With the comic musical Neurosis, songwriters Ben Green (music) and Greg Edwards (Lurics) and bookwriter Allan Rice crafted a show about the nagging voice in the back of your head that tries to keep you up at night and make your life as overwhelming as possible. It;s also very very funny.
Now you can hear the score for yourselves with the original Off-Broadway cast album available from Jay Records, featuring Jennifer Blood (Matilda) as Abby, two-time Tony Award nominee Joel Blum (Steel Pier; Show Boat) as Kenny, Brennan Caldwell (Baghdaddy) as Neurosis, Susan J. Jacks (Night of the Living Dead) as Geri, Lacretta (Disaster) as Samantha, Ian Michael Stuart (Escape to Margaritaville) as Kurt/Larry/Others, Morgan Weed (American Psycho) as Neurosalina, and Kevin Zak (Waitress; Clinton: The Musical) as Frank.
Below, Edwards breaks down the show's score track by track, offering insights and in-jokes. You can purchase the album at JayRecords.com.
“PROLOGUE / WHO’S THE GUY?”
The conceit of Neurosis is that everyone has a visible-only-to-them friend following them around who personifies their inner thoughts. We use this song to set up the rules for the audience. In it, Frank and his Neurosis (shhh, we don’t yet know he’s Neurosis!) go through their neurotic daily routine and interact with each other and the world around them. Needless to say, Purell is involved.
“YOU GOT NEUROSIS”
Now that the audience understands the mechanics of how neuroses work, we lay out the show’s themes. By giving our therapist character Samantha a double purpose as our occasional narrator, we frame the show as a therapy session for the audience. This makes them feel better about the exorbitant ticket price.
Longtime musical watchers will be shocked to learn that shows have “I want” songs. This is Frank’s. In it, we attempt to pull off the one-two punch of defining not only what Frank wants in his magic career (text!), but how that informs who he is and what he wants as a person (subtext!).
“MAKE HIM MINE”
This is the second song that Ben and I wrote for the show, and it remains my favorite in the score and my oeuvre. In it, Abby expresses the comic-on-the-surface goal of finding a nice Jewish boy when she herself has minimal understanding of Judaism. But the true power and purpose of the song is how Abby’s expression of that goal communicates who she is and the pain she feels but can’t admit.
“NO EASY ANSWERS”
Therapists are intentionally a cypher—they present themselves as a blank canvas, so that the focus can be on you and your many, many flaws. One of the challenges in writing Neurosis was to define Samantha in a way that was dramatically interesting but kept some semblance of verisimilitude. We used this song to do so.
“USE YOUR WORDS”
You know what’s terrifying? Talking to strangers at a party. This song conveys how Frank—and the writers—go about it, and the accustomed results.
A comedy song about overbearing parents convincing their son to go to law school should be easy to write. Or so we thought. Four drafts in, we finally found the right angle: not jokes about law school (although I stand by my rhyme of verklempt and tax-exempt), but rather Frank’s parents selling law school as something that would be good for Frank while conveying only the ways it would be good for them.
“YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES”
When Neurosis was trying out upstate, we noticed we had a song desert in the middle of act one—10 minutes without music during which vultures circled and most of the audience died of dehydration. Then we realized what we were missing: a musical moment deepening Abby and Neurosalina’s relationship. We wrote this in an empty storefront in an abandoned strip mall (true story!), and history was made. Until we rewrote it for New York. And again for licensing.
When Elsa can’t hide her ice powers any more, she realizes she has no choice but to… Wait a minute. This is our Act1 finale—written a year before any similarly titled song—where Frank and Abby finally work up the nerve to ditch their Neuroses and pursue each other. (This track has a club mix, which remains the hippest music I’ve ever been associated with.)
Before I was in a relationship, my understanding was, once you have a partner, everything would be perfect forever. Then once I had a partner, I learned that most of one’s time is spent suppressing the urge to strangle them. (Love you, Tim.) This song addresses the honeymoon phase preceding that transition.
You know that feeling as you lie in bed at night, and all your cares magically melt away? Neither do we. This song documents our attempts to fall asleep while our inner thoughts remind us of all that’s wrong in the world.
Cellblocks, Maureen, morphine… tangos have been used in musical theatre to address all the most important subjects. To this, we add meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. By day, Ben and I are both engineers, and the intricate construction of this scene-song makes us particularly giddy. I wish I could take credit, but I wrote a sample verse-chorus, sent it to Ben, and he came back with the outline of the version recorded here.
“WHEN YOU’RE ALONE”
Ben and I were discussing what a breakup feels like, and for Ben, it was less about emotion than absence of it: You wander through the world hollowed out, shocked that life continues going on around you. We extrapolated this experience to what Frank would be feeling and wrote this song. (Incidentally, it’s a good thing we went with Ben’s breakup experience. Mine would have more bunny rabbits and boiling water.)
“YOU ARE MY NEUROSIS”
This is the emotional climax and 11 o’clock number of our show. In it, Frank and Neurosis finally come to terms with one another and learn how to have a healthy relationship. We’re particularly fond of this moment because of its subversive structural function. At this point in a musical, the audience expects a power ballad between the romantic couple. In our show, though, this song and the core relationship isn’t between Frank and Abby, but rather between Frank and his own mind. Fun fact: this song contains the show’s only rhyme for “neurosis.” (Halitosis, apotheosis, and cystic fibrosis did not make the cut.)
While the previous track is the big musical moment which resolves Frank and Neurosis’ arc, this track is a gentler moment that resolves Frank and Abby’s. To me, the moral of their relationship is captured in the quatrain, “The problems that I always had / The ones I thought were ironclad / Are all still there but not as bad / Because I let you in.” A partner doesn’t fix your problems; they just make them somehow tolerable. Except when they never put the dishes in the freaking dishwasher. (Again, love you, Tim.)
“ROCK YOUR NEUROSIS”
The finale! Ben calls it “Charlie Brown rock.” I think of it as catchier than chlamydia. We celebrate the themes, tie up loose ends, and have some belting to boot.
A musical comedy about finding love and happiness while dealing with the voices inside your head, Neurosis officially opened Off-Broadway August 17 with direction by Andy Sandberg, and Chita Rivera Award-nominated choreography by Shea Sullivan.