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Concert Preview: John Forster Promising Humor, Satire In Flagpole Radio Set



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Flagpole Radio Café Founder Martin Blanco is always looking for a good fit between his special guests and the members of the local music and comedy troupe, which is appearing next on February 8 in the Edmond Town Hall Theatre.

He found a great match in John Forster, who will be dropping in for this mid-winter showcase.

“John Forster has had an eclectic career in music, theater, and satire, achieving acclaim in all of these arenas,” Mr Blanco told The Newtown Bee. “I believe his sensibilities will make for a wonderful addition to our show. He’s interesting, intelligent, and witty.”

Producer Barbara Gaines added that Forster’s brand of musical satire “is a natural complement to our show. Not only that, but he’s performed with our lead guitarist Dick Neal. We should have had him on the show years ago.”

Impressive Résumé

As a recording artist, Forster’s 1994 debut album Entering Marion got an Indie Award for Best Comedy Album, and many of his witty topical songs have been featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

His songs have also been recorded by Christine Lavin, Judy Collins, Rosanne Cash, and the late Dave Van Ronk, among many others.

As a writer and producer of bright, sassy music for children, Forster has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, most recently for the Tom Chapin album Some Assembly Required.

In a brief interview ahead of his arrival in Newtown, Mr Forster said he blends musical skills that started developing with piano lessons and as a choir boy, and a style of songwriting and performing that hit high gear as a student attending Harvard.

“I started performing early as a choir boy around age seven,” he said. “If you just sit there week after week, I discovered you could learn to read music. So then I started taking piano lessons and really fell in love with the power and beauty of the pipe organ.”

Humor & Parody

Then the Beatles came along, and Forster shifted his attention to rock and roll while getting involved in theater.

“Somehow they co-existed in my life and they still do,” he said. “So I went to Harvard and formed a group we called The Proposition, modeled on the Second City in Chicago. We did political satire mixed with opera parodies. I remember one of my earliest numbers was called ‘The Kennedy Cantata.’”

Forster said while he always had a flare for satire, it’s observational humor that most often morphs into songs that give him the most creative satisfaction.

“I am more of an observer. I like to sit back and take the long view of where things fit into history,” he said. “I like to tell a story — I find it hard to write from anger. It works for some people but not for me.”

The artist, who now resides on the banks of the Hudson in Nyack, NY, said he mostly creates his songs in his head before trying to meld the words to music on piano.

“Lately, I’m trying out songs more on guitar, and I’m also experimenting with other instruments — recorders. And I was just doing an orchestral project, so I pulled out my old trumpet, which I started playing in college,” he said. “Theater is something I’ve always kept my hand in.”

Launching Marial

One of Forster’s more eclectic projects came after he was commissioned by the Cincinnati Playhouse to create a musical entitled Marial.

“That was in 2007 — it had an Afro Cuban style and was set during the Marial boat lift and was a Romeo and Juliet kind of story,” Forster explained. “The boy was a petty criminal and the girl he met on the boat lift was the daughter of an intellectual under house arrest. The story is about them negotiating the refugee situation in Miami at the time.”

Forster said he plans to mix selections from his entire catalog, including some new material, into his Flagpole Radio Café set. He may even lend his writing or performing skills to one of the troupe’s localized skits if the opportunity presents.

“I’m available for that if they want to do it,” he said.

The Flagpole Radio Café is an evening of engaging music and compelling comedy performed by an ensemble of local artists. The musical ensemble — The Flagpole Radio Café Orchestra — comprises musicians Jim Allyn, Rick Brodsky, Howie Bujese, Cadence Carroll, Chris Durham, Dick Neal, and Francine Wheeler, while actors Martin Blanco, Barbara Gaines, Kate Katcher,and David Wheeler make up The Flagpole Repertory Theatre.

The February 8 show begins at 7 pm at Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street. Tickets are $35 and available online at flagpoleproductions.org or by calling 203-364-0898.

Additional performances this season are scheduled for March 21 and May 9; the guest artists are TBA.

Award-winning and Grammy nominated songwriter, humorist, and producer John Forster, whose work encompasses the worlds of singer-songwriting, musical theater, and children’s entertainment, is coming in as special guest for the February 8 Flagpole Radio Café. —photo courtesy John Forster
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