New York City composer featured, participates in April 26 musical theatre concert

University Players, a student organization of Western Carolina University, will present “Island Songs and Other Collections by Carner and Gregor” with guest Derek Gregor in the Fine and Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, April 26.

The performance, which begins at 8 p.m. in the center’s black box theater, features 23 songs by the New York City musical theatre writers Gregor and Sam Carner. The duo composed the music for “Unlock’d,” which received a Richard Rodgers Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist in the National Musical Theatre Networks’ Director’s Choice Award.

“Island Songs,” which is intended for adult audiences, captures the life of people in New York and their dreams, said Jordan Snead, a sophomore theatre major from Hillsborough who is organizing the student production.

“The songs are written beautifully but still meant to be acted with the performer in character,” said Snead.

Numbers include the song “Venice” about two office workers who are best friends and want to slip away from the city to Venice and the selection “Make It Here” about a struggling artist who wants his father to come see him in a show to see how far he’s come, said Snead.

Snead initially contacted Gregor and Carner when he wanted to purchase the music for their song, “Stay Awhile.”

“The song is a guitar piece about a boy waking up next to his girlfriend, and he doesn’t want her to leave,” said Snead. “It’s really sweet, and I just wanted that song.”

The correspondence led Gregor and Carner to offer to let WCU students working to revitalize the University Players on campus showcase their music this spring. Snead said the composers are allowing the WCU students to perform the music free of charge, and are working with them to adapt and improve the music.

“They send rewritten piano parts or new harmonies to try every couple of days to make the songs better and to see if the changes sound natural,” said Snead.

In addition, Gregor traveled to WCU to work with the students in early April and will return in time for a run-through rehearsal before the show on Tuesday, April 26.

Admission to the show is $3 cash only at the door. For more information about the composers, visit www.carnerandgregor.com. For more information about the show or tickets, call the Fine and Performing Arts box office at 828-227-2479.