follows the very-adult lives of a theatrical cast of five and their stage manager. They're touring the country in a van to perform a children's theater show about the Wright brothers.

Svejcar's role was to provide the G-rated kids' tunes for what he describes as "an R-rated road trip comedy."

Children's theater is well-within Svejcar's comfort zone. He worked with Zellnik once before to adapt and arrange the music for a stage performance of "Disney's Peter Pan Jr." Svejcar likened the experience to a trip to Disneyland, the so-called Happiest Place on Earth.

"Mine and David's work relationship is an arranged marriage on the part of Disney's theatricals," Svejcar said.

In the past, they collaborated, each providing words and music. This time out, the roles were more defined.

"'Orville and Wilbur' was the first time I've worked with a lyricist that wasn't me, and I love that so much more," Svejcar said.

"The writing process was probably as smooth as they come," he added. "I played music that seemed like it was in that world, David would come back with lyrics, and we just worked from there."

Svejcar's next big thing is a rock adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to be performed by the families and friends affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

"It's through Newtown's Healing through the Arts," Svejcar said. "It's one of the ways that the community found something positive in the horror."

He is particularly proud and honored to be a part of the production.

"You almost take children's theater more seriously than adult shows," he said. "With kids, it's like you have one chance to get them hooked on theater or it could be lost."

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