Quad-Cities Musical Theater Buddies Partner For Passionate Podcast
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If there was any doubt that Steph DeLacy and Megan Warren freaking love musical theater, just listen to one episode of their passionate, dishy “Double Threat: The Podcast.”
You can immediately tell that DeLacy (a 33-year-old choreographer) and Warren (a 26-year-old vocal coach and music director) are best buds; have a sweeping, deep knowledge of Broadway history, and definite opinions on what musicals have been the best and not so great on the Great White Way.
At an uncertain, unending time when both Broadway and local theaters are closed to full productions, “Double Threat” is like glorious water in the desert – satisfying and deliriously entertaining. And they obviously have a blast doing it.
The free podcast – which debuted in April on Apple, Spotify and SoundCloud – averages about 90 minutes, with a new episode each Monday (Nov. 9 will be number 28). The enthusiastic women each talk about a musical according to a theme for the week (like shows with a strong female character), and toward the end offer a “mixtape” of discussing songs from three other shows that fit the theme. Then they ask listeners to vote for which musical they prefer.
“I think it’s great fun!” Sara Tubbs, co-owner of Moline’s Spotlight Theatre, said recently of the podcast. “I think it’s been a great way for
people to still be engaged with musical theater throughout the pandemic. They are hilarious and their musical theater knowledge is extensive.”
DeLacy and Warren (who met doing 2018’s “Shrek” at Quad City Music Guild) collaborated on Spotlight’s “Matilda” in summer 2019. Among the 18 shows DeLacy was to choreograph in 2020, she and Warren were to partner on “Tarzan,” “Evita,” “The Addams Family” and “The Sound of Music,” which all were postponed due to Covid.
“Megan and Steph have been a huge component of The Spotlight Theatre,” Sara Tubbs said, noting Warren has been full-time music director for the past two years, and the women have both taught music and dance this year from the theater at 1800 7th Ave., Moline.
“Megan has been with us since ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ both music directing and choir directing that production,” Tubbs said of their October 2018 Spotlight debut. “Since then, she has music directed ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ ‘Matilda,’ ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘The Wedding Singer.’
“She had also taught the entire ‘Oliver’ cast their music before the shutdown,” she said of this past March. “In fact, the night we found out we were going to probably have to shelter in place was the night we had our sing-through of the entire show with the cast. To say we were devastated would be an understatement.
“Megan has also music directed a few of our children’s company shows such as ‘Mary Poppins, Jr.,’ ‘Shrek Jr.,’ ‘Once on This Island, Jr.,’ ‘Seussical Jr.,’ which got shut down due to pandemic, and our summer camp, Heroes Vs. Villains,” Tubbs said. “Megan is an incredibly talented person both as a music director and as a performer.”
Warren also played Percy, the lead in “The Spitfire Grill” and was in the ensemble for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” in
February of 2019. She has also helped with props and lighting and “has created beautiful photo boards for our lobby of our actors,” Tubbs said. “She has been an instrumental part of our team for two years. We absolutely love working with her and are hoping all of our plans for 2021 will be able to happen!”
In addition to choreographing “Matilda,” DeLacy has taught several dance classes at The Spotlight Theatre, including the summer camp. She was also planning to direct “The Addams Family” last month, but will still join Warren on the Spotlight staff for most 2021 shows, as long as they can produce them, Tubbs said.
“She has a real talent working with kids,” she said of DeLacy. “She has also helped us in numerous other ways such has front of house, social media, and a trivia night. Steph is a wonderful person and choreographer and we have been so blessed to work with her.”
From school shows to community theater
DeLacy made her stage debut at age 5, and studied tap, jazz and modern before graduating from Camanche (Iowa) High School. She was active in school shows, and graduated with a bachelor’s in theater from St. Ambrose University in 2009 (the last time she performed on stage was their “Sweeney Todd”).
DeLacy choreographed her first full-length show as a college junior, for Assumption High (“Godspell”), and “West Side Story” there was her second show, in 2009.
