There’s a soundtrack to everyone’s life — words and music that perfectly describe a challenge, distill an emotion or soothe the weary soul. Even if the music in one’s head doesn’t inspire spontaneous singing and dancing, it’s there. This thought guides Vignettes of Life, a locally produced revue of Broadway tunes playing May 7 and 8 in Nashua and Derry.
“The musical theater genre itself is a little bit ridiculous. People randomly bursting into song is just kind of funny in itself,” says the show’s author and director, 25-year-old Laura Minor. “But as a society, we do so often turn to songs to express emotions and feelings and thoughts.”
Instead of focusing on well-known standards, the program consists of less familiar material by well-known composers, including Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Jason Robert Brown. Choices like “Some Other Time” (On the Town), “Does the Moment Ever Come” (Just So) and “Baby Dream Your Dream” (Sweet Charity) blend longing, melancholy and even a twinge of hopelessness.
“I wanted to do something that highlighted songs that were very, very poignant with raw human emotions,” explains Minor, “and there’s enough lightheartedness in it for people to not walk away feeling hopeless — at least I hope not.”
Of the latter, there’s the empowered anthem “I’m a Woman” from Smoky Joe’s Café, with the memorable line, “I can make a dress out of a feedbag and I can make a man out of you.” The lighthearted “Blue Hair” (The Black Suits) describes a bored teenage girl who dyes her hair blue on a whim.
“We’ve all had a moment of ‘I’m just going to do this, I’m an independent person just starting to discover myself,’” observes Minor. “We make these decisions that aren’t always the best, but you’re asserting your own individuality in the world.”
To cast Vignettes of Life, Minor recruited local singers and actors from other productions she’d done. Lauren Friedman and Katie Weiss worked with her last year on Aida. Friedman is a Nashua native raised in a theater family, while Weiss is a classically trained vocalist and, says Minor, “a phenomenal opera singer — which is cool.”
Danny Nickerson hails from Methuen, Mass., and has worked with Minor on shows staged at the Cannon Theatre in Littleton, as well a Minor-produced show last year. Rounding out the six-member cast are Joel Iwaskiewicz of Nashua and Bedford’s Nathan Schwartberg.
The upcoming performances will benefit Manchester Habitat For Humanity. Minor, who describes herself as “a Granite State girl all the way,” teaches music to middle school students in Pelham and is keenly aware of area charities, but didn’t know the national organization had a branch in the Queen City. “I was looking for a local charity that maybe isn’t as noticed by a lot of people,” says Minor. “I was thinking, wow, if I am not even aware, then a lot may not know about the amazing work they are doing in the area; I would like to bring focus to that.”
Minor learned about Nashua’s Studio 99, where the show plays May 7 at 7 p.m., through Friedman. “It’s a fantastic little studio,” she says, where “up and coming artists … actually have somewhere to go to have their music appreciated.” The Derry Opera House is very familiar; it’s a place where Minor’s done shows since grade school.
Minor grew up in a musical family. Both her parents sing and her father is a guitarist. “I was very much surrounded by music,” she says. “I was in choir starting at the age of 4 and sang in choir all the way through high school.”
Her first musical was a middle school production of Pirates of Penzance. “I was horrendous and my family won’t tell you that,” Minor says with a laugh. Later, she earned a music degree with a concentration in voice at Grove City College, a small Christian school north of Pittsburgh, Penn.
She returned home to Londonderry and began teaching soon after receiving her degree, but a few years away from treading the boards gave her pause.
“I realized my life wasn’t complete without theater,” she says. Minor performed in her first post-college show in 2009.
Asked if there’s a future beyond the scheduled two-show run of Vignettes of Life, Minor is hopeful.
“In my wildest dreams, I would love for us to take this and perform other places,” she says. “I really do think it’s a great message and a lot of people will take a lot out of it, whether they are in these moments right now or they’ve been there before — they can relate to it a lot.”
“If someone who comes to see the show presents me with an opportunity — I would jump on that.”