Duncan Sheik back on tour after Broadway work, to play Long Island

Musician Duncan Sheik. Musician Duncan Sheik. Photo Credit: AP

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Duncan Sheik never anticipated his detour into the world of Broadway musicals.

"It was a very happy accident," says Sheik, who met Steven Sater, his writing partner for many of his Broadway projects, because they were both practicing Buddhists. "When we met in 1999, I was having certain struggles at that moment with what the music business was all about and what it meant for me."

Sater was working on adapting the 19th century German play "Spring Awakening" into a musical, and Sheik, who was working on the follow-up to his breakthrough hit, "Barely Breathing," ended up helping out. "It was not the first thing that I thought I would've gotten myself into," says Sheik, calling from Aspen, Colorado, where he and Sater are working on "Alice by Heart," a musical adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland." "I wasn't really, at that point, a big fan of musical theater."

Of course, after "Spring Awakening" became a critical and commercial smash, winning eight Tony Awards, including best musical and a best original score for Sheik and Sater, things changed. "Let's just say, I'm glad I got into it," Sheik says, laughing. "Now, I love the form. I love working on the shows with all these amazingly talented people."

However, Sheik also loves being a singer-songwriter. He enjoys writing songs in his own voice and singing them himself, something all the theater work doesn't allow him much time for these days.

This summer, Sheik has carved out time for a short tour, which begins with a stop at the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore on Wednesday, and for some time in the studio to work on his first album of original, non-theater-related songs in eight years.

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"It's been a long time since 'White Limousine,'" Sheik says, referring to his last non-Broadway-related album. "I had a lot to get out."

Sheik says he has been writing songs to perform himself while also working on other projects. "It's all come out relatively easily," he says, adding that his work in the theater has made it easier for him to sing songs from other points of view. "Some of the new songs are me singing them as me, but in some I've taken on a character."

Sheik says his live shows reflect all of his interests these days. "The shows are usually in three chunks -- songs from my catalog, the theater-oriented stuff and the brand-new songs," he says. "I think my fans are really happy to hear the new stuff. They're lovely and super-loyal, but it will be nice to give them something different."

Sheik plans to release the album early next year, though at that time he may have -- or be close to having -- three new musicals on Broadway. In addition to "Alice by Heart," which is still in the workshop phase, Sheik is developing "Because of Winn Dixie," a musical based on the Kate DiCamillo book of the same name about a girl and her dog, and "American Psycho," based on the murderous Bret Easton Ellis novel.

"American Psycho" seemed to divide critics during its run in London, something that also happened with the controversial book. However, they did seem to agree on Sheik's score. "It works superbly, thanks to Rupert Goold's stylish production, Duncan Sheik's music and lyrics and Matt Smith's beautifully defined performance as the deluded hero," wrote The Guardian's Michael Billington. Though The Telegraph's Charles Spencer panned the show, he did say "the score is often excellent too, with '80s synths much to the fore in a neat mix of original songs that are witty, tuneful and tinged with melancholy."

Sheik says he wasn't sure "American Psycho" would work as a musical, but after rereading Ellis' 1991 novel, he was sold. "It was amazing to read it today," he says. " was really prescient about a lot of things. It was almost like he predicted the future in the way we talk about food all the time and with fashion. ... The book really stands the test of time."

Sheik wanted to create music that would be of that time, as if it were created by Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode. "The soundscape is completely electronic," he says. "I'm so happy with how that turned out."

Sheik says the combination of his theater work and his singer-songwriter work has helped him do both more creatively.

"I love both processes," he says. "They keep the act of songwriting fresh. And it's all more fun than me just thinking, 'Oh, here's another solo album.' What could be more fun than writing music from the mind of Patrick Bateman?"

 

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WHO Duncan Sheik

WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesday, YMCA Boulton Center, 37 W. Main St., Bay Shore

INFO $45; 631-969-1101, boultoncenter.org

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Pop stars with a Tony

Though there isn't a pop star among this year's Tony nominees for best original score, there certainly have been plenty since Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater won the award for "Spring Awakening" in 2007. Here's a look back:

CYNDI LAUPER The "She's So Unusual" star made the transition to Broadway look easy when she won the award in 2013 for "Kinky Boots."

DAVID BRYAN Bon Jovi's keyboard player moved front and center when he won the award in 2010 for "Memphis."

ADAM SCHLESINGER The Fountains of Wayne frontman landed a nomination in the category with David Javerbaum in 2008 for "Cry-Baby."

ELTON JOHN That little-known British singer-songwriter and, you know, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was nominated with Lee Hall in 2009 for their work on "Billy Elliot: The Musical."

DOLLY PARTON The country legend was nominated in 2009 for her work expanding her classic "9 to 5" into a musical.

TREY ANASTASIO The Phish frontman was nominated in 2013 with Amanda Green for their work on "Hands on a Hardbody."

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