In Camanche, she said theater and dance were all she did. At the end of her sophomore year at Ambrose, she got the opportunity to start teaching dance. “Six months later, I took a choreography job for a local high school on a whim. The years that followed found me diving in, head-first, to musical theatre dance, tap, jazz, modern, and hip-hop,” DeLacy says in her bio. To date, she has choreographed over 30 musicals in the Quad-City area (including about a dozen in 2019 alone), for seven high schools, one college, and three community theaters.
“I’m a firm believer that ANYONE can dance, regardless of your age or ability” she wrote at stephdelacychoreography.com. “It is my greatest hope that I can continue to make dance accessible to everyone and can inspire the next generation of theatre and dance artists.”
After working as theater coordinator for Davenport Junior Theatre for two and a half years (until fall 2019), DeLacy made the leap to full-time choreographer just last December. “I don’t know if it’s fully feasible, but I’m gonna try,” she said in a recent Zoom interview with Warren.
“I came to realize as I’ve been working that all of my jobs, the decisions were in service of choreographing, and so I took the Junior Theatre job so I’d have more flexibility to choreograph more shows,” she said.
“I just got to the point where I said to myself, why am I not choreographing more shows?” DeLacy said. “I can make a career out of this, so I got to a point last year where I felt, I had enough contacts, I had enough schools lined up. I really think I can make this work, I can do this. I was off to a great start before the pandemic hit.”
The last show she choreographed was the Elvis-themed musical, “All Shook Up,” at Moline High School, which was to run March 12-14. They were able to the first performance and then were able to only do Friday for an educational recording and for staff, without a public audience. The students were crushed to be closed down, DeLacy said.
“Everyone was very emotional,” she said. “The kids were on fire that night, though. They nailed everything.”
Warren also loved musicals in high school, in Batavia, Ill. (an hour outside of Chicago). By the time she finished high school, she acted in over 20 musicals (including community theater), and in college, she took a four-year hiatus, concentrating on choir, earning a degree from University of Illinois in choral music education.
Warren taught three years as Geneseo Middle School’s choir director, and loved it.
In the Q-C, her first show as a performer was in 2017, in Music Guild’s “Little Mermaid,” then stayed at the Moline Prospect Park theater for several in quick succession — “Annie,” “Catch Me If You Can,” and co-lead Fiona in “Shrek.” She was Mary Bailey in Guild’s “Miracle in Bedford Falls,” a musical version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in the 2018 holiday season.
“I found myself looking forward to the time when I could be in a show or music direct a show,” she said. Warren got a lot of response when
she put out feelers about the need for vocal music instruction, and approached Brent and Sara Tubbs (the Spotlight owners) about being a full-time music director, who agreed.
“I’m just gonna ask for opportunities, and I was able to leave my job and for the past year and a half, I’ve been at Spotlight full-time,” she said, noting she now has 46 voice students, ranging in age from 8 to 60.
Warren first music directed at Spotlight in October 2018 for its first major musical, “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” In June 2019, she pulled off the double hat trick of music directing and acting in “The Spitfire Grill” at Spotlight.
“I wasn’t supposed to be music directing that at first, but I had to step in for the music director,” she said. Spotlight has mainly used pre-recorded tracks, such as “Spitfire” and “Hunchback,” especially for shows that would have a significant orchestra. The theater doesn’t have its own orchestra pit or space on the floor.
Warren music directed and played for the on-stage band of “The Wedding Singer” this past February, her last full show. She loves to sing and music direct equally, starting off as a performer.
“I always had impostor syndrome, like I’m so young, there are people double my age who don’t music direct,” Warren said. “I’m starting to become more opinionated about music direction, and I will say, it’s gotten a little harder to be a performer and think ‘I would do this, and I would do this…’”
DeLacy made her Music Guild debut in 2017 with the iconic, dance-heavy classic “West Side Story,” directed by Bob Williams, who died suddenly from a heart attack at age 61 on Oct. 4, 2020.
“Bob Williams had sent me an email; he had seen some choreography at a dance recital I had done, several years prior,” she recalled of
summer 2016. “He said, ‘Hey I need really good choreographer. I’d like to come talk to you.’ And I met up with him and Bob Manasco.”
