Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond (Dirty Sugar Photography)
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is the latest work from duo Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond. The new show which recently had its debut at Seattle's Village Theater (home to the world premiere of Million Dollar Quartet) will be released for streaming on Friday, September 13th. Kooman and Dimond's work spans both theater and television with their music being heard on three season of the hit Disney Junior series Vampirina. The duo return to their theatrical roots in this comedic and inspiring new musical.
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is about Howard Barnes, a perfectly average man until the day that he wakes up to discover that his life has become a musical. Desperate to escape from the show, Howard embarks on a fantastical quest through the realm of musical theater. Equal parts satire, romantic comedy, and a love letter to the American musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is a musical for people who love musical theater, and their spouses who hate it.
In this exciting, hilarious, and role-swapping takeover interview (yes, role swapping-- keep reading to see, it's genius!) Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond tell us about the show, where the idea came from, what is next for them and so much more! To learn more about Kooman & Dimond and see their work or listen to their songs, visit their www.KoomanandDimond.com.
MK= Michael Kooman CD= Chris Dimond
MK: Hey Chris, I really appreciate you doing this interview with me. I mean, I know I see you just about every day and stuff, but, I wanna thank you for taking some time to turn towards me at this desk we’re sitting at, make eye contact, and respond to me in ways that are far more polite and genteel than we normally talk.
CD: I’ll give you about ten minutes. Then it’s back to sarcasm and insults.
MK: I’ll take what I can get. Thanks.
JOURNALIST MK: Ok so I’m interviewer Michael Kooman now, not the Michael Kooman answering the questions.
ANSWERER CD:That’s not going to be confusing for people at all.
JOURNALIST MK: I know! So, here is a question that I’ve been told to ask you. How did The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnescome to life? How did you (or the non-journalist Michael? Or both of you/us?) come up with the idea?
ANSWERER CD: I’m glad you spontaneously asked such a thoughtful question. My extraordinarily charming and slightly schizophrenic writing partner and I were coming off of a couple of projects that we were incredibly passionate about, but which were somewhat “tough sells” in terms of pitching to theaters and producers. They were dark comedies, with an emphasis on the dark.
We wanted to find something that was a lot lighter in tone, that gave us the chance to be funny, first and foremost. As we brainstormed, we somehow hit upon the idea of the story of a man who wakes up one day to discover that his life has become a musical. And, since drama is always rooted in conflict, we thought it would be a lot of fun to be the kind of guy who would absolutely hate to wake up to discover that his life has become a musical.
JOURNALIST CD: Now, I’ll take off my musical theatre writing hat and put on my journalizing cap as I hit you with the type of hard-hitting, provocative question with which journalists typically grill musical theatre composers.
The show makes a lot of allusions to existing musicals. Having no inside knowledge of how the writing process went, I’m speculating that there were a number of references that didn’t make the final cut. How did you decide which to keep, and which to lose?
ANSWERER MK: Since it is a show about musicals, we couldn’t get away without referencing certain other shows, but throughout the writing of the piece, we realized two things:
1) The vast majority of the comedy should not live in a referential world. We wanted this to be a silly, zany world, but we do not want it to feel like the show is living in an “inside baseball” world most of the time.
2) We needed to push ourselves to make each reference funny whether you get the reference or not. For example, there’s one point where Annie comes out and says “shut the f*ck up, Howard”. If you’ve seen Annie, it’s funny because it’s completely out of character, but if you’re the one person on Earth who isn’t familiar with Annie, you’re still seeing an adult actor dressed as a kid, coming out on stage and indignantly cursing out our main character.
Additionally, we ended up cutting a lot of jokes that were over the top or too niche theater references throughout the development of the show. It made the show better anyway.
JOURNALIST MK: Oh, it’s my turn to do the asking again! *quick changes into Clark Kent-like costume* I’m not biased about the show whatsoever because right at this moment I’m identifying as a journalist, remember? So I ask you, again, as a very unbiased person, what made this show so unbelievably successful in Seattle at the Village Theater last year? It was apparently one of the most popular new works since the world premiere of Million Dollar Quartet?
