Ridgefield's ACT of CT gets Grammy nom for Best Musical Theater Album

When COVID-19 prohibited theaters from allowing audiences to attend shows in-person, the production team of Ridgefield’s ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) of CT knew they had to pivot.

Daniel C. Levine, artistic director and co-founder of ACT, decided to turn February’s mainstage production of Stephen Schwartz’s “Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook” into a filmed movie, and then share the film as a streaming event with ACT audiences. And since a “Snapshots” cast album didn’t exist, ACT of CT decided to record one.

Both ideas paid off. The cast album, which is being distributed by Broadway Records, was just nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album of 2021. And the film was so well-received, it was purchased by the streaming service Broadway HD and will be available as a live-on-demand broadcast for the next seven years beginning later this month.

ACT of CT's filmed production of "Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook" will be available on Broadway HD at the end of December. 

ACT of CT's filmed production of "Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook" will be available on Broadway HD at the end of December. 

Courtesy of ACT of CT

“As ACT’s artistic director, I'm committed to doing new work and doing things that are unexpected every season, like making a movie this year,” said Levine. “I knew we had to continue to engage our audiences. If we went dark for however long, I wasn’t sure that we would be able to reopen.”

Halfway through filming the project, Levine had the idea to make a cast album of the “Snapshots” production. “We turned the stage of ACT into a COVID-safe makeshift recording studio,” he said. “We adjusted our filming schedule so we could bring the cast into the theater to make the album. We miraculously were able to complete the recording in just two days.”

Both the Grammy nomination and the film distribution deal are firsts for the young theater that has been getting rave reviews for its award-winning productions since it opened in the summer of 2018. Much of the company’s remarkable success is due to its production team, which also includes ACT’s resident music supervisor Bryan Perri, who is one of the producers of ACT’s Grammy-nominated album. Perri is currently the music director and conductor for “Jagged Little Pill,” Alanis Morissett’s Broadway show, and his many Broadway credits include working as music director for the long-running Stephen Schwartz musical “Wicked.”

To cast “Snapshots,” which features over two dozen of Schwartz’s songs drawn from his hit and award-winning musicals, including “Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell,” and “Enchanted,” Perri and Levine brought in top-notch talent to star in the ensemble piece. 

“A lot of the actors that are in Snapshots were people that Dan and I both worked with, and some of the people were actors that I have worked with in the past,” said Perry. “One is currently in ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ Another was an Elphaba in ‘Wicked.’ These were all people that we knew would deliver something really, really special, and more than anything, deliver honest human performances.”

For Levine, the production offered its own set of challenges. The story is set inside the attic of a suburban home, so he asked a friend in town, Allison Stockell, executive director of the Ridgefield Playhouse, if he could use hers. “She has a beautiful house in Ridgefield, and I said ‘Can I borrow your house for four weeks?,’” he said humorously.

She agreed, and Levine hired a film production company, while he directed in the attic-turned-movie studio. For the cast album, Levine made sure that Schwartz, who is on ACT’s Artistic Advisory Board, and who has worked with ACT on other productions, gave his blessing.      

“Stephen said, ‘I don't know how you're going to do it during COVID,” said Levine. “’But, if you want to make a cast album of this show, I'm happy to support it and to help you produce it.’”

Perry is happy ACT’s accomplishments can be beneficial to the town and the region. “We’re trying to continue to add to what's already a really vibrant and exciting artistic community. It's our hope that everything we do continues to bring attention to this great community. The support and the love we have received from so many different people of different backgrounds, all throughout the community and the region, is a huge part of why we're able to do anything at all.”

He also sees the staff as instrumental to ACT’s continuing success. “For all those we have helping us around the theater there's so much passion,” he said. “Everybody is so driven, everybody loves creating art. Theaters do not happen by themselves.”

The Grammy Awards will be held Monday Jan. 31, 2022.