This past weekend, several FF2 team members gathered at Lincoln Center to see the new revival of Camelot. The whole production was beautifully done, with a pared-down yet visually striking set, intricately crafted costumes, and excellent performances by all of the stars.
Yet, at the end of the show, there was one element that stood out to all of us: the music. The singing and the orchestral accompaniment were nothing short of spectacular. A musical accomplishment as big as this production can only be achieved by the best in the business, and luckily that’s who they had on the job: music director Kimberly Grigsby.
Kimberly Grigsby has been in the business for over twenty years, and has led some of the most stunning and exciting music we’ve seen in theater throughout that time. For example, Kimberly was the music director for the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening from 2006 to 2009, leading stars such as Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff through music that spans from loud rock numbers to soft ballads.
Every song in Spring Awakening is infused with raw, intense emotion, both in the vocal performances and in the drums, keyboard, and guitar behind them. Kimberly’s music direction took this emotion as far as it could go. Not only that, but the singers and the band, under Kimberley’s leadership, were as amazing to listen to as any of the musical greats in history. Few musical productions have been as immediately and viscerally affecting as this one, and it is in large part due to Kimberly’s work.
Few musical productions have been as immediately and viscerally affecting as Spring Awakening, and it is in large part due to Kimberly’s work.
It is not only Kimberly’s musical emotional intelligence that makes her impressive, but also her range and breadth of experience. Her credits include Amélie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Grease, among many others. She has also conducted esteemed orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony.
Most recently, Kimberly has been working on Camelot, for which she is both the Musical Director and the Conductor. Though many elements of the show were updated to suit a modern audience, the music stayed true to the original. Therefore, in contrast to Spring Awakening, the songs in Camelot require flawless classical vocal techniques and an orchestra to match. Kimberly certainly delivered on both fronts.
Standout vocal performances came from Philipa Soo as Queen Guenevere, Andrew Burnap as King Arthur, and Jordan Donica as Lancelot. All three of them nailed the classical style while at the same time infusing emotion and depth that allowed the audience to connect deeply to the music. The orchestra was light and dreamy at times, and loud and dramatic at others; always executing the music with precise excellence. The music of Camelot wholly enveloped us in the world of the show and the journeys of the characters.
In an interview with WNYC, Phillipa Soo, who had also worked with Kimberly before Camelot when she played the titular role in Amélie the musical, described the conductor as the “heartbeat of the show”, and said of Kimberly, “It’s just so great to have such a strong relationship because I feel like I’m always taken care of by her. […] I feel very safe and equipped and ready to tell this story because I know that she is there keeping that tempo, watching that, keeping that heartbeat herself as well.”
This is the perfect way to describe Kimberly as a Music Director. For every production she works on, she, and her music, are at the heart and soul.
© Julia Lasker (5/30/23) Special for FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Listen to the WNYC interview in which Phillipa Soo discusses Kimberly’s role in Camelot here.
Read more about Kimberly’s career here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo and bottom photo: Photos by Joan Marcus. Courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater & used with LCT permission.