Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planet Connections Interview - Balint Varga of "Dangersparkle and the Lion"

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Balint Varga
Show: Dangersparkle and the Lion

Relationship to production: Music Director/Music Arranger

Balint Varga is a composer, conductor, music director originally from Budapest, Hungary, His musicals include: Kobolds (produced at Emerson in 2012), Darlings of Broadway, Houdini -The Musical and Why Don't I have a Girlfriend? Previous musical direction credits include: West Side Story, Oliver, Assassins, Kobolds, Berklee Goes Broadway. He's been working over Europe in many production as Oliver!, Jekyll and Hyde, Fiddler on the Roof, Chess (also co-orchestrated), Jesus Christ Superstar, They're playing our song (orchestration) and most recently Roman Polanski's Dance of the Vampires (Budapest/Antwerp/St. Petersbourg).He graduated from Berklee College of Music where he studied composition and conducting.

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I began my professional career in the world of musical theater at age 17 when I moved to Paris (I’m originally from Hungary). I worked first for Bastille Opera House in Paris with the musical director Scott Alan Prouty. I was the youngest contracted piano player ever in the history of the Bastille Opera House. I also worked at the French Ballet Institute and in Chatelet.

Who are your biggest influences?

As a composer I’m amazed by Alan Menken’s work. He had a huge influence on me. I also love Leonard Bernstein as a conductor and I admire Jason Robert Brown for his piano arrangements. Furthermore I listen to Puccini, Verdi, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Stephen Schwartz among others. 

What is your show about?

Dangersparkle and the Lion is the epic, touching, comic, and way-too personal tale of the history of the human race as seen through the eyes of two hapless immortals, fallen from heaven and doomed to reincarnate together until they can figure out just how to get along.

What inspired you to become involved with it?

The process we used to make the show was very creative, collaborative, and improvisational, and it was exciting to be a part of something like this.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

My producers are the extremely creative Harry Einhorn and Lia Tamborra who are also the writers and leads in our show. This is the first time I had a chance to work with them. I had an interview and they asked to be their music director. The amazing Shana Solomon is our director who put so many brilliant ideas in the show, giving it way more colored details. 

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

We are raising awareness for Khoryug, a special project of the World Wildlife Fund working with Buddhist monasteries for environmental protection across the Himalayas 

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

I’ll be music directing Willy Wonka, I’m writing two new musicals, I am preparing my own showcase and I’m also working on music directing two projects in China. 

What was your best “theatre moment” - that one moment, either onstage or off, that was so sublime that it stayed with you?

When one of my show (Kobolds the Musical) was produced in Boston last year. Conducting my own show in Boston was one of my best theatre moments. Next, Broadway!

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