Carmel Dean is the lady behind the music on Broadway’s favorite shows. Dean has served as musical director and/or vocal arranger for American Idiot, The 25th Annunual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Broadway’s upcoming musical Hands on a Hardbody. Dean is reuniting with stars from these shows (including Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Alysha Umphress) for an evening of Dean’s own musical compositions. The Sweet Songs of Carmel Dean will play one-night-only on February 3 at 54 Below. Read on to hear Dean discuss her dream collaboration with Woody Allen, an infamous voicemail from William Finn and reconnecting with American Idiot.
What record/album was your favorite growing up?
So many! My top five were probably Michael Jackson's Thriller, John Farnham's Whispering Jack, James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, the West Side Story movie soundtrack and the Australian Cast Album of Hair. I think I was a little musically schizophrenic.
What song are you most excited to perform in your show?
ALL of them! This is the first time most of them have been played on anything more than a piano, so I'm super-psyched to add drums, bass, violin and guitar to the mix—not to mention the six exquisitely talented singers I have! They're all going to sound way better than they do when I sing them inside my own head.
What musical theater track is the most played on your iPod?
Right now, Trey Anastasio's demos of Hands on a Hardbody!
If you could invite any performer onstage for a duet at 54 Below, who would it be?
Well, this would fall into the "if I lived in an alternate universe" category—but it would be to do a stand-up routine with Woody Allen. I have a lot of good "old man" jokes up my sleeve.
What musical theater performer from the past do you wish you could collaborate with?
It's a tie between Leonard Bernstein and Richard Rodgers.
What album was the soundtrack to your 20s?
Joni Mitchell's Blue.
What’s your favorite love song?
Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet."
What is your favorite workout track?
American Idiot! While the show was running, I didn't ever choose to play it outside of the theater—but I'm back to using is as my go-to "get your heart rate pumping" song!
What’s the best hidden gem in on your iPod?
A voicemail that I turned into an mp3 of William Finn leaving me a message, in the middle of which he had a sneezing fit—then when it was over proceeded as if nothing happened.
What song most makes you smile?
"Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Check out The Sweet Songs of Carmel Dean at 54 Below on February 3. Click below to see Dean and Rebecca Naomi Jones perform one of the composer's songs.