Home » Uncategorized » For Larry Daggett – there is no music without the message

For Larry Daggett – there is no music without the message

Larry Daggett Interview

Bullet Points is a new work by Larry Daggett. 

A staged presentation of this powerful new musical will take place on:
June 10 @ 7:00 p.m. & June 11 @ 2:00 p.m

Theatre Row Theatre
as part of the New York New Works Festival
410 West 42nd Street, N

Bullet Points tells the story of one woman’s attempt to navigate her thoughts and feelings on both sides of the gun control issue – with the hope that this subject will resonate long enough in the American consciousness that both sides of the debate might begin to find a path toward ending gun violence in schools.  This dark comedy focuses on Sarah, a Florida high school teacher who returns to work on the same day as a school shooting which sends her life spinning in wildly unpredictable directions – both tragic and comic.  “The theme of the show concerns the “us versus them” mentality that cuts our country in half,” says acclaimed composer Larry Daggett, “It’s about learning to listen to people on the opposite side of an issue even if they disagree with your point of view.”

Larry Daggett is a multi-hyphenate powerhouse of an artist.  He’s the whole package with the head of a businessman and the heart of an entertainer.  His vast credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, Opera and a multitude of work in regional theatres as an actor, producer, composer-lyricist, orchestrator and musical director.  As a businessman he is the CEO for New Tune Entertainment, LLC.  His award-winning company is dedicated to the development and production of original musicals on stage and film.  He lives and breathes the arts.  For his latest work Bullet Points, he wears the hats of book writer, composer, lyricist and director!  It was a pleasure to chat with this talented individual about this work and his career.

When Larry Daggett was a small child, he took his bow in a community theatre production, said “see ya later alligator” and shed his reptile skin for the first and last time.  While he might secretly be hoping to don a gecko costume, he grew up and made his indelible mark in the entertainment industry.  “I grew up in Southern California where I started appearing in plays at the age of six. My first role was as an alligator in a community theatre production of the play “The Happiest Millionaire.” I’m sad to say that was my last appearance as a reptile, although hope springs eternal there might be another in my future! What inspires me most in the theatre is when a writer takes a risk. Musicals have the unique capacity to move an audience emotionally (through music) as well as intellectually (through lyrics). In an increasingly digitized world where we all communicate through texts, email, and cell phones, the theater is one of the last bastions of community engagement. Something magical can happen when everyone in the audience comes together to receive the message they see on stage as well as to feel the energy of everyone sitting around them. When an entire audience suddenly erupts in laughter or collectively chooses to become so silent that they can hear every word whispered by the actors on stage, they are no longer individuals watching a show, they have become a community focused upon a single goal.”

Mass shootings and gun control are unfortunately current hot button topics which Mr. Daggett was not afraid to tackle in this production for many reasons.   “There are multiple reasons I wrote this show, some obvious, others not so. Firstly, we should not live in a country where students are more concerned about coming home alive than they are about passing a math test. The right to bear arms and the right to survive school should not be at odds with each other, yet they have become so. I went to a high school with a long history of violence from guns and gangs. I know the effect that can have upon a person’s life and how it can alter your view of the world. Another reason I wrote the show is because our society and our politics have become so polarized that getting anything productive accomplished has become next to impossible. Today the idea of two sides of an argument meeting each other half way and coming to an agreement seems outside the realm of human possibility. We’ve become so determined to pull in opposite directions that having meaningful legislation passed In Congress has become a unique occurrence rather than the norm. A third reason I wrote this show happened by accident when I discovered that a person who I believed to be open minded and liberal was in fact as closed minded and rigid as this side she railed against. Without going into lengthy detail I saw that she was perfectly willing to forgive anyone on her side, even if they committed mass murder, than she was to allow someone on the opposite side to disagree with her point of view. When I heard that, my eyes were opened to the fact that proving your side is right and the other side is wrong has often become more important than saving students’ lives.”

