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Updated 11:00 AM May 8, 2006




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Success of 'Edges' revue charts future for U-M duo

Finding the name of a U-M graduate in the cast or crew of a Broadway musical is not hard to do, but it is not often that the theatrical work of students still enrolled in school gains national attention. Two U-M undergraduates—Benj Pasek and Justin Paul—have produced a contemporary musical theatre revue called "Edges" that is getting rave reviews.

" 'Edges' is a collection of theatre songs that are presented in a course of an evening about growth and self-discovery," Paul says. "The theme is shedding fear and discovering yourself."

Intended to be just a one-night-only show when it debuted in spring 2005, the review received such high praise that the duo took the production on the road to several venues, including the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and the June Havoc Theatre in New York City. Other cities to host "Edges" include Boston and Pittsburgh.

"Things happened that we never imagined. ["Edges"] took on a life of its own," Paul says. "We're trying to build off the opportunities—one after another," Pasek adds. "We have been totally taken by surprise."

Pasek and Paul, musical theatre majors, met during orientation freshman year. "We just clicked. First as friends," Paul says. They began composing pop music together and wrote "Edges" the following year.

After writing several songs they decided to have them performed by talented vocalists from the School of Music. They discovered the songs had a common theme, so they wrote more pieces along that same line.

The juniors will debut in mid-May a full-length production of "Edges," made possible with help from Lonely Sky Theatre Company of New York City. Joe's Pub in Manhattan will host two showings, both of which are sold out.

"The best part is going to see a production of our show and not knowing anyone involved, not even the director," Paul says. "It's amazing to see them sing something you wrote in your living room."

"That, and hearing that our songs resonate with people is awesome," he adds.

Among those impressed is Brent Wagner, chair of the Musical Theatre Department.

"'Edges' is both entertaining and moving. It has enormous variety, capturing situations and topics which are relevant, humorous and provocative," Wagner says. "Benj and Justin have a remarkable ability to create detailed character and situation in a single song, bringing a story to life with clarity and emotional richness."

The two attribute their success to family, friends, faculty and people within the business in New York. They also have a solid friendship as a foundation from which to build.

"We feel really lucky—opportunities kept coming," Pasek says.

Unsure where the future will lead, the two plan to move to New York upon graduation in 2007 and continue to work together in musical theatre.

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