DeLacy had done the show in 2009 at Assumption High. Guild was her first community theater in the area, after a number of high schools, Ambrose and Junior Theatre.
Working with students versus community theater, she said she’s spoiled since she’s worked with many schools several years and they have ability to do advanced dance moves.
“Community theater, now I’m lucky I’ve done three shows at Guild and I know a lot of the regulars,” DeLacy said. “With ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in particular, which is the last one I’ve done for Guild, we had people I hadn’t worked with before. It’s interesting to prepare for that, ‘cause you kind of have to throw something at them and hope for the best.”
With “West Side Story,” she said that cast “was so wildly talented, they were asking for harder things.”
“That show was a dream, because there wasn’t anything I had to scale back,” DeLacy said. “It was always pushing a little bit further.”
All three shows she’s done at Guild have been amazing experiences, with the auditions for “Shrek” among the largest turnouts ever. “We were so lucky that we had so many people come through,” DeLacy said. “It was a good problem to have.”
“The same thing with ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ we had so many people come through who were spectacular,” she said. “I’ve been very lucky in that the three shows I’ve worked on, there’s never been an ‘oh no, we’re not going to have enough people to fill this out’.”
DeLacy said Williams was very supportive of her career and her life.
“I learned just general joy, that he would have in rehearsals,” she said. “Just excited, and when his granddaughter came along, he’d work her into every conversation possible…Just a joyful, joyful guy and I feel so lucky I got to work with him.”
A new schedule with Covid
Since mid-March, life turned upside down for the women (like the rest of the world). Warren sent an e-mail to her students, who she’d met with (30 minutes once a week) at Spotlight, and gave them the option of doing virtual lessons. About 75 percent chose that.
“It was so nice to receive that support – otherwise, it was ‘There goes my income,’ so that was awesome,” she said. “For like two months, we stayed virtual. And in the summer, when I knew we’d be able to spread out a bit more and have more windows open, I started offering in-person lessons again.”
Currently, she sees probably 90 percent of students in-person and the rest virtual. Online, Warren would play piano, and just learn as much as they could with her students.
“Coming back to in-person lessons, you could see how many students actually flourished,” she said. “There is a nervousness doing a voice lesson with somebody in person. There was a comfort in doing it over the computer for a couple months. When we came back, it was like here was something I discovered, and we can do it with the piano now. That was cool.”
Warren wears a mask during lessons, and her students (some wear masks) sing at least 18 feet away. Her first student recital was going to be this past spring, which was postponed. She has sung at the Spotlight’s three cabarets, including a Disney-themed one, and a Halloween one late last month. They capped audiences at 50 in the 500-seat theater. She also sang at a Circa Speakeasy cabaret in August.
For Halloween, Warren sang “I Put a Spell On You” from “Hocus Pocus,” and “Phantom of the Opera” with DeLacy’s boyfriend Taylor Bley.
DeLacy pretty much was at home until July, and had toyed with the idea of private dance lessons before the pandemic. In August, she started teaching tap, and has over 30 students now (teaching one on one, ages 6 to about 60) – all but two are in person, at the Spotlight.
“We wear masks the whole time we’re in lessons,” she said. “The nice thing with tap lessons, there’s very little touching with anything.”
“We’ve been able to keep it very safe and sanitary,” DeLacy said. “The nice thing about being unemployed at the time, I was able to get in and repaint the space. Andy Sederquist built my tap flooring for me. He and I went on a wild chase to get new mirrors. It was really nice to have time to get the space ready, before diving into – we did a children’s camp for Spotlight in August.”
The kids’ camp served 28 students, with Warren and DeLacy each teaching half at a time. It was a “Heroes and Villains” theme, culminating in a show, with the kids performing in face shields. It featured a variety of songs from different musicals.
At the Halloween cabaret, there were fewer than 40 in the audience, Warren said.
“For the actual performance, it wasn’t disappointing, because who we had were really excited to be there,” she said. “I think it just sad to see on a full-scale level, it just stinks that we can only have in that huge space, have that number of people. “And in reality, we can probably have more safely. It just is what it is, and everybody’s hit with the same thing,” Warren said.
