“We’ve never done this before, so I think it will be quite special.” Composer Nancy Ford is speaking about an intimate performance she and her longtime songwriting partner, lyricist Gretchen Cryer, will be experiencing in Cleveland.
And the fact that this is something new for them is also something remarkable, because these two women, who were the first female writing team to be produced in New York City, have certainly experienced a lot. They’ve written more than seven full-length musicals together, and they’ve garnered multiple awards because their music has proven to be both richly entertaining and topically groundbreaking.
On Sunday, March 11, this dynamic duo will join forces with The Musical Theater Project to present Old Friends: An Afternoon with Cryer and Ford. They will be joined on the stage of Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music by producer and host Bill Rudman and singers Katherine DeBoer and Eric Fancher, under the musical direction of TMTP stalwart Nancy Maier.
Cryer and Ford (as they are known) are perhaps best known for their 1978 musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, which featured the tender and poignant song “Old Friends.” The show was originally produced by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival.
As Nancy Ford says, “Taking It on the Road has always been seen as an early feminist musical, since it focuses on one woman performer’s decision to focus her songs on the subject of women’s emancipation. At the time, Gretchen and I didn’t view it as feminist. It was just trying to speak truthfully about the relationships between men and women.”
The songs from that show, and all the others, have continued to resonate with women and men over the decades. And in this concert at CIM, songs from all their musicals will be performed—including pieces from the innovative The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, the anti-war musical Now Is the Time for All Good Men, and Shelter—a musical that played on Broadway in 1973 and dealt with the unhealthy obsession people have with their computers. How’s that for predicting the future?
In addition to those shows, the concert on March 11 will also include songs Cryer and Ford wrote years ago for the American Girl stores. At that time, they wrote “family musicals” to be performed in those doll stores, based on the historical American Girl doll characters. Ford notes, “That experience led Gretchen and I to write the musical Anne of Green Gables, which has toured many schools and is still available.”
It’s been an amazing career for Ford as well as Cryer, who has also written the books for all their musicals and whose son, John Cryer, is well-known as a movie and TV actor, garnering two Emmy Awards for his role in Two and a Half Men.
As Ford says, “Gretchen and I were actually a little surprised we got as many shows produced, back in the 1970s and 80s, as we did. Then it got a bit harder as the years went by.” But that body of work deserves a celebration, and the festivities will happen soon, right here in Cleveland.
Nancy Ford and Gretchen Cryer will also attend a VIP Meet & Greet at Nighttown on Friday night, March 9th. It's a $75 reception that includes a ticket for Sunday's concert, and the songwriting team will be there for some Q&A and to sing a couple of songs in a more intimate setting.
Old Friends: An Afternoon with Cryer and Ford
Sunday, March 11 at 3 PM, Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music, 11021 East Blvd. For tickets: Call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.MusicalTheaterProject.org.