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Meet Carlos Urtubey

Carlos is the composer, arranger, and performer in Hit Music by Guillermo Reyes, returning for its closing weekend. Artistic Director John Perovich had a chance to speak with Carlos about his "many hats" for the workshop and his process. Hit Music performs it's final weekend Fri. 2/7 and Sat. 2/8 at 7PM and Sun. 2/9 at 2PM.

John Perovich (JP): Carlos, thank you for agreeing to this impromptu interview while you're unloading your equipment for tonight's pick-up rehearsal of Hit Music! Can you share what your involvement has been with the show?

Carlos Urtubey (CU): Originally, I had started with Hit Music as Rudy (the patriarch of the show's family) and Guillermo called me because he needed somebody to sing and be somebody who’s a bit...off…off?…just a bit. He invited me to do the reading at Theater Works in Peoria…3 or 4 years ago.

JP: So, just to be sure, you first got involved as a performer and not a composer?

CU: Yes, as a performer, to be Rudy, and to perform the songs that Guillermo had chosen—the Italian songs he had chosen for the play, which were mostly from the 60s and 70s from very famous rock-type artists.

JP: A lot has certainly changed since then! You've written and arranged about 10 songs. What goals did you have for this particular process at Now & Then?

CU: We had thought to do a complete production. That was the original goal. We wanted to write all original songs before starting this process, but life happens and life gets in the way sometimes. We decided to do a staged reading for this process and to complete composing the songs…that was already a huge task and it doesn’t always come easy. Some songs—BOOM—and they’re done. Other songs just like to take their time.

JP: What was one of the songs that came easily to you?

CU: “The Honor Roll.” That one was kind of easy to bring together. Let’s see…”La Bella Magia” was kind of—well, it took a while to write, but I had the idea. Well, actually, no. I scratch that because I had several ideas and they weren’t working for what we were looking for in the song. What was really cool about writing the songs is that—for lack of a better term, I would have some kind of writer’s block…but when I got together with Guillermo, and we started playing with it, we would work together to change words, the metrics on it…so it was a very nice collaborative work.

JP: This may be an unfair question, but you are wearing lots of hat on Hit Music—composer, arranger, musician, music director, and performer. What has it been like to wear all of those hats and has one been more rewarding than the others?

CU: Wearing hats can be very exhausting. Writing the songs, making sure that they’re right, that the performers can sing them…that things fall into place…I think that’s been the most rewarding piece—the writing of the songs. Getting them on stage, seeing how they come out…and especially with some of the choreography that’s beginning to happen. I think some of the songs can stand by themselves, but some also need the choreography…they need a visual element.

JP: You shared a few details about this already, but is there anything else you'd like to share about your collaborative process with Guillermo?

CU: It’s been really easy. He’s always very open to new ideas and to switch things around if need be. It’s not like, you know, I don’t know…I’m sure this has happened with other directors—“Oh, no, this is sacred—you can’t change it!” But Guillermo is very understanding that some things might not be working right. So, we had to change things around. It’s also a give and take. We had to cut a song from the show because it was running a bit too long. We had to cut other songs because there were parts that weren’t working right, and we wanted to make it more coherent for the show.

JP: Final question: There are so many options for seeing theatre in the valley or staying at home to stream television/film. Why should audiences check out Hit Music?

CU: Don’t stay home! You should come because it’s live theatre—it’s LIVE music. It is not recorded music; it is LIVE. It can make a whole world of difference to experience things live. Staying home…yeah, you know, sometimes I stay home because I’m tired, but when something local is happening and—who knows, this show might take off one day! You might be one of those spectators that can say, “Hey! I saw that show when it was in its infancy.” Hit Music is a fun show! Come support local artists. It is very important in this era of super consumerism, where everything is franchised and—maybe that has its place—but local is very important, too.

JP: Thank you, Carlos! Break a leg tonight!

Hit Music book + lyrics by Guillermo Reyes - music by Carlos Urtubey, performs its final weekend, 2/7 and 2/8 at 7PM and 2/9 at 2PM. For info and tickets, click here.