What inspired this musical project, and what sustains it, is how moved I feel by the elements of musical theatre.
A digression: In 1967 or so, Duke Ellington took his orchestra into the studio to re-record tunes written by his long-time collaborator, Billy Strayhorn, who had just died. The resulting LP, And His Mother Called Him Bill, is a classic. It includes one track recorded at the end of one session when Duke sat down at the piano to play "Lotus Blossom." The tape was still running. We can hear musicians chatting and packing up their horns. By the end of the tune, a poignant ballad, they'd stopped as is transfixed by Duke's musical eulogy to their old mate.
I was reminded of that moment the other day when I sat in on the first day of rehearsals for Shrek at Globe Theatre. The actor playing Shrek was working his songs with the Musical Director. They faced each other, the MD at his keyboard. The actor with his beautiful baritone voice was struggling but making progress with "Big, Bright, Beautiful World," Shrek's brave but uncertain claim on something new in his future. As always in rehearsals I've witnessed, everyone else--the other actors, stage management, the designers--was busy with his/her own job. And here, in a corner of the room, was an actor and character emerging and vulnerable. In song. The moment was irresistible.
(Here's Duke playing "Lotus Blossom." Because he flubbed a note or two, he later re-recorded the piece, but this initial, spontaneous version is the better one.)