Launching podcast during the pandemic
Warren originally had the idea to do a musical theater podcast on her own, when she had A LOT more free time.
“I’m a big fan of the podcast ‘My Favorite Murder’ – they have two women and they pick a murder, they kind of do what Steph and I do,” she said. “They talk about the murder, the true crime. But how cool would it be to do for a musical? So I approached Steph.”
They first talked about it back in January and February, and after Covid hit, they had the time. “In the beginning, that was all that I was
working on,” Warren said. “It was originally just going to be me on my own. But it became so much more fun with Steph.”
They recently started a Patreon fundraising page (asking at least $3 a month), where people can submit theme ideas and they’ve used them. Some episodes have been:
- A musical that deserves a revival (“Parade” and “The Drowsy Chaperone”)
- A spooky musical (“Phantom of the Opera” and “The Addams Family”)
- A musical that should have won the Best Musical Tony (“West Side Story” and “The Secret Garden”)
- A musical that should have not won the Tony (“The Music Man” and “Will Rogers Follies”)
- Jukebox musicals (“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “All Shook Up”)
At first, they came up with ingenious idea that the week’s loser in votes would record a video of something they were uncomfortable with – DeLacy singing and Warren dancing. Overall, Warren has won 14 times, DeLacy 11, with two ties. But for several months, they’ve done away with the videos on their Facebook page.
“When I lose, I definitely need Megan’s help vocally and when she loses, she needed my help with dance,” DeLacy said. “It got to the point
where we were multiple episodes behind. We’ve done away with it for now and have talked about bringing it back with the Patreon at some point.”
“We always wanted this to be fun,” Warren said. “It got to the point with the videos, where that part of it became not fun.”
One time, Warren made up a dance and did it on the deck of DeLacy’s house. “It was very fun. Would I ever want to do it again?” Warren asked. “That 30 seconds of choreography took about 30 minutes. There is a reason that I’m not the dance part of ‘Double Threat.’”
On the podcast, she talked about her first working with Steph in 2018’s “Shrek The Musical,” when she first learned to tap dance.
“I had never put on tap shoes and she taught me to tap in one summer,” Warren said. “To get me to tap a full number in one summer after never having tapped before, Steph is a choreography, dancing genius.”
One of DeLacy’s videos was her singing a split screen of the “Agony” duet (with herself) from “Into the Woods.”
“I was like, oh my gosh, I should do something funny, and I also love ‘Into the Woods,’ so we should do the ‘Agony’ duet, and it spiraled into, I should do that myself,” she said. “Oh my gosh, that was probably the most fun. There’s an app where you can record yourself on that split screen.”
“I hate ‘Godspell,’ but some people are like ‘No, Godspell is great,” Warren said. “That’s kind of what we want to do with it. Everyone has their musical theater opinions.”
She said there are very few shows that she doesn’t really like. The 1971 Stephen Schwartz show (originally off-Broadway) based on the life of Jesus and the Gospels – “feels like it has two completely different writers of the music,” Warren said. “Some are like totally atonal and weird,
and some are totally repetitive and there’s no in between. It just doesn’t feel cohesive. Every version of ‘Godspell’ I’ve ever seen never makes any sense. I have to go and look up the stories afterward.”
DeLacy quoted someone about the dance-heavy “Cats” (the 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster), saying “ ‘Cats’ to me is like ‘American Idol’ but the prize is, you die,” she said. “It’s like, I am this cat and I am this cat. And then congratulations, you win, and you get to go die now.”
Warren chose “Phantom of the Opera” as the Halloween theme for the podcast.
“It just totally screams Halloween to me,” she said of the longest-running show in Broadway history, since its 1988 opening. “It hits it for me, and I think ‘Masquerade’ plays a big part in it, dressing up for a masquerade party, really screams fall. I had a friend in high school whose birthday was on Halloween and she hosted a party and it was ‘Phantom of the Opera’ themed.”
