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Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater Talk About What's Next

Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik at last night's event.Photo: WireImage

If fans of the preeminent nineties rock musical Rent are Rent-heads, are fans of the preeminent rock musical of the aughts, Spring Awakening, uh, Spring-heads? Whatever they're called, a pack of them showed up at Symphony Space last night for a Songwriters Hall of Fame discussion-cum-mini-concert with the show's creators, composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist-bookwriter Steven Sater. Sater and Sheik, two Buddhists who've been writing music together for nearly a decade and presented a nice yin-yang of effusive emotion (Sater) and cool irony (Sheik), talked a bit about their upcoming projects, like The Nightingale, a chamber-musicalization of the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a Chinese emperor who pines for the heart-piercing melodies of aforementioned bird. "There's no distorted guitar in it," Sheik said backstage, adding, "We're not following up Spring Awakening with another youth-rock musical." (That much was apparent when Sheik & Co. performed the plaintive "Song of the Human Heart" from the show, which they said might have a private showing at New York Theater Workshop in April.) They're also working on a musical about Nero, which, remarked Sater, "Duncan says makes Spring Awakening look like The Wedding Singer," and which may have a small preliminary run in New York this fall.

But they also talked a great deal about S.A.: how a movie deal is in the works, how they wrote endless finales before going with "Song of Purple Summer," how Björk's film Dancer in the Dark showed Sheik that a musical didn't have to be cheesy and all ta-da!, and how Sater came home and wrote the show's opener, "Momma Who Bore Me," after the duo saw the 2002 Lincoln Center Porgy and Bess together. And if you thought the lushly angsty show ends on an uplifting note, with not all its nineteenth-century German teens dying of suicide or botched abortion, think again: "The kids who survived grow up to be the parents of the Nazis," noted Sater. Springtime Awakening for Hitler? —Tim Murphy