The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe

Project role: Co-Writer / Co-Composer / Music Supervisor
Location: Kansas City, MO

"Playwrights Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, and Seth Macchi have put together an absolutely enjoyable evening at the theater. Dialogue is tight. The jokes are funny."
- Alan Portner, Broadway World

I don't even know how to begin writing about this. This has been one of the single greatest experiences of my life, both professionally, and personally.

The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is a musical comedy that began its life as a 55 minute piece in the 2015 Kansas City Fringe Festival. I co-wrote it alongside my Friend Dog Studios collaborators Brian Huther and Seth Macchi, and the response we received was so wonderfully positive that we all came away knowing we weren't done.

Rusty Sneary and Shawnna Journagan at The Living Room theatre produced that fringe original as well as this new, expanded version. Their trust and support have been absolutely integral to the existence of this piece; it simply wouldn't be around without them, and I'll never be able to thank them enough for that.

A poster design I created for the show.

A poster design I created for the show.

So, sentimental blubbering aside, what is this show? The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is the story of a comedy duo who find themselves down on their luck as the vaudeville circuits die and give way to the early popularity of film. Determined to stay in the entertainment business they love so dearly, the two follow a fast-talking agent to Hollywoodland, and are soon dizzy from the rapidly changing industry landscape around them.

The show is lightning quick, blissfully silly, 100% heartfelt, and designed to be a piece of pure entertainment. In many ways, it's a simple show, but in many others, it is fiercely and fascinatingly challenging, and I couldn't possibly have asked for a better team to pull it off. The casting consists of Lefty (Michael Hudgens) and Crabbe (Seth Macchi), surrounded by an ensemble of six actors (Brian Huther, Molly Denninghoff, Mike Ott, Ellen Kirk, Joshua Gleeson, and Elise Poehling) who portray some 46 additional characters throughout the show.

The piece was directed by Rusty Sneary of The Living Room, with choreography by Kyra Weinberger, costume design (no small undertaking here) by Nancy Robinson, lighting design by Lacey Pacheco, and dashes of sound design by David Kiehl. A very special kudos to the stage management team as well - led by Ellyn Calvert - who juggled more elements than I could possibly count in a stunningly flawless manner. I could go on and on about this cast and creative team, but there's too much to cover, so I'd invite you to read the reviews (below) to hear more about the incredible fruits of their labor.

One of the best things to come out of this experience was a new partnership with musician Ryan McCall, who acted as both our music director and our arranger, converting our chords and melodies into fully-fleshed out numbers that are better than I ever could have hoped. Ryan had to leave the production as accompanist after the first week, replaced by the incredible Eryn Bates, but we at Friend Dog Studios know we want to work with him again, and in fact are already getting started on our next collaboration!

"The writers and actors won me over with the sheer joy of performing and love of theater. And that’s something you can’t fake. The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is part of the Living Room’s mission to produce original work by local or expatriate artists. Other theater companies should take note. I suspect this show has a future."
- Robert Trussell, KC Studio

"Playwrights Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, and Seth Macchi have put together an absolutely enjoyable evening at the theater. Dialogue is tight. The jokes are funny."
- Alan Portner, Broadway World

"The team is also able to tap into some kind of immediacy — whether it’s the small theater, the local talent or the 1920s nostalgia — that makes this production something to savor. (And don’t forget to stay for the post-curtain call sequence.)"
- Christine Pivovar, The Kansas City Star

"The heartfelt performances and unbridled silliness add up to an affectionate evening of escapism. The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe is the stage equivalent of a summer blockbuster..."
- Liz Cook, The Pitch

"Hudgens and Macchi absolutely carry the show with their singing and acting. They are a joy to watch. The interaction and camaraderie amongst the cast sends electricity to the audience. ★★★★★"
- Bob Evans, KC Applauds