30 Seconds With… ‘Murder Ballad’ Composer Julianna Nash

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In this weekly feature, WCBS culture critic Jim Taylor shares 30 seconds with the theatre stars and upstarts of NYC. From Broadway to Off-off, Jim tracks down the talent and gets them to spill just enough for our collectively shortened attention spans.

Murder Ballad is the in-your-face rock opera about love and sex and the choices we make. And sometimes regret. We talk about it with composer Julianna Nash.

Julianna Nash: It’s a story that we wanted to tell about choices in life. People in their 40s or 30s, like “I had kids, but wish I’d done that,” or “What am I doing now? Why am I doing that?” It’s a simple story with a lot of emotions behind it.

Jim Taylor: It’s a rock opera. Not a single spoken word?

JN: Nope. We made a choice to have no claps. No stops, no call buttons, no speaking at all. I was scared, but we never really wrote it like an opera. It is not operatic in that way. It was challenging and amazing.

JT: Yeah, it’s like the actors are speaking lines, but they’re singing them. This is the kind of show American Idiot wishes it had been. There’s lust, and mistrust, and I’m wondering if it’s autobiographical?

JN: A little. My co-writer is a good friend, Julia Jordan. We worked as waitresses all night and I was in a band, and we would be out all night, and then I gave up music and she stopped writing had children… We didn’t go have affairs, but we did have regrets and realized that kids were not the be-all and end-all of our lives. Because we both had creative things to do. So it is autobiographical.

JT: It’s very real. Very sexy. And then there’s that baseball bat.

JN: Scary stuff, right?

JT: And it’s brilliantly staged. It all happens right among the audience. Sometimes right on people’s tables.

Murder Ballad just may be the hippest thing on stage right now. Catch it at the Union Square Theatre, which is a helluva lot cheaper than a ticket to something on Broadway. For more theatre talk and reviews, head to CBS New York. [Top photo by Joan Marcus]