ANSWERER CD: I like to think that the show was successful primarily because of the book and lyrics.
Let’s put an emoji in here to make it clear that I’m joking. I don’t want people to think I’m an asshole. Which emoji would make it clear that I’m not an asshole?
JOURNALIST MK: I think that’s the eggplant emoji.
ANSWERER CD: Awesome. Let’s put a whole bunch of eggplant emojis there.
(MK ignores CD’s request)
ANSWERER CD: In all seriousness, we were really blown away by the audience response to the Village production. After working on a show for ten years, you can lose perspective on whether or not it’s really working, and putting it in front of an audience can be a terrifying and/or exhilarating experience. Fortunately, this one was the latter.
We had a truly incredible team working on the production, and they all deserve a ton of credit for how well it went. Honestly, I think I speak for both of us when I say it was one of the most joyous collaborative processes we’ve ever been a part of. Everybody in the room was having a blast while simultaneously working their butts off, and the joy and the effort really shone through.
I also think that the fact that the show is simultaneously able to celebrate musical theatre while poking fun at it in a good-natured way makes it a real crowd pleaser.
And, underneath all of the wacky comedy, it’s got a real heart to it that seems to resonate with people.
MK: Hey can we take a bathroom break.
CD: Really? We’re in the middle of an interview.
MK:I had a lot of iced tea at lunch.
CD: Okay. I guess.
MK: I’ll be quick. And we’ll edit this whole part about me going to the bathroom out of the interview, right?
CD: Oh yeah, for sure. We’ll totally remember to do that.
MK: Great. I’ll be right back.
(4.5 minutes later)
MK: I’m back and I definitely washed my hands.
JOURNALIST CD: Great.Speaking of amazingly smooth segues, what would you say the message of the show is? What is it that you hope the audience will take away?
ANSWERER MK: It’s ultimately a show about opening up, embracing your vulnerability, and finding the things to be happy about in life. Or, as we do in musical theater, the things to sing about.
JOURNALIST MK: Wow that was such a great and concise answer. You’re like really good at this stuff, MK.
ANSWERER MK: Thank you, MK.
JOURNALIST MK: Maybe we should just ignore those other two and interview ourselves for a while.
ANSWERER MK: Great idea.
JOURNALIST MK: Now this next question’s a little tough, so if you don’t feel comfortable answering, I completely understand: Where can we stream, listen or buy the Howard Barnes album?
ANSWERER MK: On iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, or our website.
JOURNALIST MK: Wow that was also super concise answer. I applaud you for deciding not to waste our time with overwrought comedic answers like certain other people who are asking and answering questions here. Nevertheless, we should probably stop ignoring them before they throw a collective hissy fit.
Chris, here’s your last question: How was your work changed since your last big release: Out of Our Heads?
ANSWERER CD: I think we’ve really grown a lot as writers sinceOut of Our Heads. We’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of projects that have challenged us and allowed us to hone our craft in really rewarding ways.
One thing in particular that I think we’ve improved upon is our ability to rewrite. There’s an old adage that says that musicals aren’t written, they’re rewritten, and that has definitely proven to be true for us. Rewriting is an extraordinarily difficult skill to learn, but it’s crucial.
Working in television has been especially helpful in that regard. Everything in TV moves so fast, and you have to incorporate a lot of notes from a lot of different people, so you really learn not to be overly precious with your material.
It’s not an easy skill to learn, but once you start to get the hang of it, it really frees you up as a writer, and your work will be stronger for it.
JOURNALIST CD: And finally, Michael, although this seems like a question I should probably already know the answer to: What’s up next for us?
ANSWERER MK: We have a musical called Romantics Anonymouswhich is playing for a few weeks in Bristol, UK before embarking on an American tour next year. We also just got a job writing 40 songs for a new show on a platform you’ve definitely heard of. We’ll release details when we can. And then we’ve got two or three other original musicals in different stages of development. Hoping to share them with the world soon!
CD: Wow. I’m really glad I asked. I should renew my passport.
MK: And with that, our randomly determined preset time for this interview is unfortunately at an end, and we’ll probably never see each other again.
CD:It was great talking to you.