When Kitty Wells sang about heartbreak in 1961, her musical heroine was worried about her man straying from home. In Standing Room Only Production Company's original work Heartbreak USA, the musical heroine, Missy, is worried about her man, Jerry, getting off the couch.
"Missy is fed up. She's been with this guy for seven years. ... She needs him to understand that his idea of dedication and loyalty and love and romance is not enough anymore. She needs more [and Jerry] doesn't know how to give it ... he isn't willing to try" says Timothy Boaz, composer and musical director for Heartbreak USA. "Jerry is kind of a sad sap. His plan is to sulk, sit on the couch, and wait for this girl to come back. I think that's his way of showing loyalty, because he thinks that's a big part of what the relationship is about."
Unfortunately for Jerry, love requires loyalty but loyalty does not equal love. These are the sorts of nuances the characters must learn in the musical. Missy and Jerry both have a core group of coupled friends revolving around them and learning their own lessons about love - Ricky, Casey, Trip, and Lizzie.
"You've got couples that are moving from different sides and approaching different outcomes" says Boaz. Ricky and Casey are in a relationship full of love but lacking commitment. If only shot-gun weddings were still in vogue, Casey could free Ricky's feet from the ice just enough for him to walk down the aisle. And free spirits Lizzie and Trip are true heroes of the Facebook generation. Their relationship is "complicated."
A variety of relationships call for a variety in sound. According to Boaz, the musical's sound spans different styles. It is theatrical, but the score is guitar driven. And while it is overwhelming country, there is variety in the country including honky tonk and pop-country.
"When I did the bulk of the composing, I was working on a cruise ship, so I had to surround myself with whatever was around me. I was playing a band that did a little bit of country. I had a lot of Motown spinning around of me. I had a lot of disco. I had a lot of '80s. I had some rockabilly. So I'm sure all this came together to influence the music in some sort of way."
Boaz says he composed mostly in isolation. He conferred with the book and lyric writer, Michael Weems as well as director Vance Johnson, but his most frequent collaborator was the script. While this wasn't his first time composing an original work, this was the first full-scale musical he'd scored. "I didn't know how much work it was going to be until I was in the middle of it and I thought, 'Oh my God! I have 22 songs I have to write.' It's a pretty daunting task. As a composer you're not just writing music and trying to get stuff done. You want these songs to be good. You want them to flow well with the story. There's a lot at stake. It's a reflection of you as a musician and as a composer. My name is on this. Michael [Weem's] name is on this. Standing Room Only's name is on this. There was a lot running on that." Performances of Heartbreak USA are scheduled for May 14 through May 30 at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 24 at Obsidian Art Space. 3522 White Oak. Call 713-300-2358 or visit sro-productions.com.