Mr. Daggett’s creative process is meticulously detailed.  He recognized a paradigm shift in musical theatre which is reflected in his songwriting in service to the audience.  “Writing a musical is an extremely difficult task. It requires you to be at two locations simultaneously, which is physically impossible. As the book writer it requires you to see the story from 30,000 feet in the air, and by that I mean you must be able to see the direction in which the show is moving and to ensure that the plot does not get entangled in minutia or lose its focus. At the same time, you must also see the show from two inches off the ground, meaning when you are writing the lyrics and the music for a song you must be concerned with every detail: every syllable of a lyric, every note on the page. All these details matter enormously, but it is almost impossible not to become so engrossed by them that you lose sight of the direction in which the story should be traveling. I usually start out with an outline of the entire show and then I make an outline of each song. Each song should have an arc: by the end of the song the characters and the plot should be at a different place than where the song began. The days of songs being put in a show purely for the purposes of entertainment have pretty much vanished. Audiences nowadays don’t have the patience for big production numbers that have nothing whatever to do with the story. They can feel their cell phone buzzing in their pocket and are itching to pull it out to see who was trying to call them. If you don’t keep their attention by constantly moving the story forward, you’ve lost them. That wasn’t true 50 years ago when composers could insert songs simply because they were beautiful or clever. I think of shows like The Most Happy Fella, which has one of the most glorious musical theatre scores ever written with long sections of resplendent music, most of which would be cut if it was written today because it’s not necessary for the plot. These days, when many shows are 90 minutes long with no intermission, every second on stage counts.”

Being that Bullet Points addresses school shootings which is currently a big problem in the U.S., Mr. Daggett had some insights on the topic.  “For the past 30 years the side that would like to see stricter rules for gun ownership has met increasing resistance from the side that would like to see no rules for gun ownership. The side that would like to see logical legislation such as background checks, raising the minimum age to own a weapon, closing the gun fair loophole (where anyone at any age can buy a weapon without a background check) have all met increasing resistance from the side that believes in the “slippery slope” philosophy that if they give in, even an inch, to the most logical gun legislation, that their weapons will be confiscated by the federal government. While I agree that such measures as background checks and closing loopholes would be highly effective, I seriously doubt they will ever get passed. For one thing, they attack the problem head on, which only strengthens the resolve of resistance from the opposite side. More importantly, they don’t address the source of the problem, which, in my opinion, is how much money the gun lobby is able to funnel to candidates who support their cause. In my opinion, many of America’s problems could be improved if we changed the way our campaigns are financed so that lobbying groups would no longer able to contribute millions of dollars to their chosen candidates. Every contribution comes with access to the candidates and the understanding that if their candidate doesn’t vote the way the lobbyists want them to vote, that come the next election cycle the millions of dollars spent toward their campaign will go the candidate’s opponent. It’s obscene that TV pundits can proclaim without fear of contradiction that the candidate who has the biggest financial war chest is probably going to win, even if that candidate has no political knowledge or experience. This completely betrays the principles upon which this country was founded.”

 Mr. Daggett is hoping audiences walk away from this show with a collective impetus to take action against school shootings by engaging elected officials.  “We’ve gotten to the point in our country where there have been so many school shootings that many people think nothing can be done about them. This is not true. America is a country of great energy and great potential. If enough of us come together to insist that this problem be eradicated and make it clear to our elected officials that if they don’t take action to do so they will be voted out of office, then this problem could begin to be rectified.”

Bullet Points is a work in progress that has come far in its development.  Mr. Daggett will continue to adjust it as needed and is hoping that this reading will be the launching pad for a full theatrical production.  “This reading at Theatre Row will be the first time I’ll hear the show read out loud in front of a live audience. Although the show has already been rewritten more times than I can count and has had numerous virtual readings on Zoom, once I hear a live audience ‘s reaction I’ll go back and reevaluate those points in the show which need clarification or trimming. After that, the process begins of getting the show produced at a theatre which has a history of producing new works that address cutting edge issues. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a theater choosing to do some shows whose entire purpose is to leave the audience feeling cozy and comfortable. The problem with those shows is the audience often forgets about them by the time they reach the parking lot to drive home. The issue of gun violence in schools is not going away. In fact, it has only gotten worse as time progresses. Somewhere along the line we have to collectively face this problem and seek solutions to end it. So, if anyone reading this article knows of a theater which would be willing to take a risk on producing a new musical that deals with a topic so timely that barely a week goes by without it raising its head again, I hope they will contact me about producing the show at that theater.”

Mr. Daggett has some wise parting words that hold out hope for positive change.  “Americans have solved seemingly insolvable problems in the past. We have fought wars to end oppression overseas and a war to end slavery here at home. We have the energy and ability to address this problem. No parent, even the most ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, wants to hear that their child has been killed in a school shooting. I think if we all keep our eyes focused on the direction in which we want to move, namely zero school shootings, and put aside our need to proclaim that our side is right and the other side is wrong, I think we could finally find a way to solve this problem.”

Get to the point by getting your tickets to Bullet Points

June 10 @ 7:00 p.m. & June 11 @ 2:00 p.m.

Theatre Row Theatre
as part of the New York New Works Festival
410 West 42nd Street, N

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: