Conor Keelan '12 is working as a Production Assistant on the Broadway musical, A Bronx Tale. Read more by clicking the button below!
Conor Keelan ’12 will be serving as a Production Assistant on the music team for the Broadway Show, A Bronx Tale. While studying at Northwestern University, Conor took part in the student-written show, The Waa-Mu Show. Through this, Conor met Mark Hoebee, Artistic Director of Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, who offered four internships for students to see all aspects of putting together a musical. “I was awarded the music award and was allowed to join the team of one of the shows in their upcoming season,” Conor writes. “I chose A Bronx Tale because it was a new musical in development and the creative team is full of heavy hitters like composer Alan Menken. Because of that star power, I went through an intense interview and vetting process and waited several months before I was confirmed for the project. Once I got there, I endeared myself to the music team with the skills I had developed as a music director, composer and orchestrator as well as the understanding I had of how a new work would flow thanks to The Waa-Mu Show.”
Conor originally joined the team as an intern, but was given the more hands-on role once they realized his experience qualified him to do more. Working on a Broadway production music team is an intensive process. “The development of music in a musical is a massive undertaking. The driving principle is that the story and drama are king,” Conor writes. “As elements of the story change and mature, the music must always match that. This could be anything from changing a few lyrics to completely rethinking a moment. After we entered the preview process for Bronx, it became clear there were scenes with racial tension that were not getting the proper amount of weight and gravity. As the dialogue and tone began to change, every member of the team from the composer to the rehearsal drummer worked to help adapt the music to this new dramatic intention. With every change that occurs, it is our job to keep the show musically grounded and consistent. Music teams tend to be some of the larger collectives on a show because every minimal change has a huge impact. Imagine cutting one measure of music: you have to communicate this to the actors, sometimes rehearse it with them, get them new printed music that reflects the cut, inform every member of the orchestra (we have 12 players), reprint their individual parts, and rehearse the change with them before they can play it in a performance. No change is a small change!”
The play-turned-film was made famous by the 1993 movie starring Robert De Niro, and will actually be co-directed by De Niro himself.Working on Broadway puts Conor in the field with many other big names in the industry. “People I work directly with are Oscar, Grammy and Tony-winning composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, a host of Disney movies and musicals including Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Hercules, and Beauty and the Beast), Music Supervisor Ron Melrose, Music Director Jonathan Smith and Tony-winning orchestrator Doug Besterman.”
Through his hard work and professional success, Conor still remembers where his love for music really morphed into a skillset. “I distinctly remember visiting St. Andrew’s and talking with Mr. Jarusinsky, my rock band teacher. When I told him I had left my acting track to pursue the music side of things he said something to the effect of “duh.” Rock band had given me so much experience doing what I do now: taking songs that we wanted to play and arranging them for our specific instrumentation or giving them a new flavor by changing the style of the song. I had no idea at the time that those skills would be so fundamental to my career, but the education I got at SAS help lay the foundation.”
A Bronx Tale opens December 1st at The Longacre Theatre in New York City.
Photo Caption: Left to right Mark Hoebee (recent Tony Award winner artistic director of Paper Mill), Ron Melrose (music supervisor), Alan Menken (composer), Conor Keelan, Tommy Mottola (producer and ex-head of Sony Music)
Located in Austin, Texas, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private co-ed elementary, middle and high school for grades K-12. Students benefit from dedicated faculty, a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.