When you have been a concert pianist for 20 years, have organized an international piano festival and have served as chairman of the music department at the University of Maryland, what's next?
For longtime University Park resident Stewart Gordon, it was the recent opening of his second original musical in New York City. Gordon wrote the music and collaborated with friend Blake Leach on the book.
The musical, "Aunt Polly," takes up a few years after the point where Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" left off. Huck and Tom Sawyer have retrieved enough money from Injun Joe's cave that they don't really have to work. But Becky Thatcher, voicing the message of the musical, tells Tom he has to grow up, prompting him to leave town and return after finding a good job. The two-and-a-half-hour show has a 29 member cast that includes many children.
To get his show produced in New York, Gordon admits he relied on connections. His lyricist knew producer Kizmin Reeves. Securing the 283-seat Collegiate Theater on West 78th Street was less difficult, since Gordon had had a work produced there before.
"You have to work very hard nowadays to get a show produced, and there really has to be a deeper joint effort between producers and writers from the beginning," Gordon said. "I've had several bad marriages with writers. My current lyricist can talk out points on which we disagree. He has learned to be patient with me and my music. But then, I often adapt my music to his style of writing.
"I like to put simplistic music next to the complex as long as it's theatrically possible," said Gordon, who is already working on his next musical. "I move around harmonically. My tunes are good, but they're hard to sing."
Gordon's music for "Aunt Polly," reminiscent of Cole Porter, has attracted some local attention. Owners of a proposed safari amusement park near Large are considering running the musical at the park's playhouse all next summer.