Welcome to “I’ll Drink To That” Ruby’s conversations with the future leaders of Broadway and beyond! Showbiz is in good hands with these brilliant and inspiring professionals.
Ruby sits down for a drink with the fabulous Zack Zadek!
Ruby: Where are we and what are we drinking?
Zack: You know I’m underage Ruby…so obviously we are at this beautiful Starbucks on 8th and 52nd, where I’m drinking a Peppermint Mocha latte, and you’re drinking that Martini you smuggled in (nicely done I must say)…
What is your current job title?
Composer/Lyricist, Singer/Songwriter, Hunter/Gatherer, other assorted positions with slashes in the middle.
Whose career do you aspire to have?
Well, I really want to write musicals, but also write pop songs. And have some of those pop songs in musicals. And have some songs from those musicals become pop songs. So I really would kill to have the career of Frank Loesser, who not only wrote just these amazing, unreal songs that told such amazing stories, but had them interpreted by the Sinatra’s and the coolest mainstream singers of his time. Not to mention writing such truly groundbreaking musical theatre…Guys and Dolls? How To Succeed? Come on. His work is beyond timeless, and he pushed music and theatre in such exciting ways. Plus he wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, and who doesn’t want to write a Christmas classic? Also Ben Folds.
What’s one of your most embarrassing theater memories?
Hmmmm….when I was 14 I got a call to audition for the band of 13 on Broadway as the keyboard player. I could not have been more out of my mind ecstatic; this was the culmination of all of my hopes and dreams at the time. “Broadway?! JRB?! Audition?! 13?!” Heck, I was 14, that was only one year past the title, this thing was mine! I eagerly downloaded the music I had to learn, and had my piano teacher come over a bunch of times and drill me on it until I knew it cold. I think I actually developed small blisters on my index fingers from practicing the excerpts so much. All week, my music teacher at school yelled at me during our production of Beauty and the Beast, because instead of being part of rehearsal, I would just practice “Tell Her” on the piano.
Finally, the day had come. I woke up my parents at 5 AM to take me into the city, got there, signed in, everything was all set. The first round was like this jam session on the opening number, which was a total blast. It was mostly run by some guy I didn’t recognize (who of course I learned later was Tom Kitt), and we were all just having a good time. Then the second round came, and it was just pianists, and Jason Robert Brown himself came to the piano and was conducting. Naturally, I had a small aneurysm One of my heroes, right there, conducting!
In that moment, I completely forgot how to play the piano. In every sense. I forgot you had to apply downward pressure to make sound come out. I think I just drooled on myself a little, and made some chopsticks sounding noises, until JRB looked at Tom Kitt like, “what the hell is this guy doing here?”
It was embarrassing. My parents took me to see Curtains. The show was great. I felt sad.
What’s one of your best theater memories?
My good friend Jen Tepper produced this concert called “Once Upon A Time In NYC”, where a bunch of musical theatre writers wrote new songs about somebody who changed New York City for them. I was so honored to be one of the writers, but the most amazing thing was sitting in the audience and watching all of the writers faces as their songs were performed, and then looking at all of the other writers faces watching them, and seeing this rare amazing glimpse into everyone’s heads. Because as cool as all of their character songs are, I feel like it’s not often that you hear such personal songs about such real experiences that shape people’s lives. Not to mention seeing so many people who’s work I admire sitting at the same table, ostensibly with work for one piece. It was a very insane night. I’ll never forget it.
Also, I had a 30 second conversation with Sondheim once, so obviously that takes the cake every time.
What book are you reading right now?
I finally got Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, and it’s already hilarious!
What book would you like to see made into a musical?
Have you heard of Showbiz by Ruby Preston? Do you know who I should talk to about getting the rights? 😉
What is your current theatrical project?
I’m currently developing my show 6, which was at NYMF this past season and is being developed further. I’m also working on a show about the history of Apple and Steve Jobs called The Crazy Ones, which I’m super pumped about. And I have a bunch of concerts around town coming up!
What show are you currently recommending?
That’s a toughie! Probably the current production Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Tracy Letts gives a performance you just can’t miss, and the whole thing is powerful as hell.
What is one of your most prized theater possessions?
I always would go into Colony Music (may it rest in peace) and instantly run over to the shelf of scores and grab this giant, black cover, bound complete score of Bernstein’s Mass. I would then proceed to beg my parents to buy it, but it was insanely expensive, so I always would look through it for a bit and then sulk out. But one Hannukah, my parents got it for me, and I hold it very dear to my heart.
Also, I may have Laura Benanti’s gum wrapper, which, if authentic, I prize. If not, disregard.
Where do you keep your playbills?
On my shelf in my official Playbill Binder of course!