When Joe met Broadway, it was love at first sight.
“I saw ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at the Orpheum Theater on Sept. 27, 1987, as a gift for my 6th birthday,” Joe Iconis said. “I was hooked - immediately and aggressively.”
A composer, lyricist, book writer, performer and a hell of a piano player, Iconis has written more than half a dozen musicals. His song “Broadway, Here I Come!” was featured on the second season of the NBC television show “Smash.” And his latest production, “Be More Chill,” based on the novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini, is heading to Broadway in February.
But in the meantime, you can see “The Return of Joe Iconis & Family” at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, the acclaimed theater company’s intimate second stage, Oct. 26-28, with his award-winning mash-up of show tunes, cabaret and rock ’n’roll.
“It’ll be an evening of my songs,” Iconis said in a recent interview. “Some from musicals, some just stand-alones, performed by an insanely talented group of artists who I often collaborate with. All of them are Weston alums, and they are all legendary performers on the New York theater scene. Legendary because they all do 10 million different things in addition to being brilliant musical theater performers.”
That includes songs from “Be More Chill,” a musical the (Newark, New Jersey) Star-Ledger called “a high-energy, imaginative, well-crafted musical.” It’s the story of a high school kid named Jeremy, “the least special kid of all time,” and what happens to him when technology intersects with his life.
“In general, I think and talk a ton about things before I ever put pen to paper,” Iconis said about his writing process. “I despise writing. That’s something that’s developed as I’ve gotten older. Once something is already on the page that I can work with, that’s the exciting part for me. These days, anyway.”
Iconis says his inspiration comes “from all over the place,” adding, “Every project has its own set of influences and inspirations. My goal is to have every project I do feel like itself, even when my voice is evident.
“I think it’s hard to experience one thing I’ve done and immediately ‘get’ the body of my work,” Iconis explained. “‘Be More Chill’ sounds nothing like ‘Love in Hate Nation,’ which sounds nothing like the Hunter S. Thompson musical, which sounds nothing like ‘Broadway Bounty Hunter.’ In terms of my concert work, I take inspiration from classic musical theater cabarets, the Grand Ole Opry, Peter Allen, Arcade Fire, the Country Bear Jamboree, the Rolling Stones, the Muppets and more.”
The show at Walker Farm will be a sampling of his work, in a cross between an old-fashioned cabaret and a rock concert.
“There’s a youthful energy, but all the songs are very melodic and relatable and about a wide range of subjects,” Iconis said. “We’ve got tunes written from the point of view of house cats and mentally unstable adults and manic teenagers and depressed robots and happy basket cases and everything in between, some of which will be known to Weston audiences, and some of which will be new.
“I love being at Weston so very much,” Iconis said. “It’s more than a theater, it’s a community, and it’s a community that I am proud to be a part of.”