In 1988, “Into the Woods” won the Tony for Best Score over “Phantom,” which Warren totally agreed with. “That show has such a special place in my heart.” She can’t understand why “Into the Woods” didn’t have a longer run (less than two years), noting its music is more “oddly beautiful,” whereas “Phantom” is more obviously “in your face,” she said. “Sondheim is more, you have to work a little bit more at it. As humans, we want the big, in-your-face, easy, you don’t have to think about it.”
They talked about “Spitfire Grill” and “In the Heights” in the same podcast, for the category of musicals they’ve done that they’d like to do again. DeLacy choreographed “In the Heights” (the 2008 Tony winner by Lin-Manuel Miranda) in 2017 for Davenport North High School.
Warren argued that 1991’s “The Secret Garden” (by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon) should have won Best Musical and doesn’t understand why it hasn’t been revived on Broadway.
“I have no clue,” Warren said. “I feel there is so much you could do to amp it; not make it more modern. But more technologically savvy, there’s so much you could do. I don’t know why. It has a great score; it’s beautiful, you could get big names.”
“Secret Garden” was two weeks from opening at Music Guild in March, when it was also shut down by Covid.
There are about 500 regular listeners of “Double Threat,” including one in Northern Ireland, Warren said. They record in her Davenport apartment, typically on Fridays (sometimes two or three at a time) and each new one is posted Monday mornings.
“We’ve kind of dictated ourselves as quarantine buddies,” Warren said. “We work together so much, that at this point, we trust each other. We’ve kind of made our own circle.”
“Steph is kind of my little family,” she said.
They originally were going to play audio clips of songs, but they decided not to because of copyright concerns. They could play snippets of up to eight seconds each, but decided that wasn’t worth it, since the rights vary by show. Warren said.
“I also don’t want them to be taken down, after we’ve spent the time to record and edit, and it gets flagged for copyright or whatever,” she said. “It’s so much easier to say, go listen to it.”
DeLacy said they have a Spotify playlist where you can find all the songs they have mentioned in their mixtapes. It’s now nearly six hours long.
What’s next for the Spotlight?
The plan is for Spotlight to transplant its 2020 shows for 2021. February was the only show (“Wedding Singer”) that ran this year. Warren was most disappointed to not do “Tarzan” and “The Addams Family.”
DeLacy was going to direct the latter, her community theater debut as director. She’s directed several children’s shows at Davenport North. For Spotlight, “Addams Family” had been cast for October – with “an all-star cast,” she said, noting Bob Manasco as Gomez, Lauren VanSpeybroeck as Morticia, Callen Sederquist as Wednesday and T.J. Green as Fester. “We got very lucky, oh my gosh,” DeLacy said.
“We are actually hoping to do a show in February with a small cast,” Sara Tubbs said. “We are in the process of deciding what show that will be. And ‘Oliver’ is going to depend on how things are looking in the beginning of the year. It may be too big of a cast size for us to still be able to produce that show, however, we are hopeful will be able to. But we are also making plans in the instance that particular show will not be able to happen at that time.”
The Spotlight is offering online streaming of its “A Night of Disney” cabaret from September. Single views are just $8, available through Dec. 4 at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/42516.
Their last podcast (Nov. 2) paired the super silly “Drowsy” and super serious “Parade” as shows that deserve a New York revival. They both reveal the transcendent magic of theater.
The first from 2006 is a parody of a 1920s musical comedy, starring an anti-social musical theater fan, and was done in 2011 at Music Guild. DeLacy choreographed “Drowsy Chaperone” in 2015 for Davenport North and 2019 for Assumption.
“It’s so fun, oh my gosh. It’s just delightful. If you’re having a sad day, it’s fun to listen to,” she said in the podcast, noting one of her favorite moments is the full cast performing a repeated skip in a record. “It’s really funny.”
“It’s a musical for theater lovers,” Warren said of “Drowsy.” “It pokes fun at all the tropes, and does the things we love.”
“It’s a very timely musical, that deals with so much going on in the world right now,” Warren said, noting it comments on race, discrimination, murder, anti-Semitism, the Confederacy, and criminal justice. “The music is freaking fantastic…It’s like too relevant. I don’t like how relevant it is.”