In a true example of a community in action, members of the South Bushwick Reformed Church made space for musical comedy “Good Morning New York” to record its debut Off-Broadway album at the historic site.
The musical premiered in 2018 at People’s Improv Theater and New York Theater festival to rousing success. A deeper look into local newsroom culture, the storyline of “Good Morning New York” (GMNY), came organically to Jacklyn Thrapp — writer, co-composer and executive producer of the musical. While working as a television news writer Thrapp noticed a change in local news, as a result of the 2016 presidential election.
“I moved to New York City to write for PIX11’s four-hour morning show, and I started writing the musical comedy after noticing a shift in the way news was being presented,” Thrapp says. “After the election, breaking news from D.C. would overpower local news stations resulting in a lot of reporters never getting air time and their stories being floated [a term for deleted from the show].”
Thrapp’s observations led her to create the musical, and after a successful run in 2018, the team is taking GMNY to the next level, beginning with a concert album. When searching for the perfect recording space, the production found themselves at South Bushwick Reformed Church.
South Bushwick Reformed Church was constructed in 1852, with the first pastor, Rev. John S. Himrod, joining in January 1854. Since then, the church has continued to serve the Bushwick community, and officially became a recognized landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1968.
Co-Composer and Producer Jackson Bell says the historic building aided the artistic vision of the album, creating a uniquely warm, defined sound.
“I’ve recorded in a lot of places, and a good natural ambience can be hard to achieve,” Bell said. “[GMNY Co-Producer] Max brought me to [the church] to play on the official cast album for the musical, and it struck me. Play quietly, and the room quiets with you. Play loud, and the room breathes.”
The generosity of this landmark church echoes the deeper, cathartic message of hope in the musical. The characters of “Good Morning New York” all face different challenges, while trying to navigate their jobs as local journalists.
“It cannot be stressed enough how critical the support from the church MD Monika Judkins and Pastor James Stewart was in making these recordings. Without them and their literal blessing, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Max Azarmehr, producer and drummer for GMNY. “Not everyone could have or would have gladly accepted such a tall order, but I’m glad they did. The sound heard on the record is of a live band in a room that’s over 168 years old.”
After their nearly sold-out run, the cast and crew will gather at Feinstein’s/54 Below on October 4 to launch the concert album.
Thrapp’s aspirations for the musical are straightforward, “I hope we pump the audience up and help them believe they are capable and deserving of a happy, rewarding life,” she says. “Go get it!”
Photo credit: Good Morning New York.
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