Steven Prevett knew he wanted to be a songwriter from a young age. It wasn't until he began learning about musical theatre at Central Michigan University, however, that he knew he was barking up the right tree.
Prevett, a composition senior, is preparing to debut the product of two years of songwriting and composing in his upcoming musical, "Three Pekes in a Pod." The story follows three Pekingese dogs as they move into a new neighborhood filled with different breeds of dogs representing different cultures.
"The story is driven by the struggles of moving and change, whether it's desired or not," Prevett said. "By giving each group of dogs its own identity based on breed, it allows us to emphasize those cultural differences in a natural, fun and delightful way."
Prevett's greatest inspiration to become a composer came from his father, who also is a musician. Growing up listening to his father's work, Steven began writing his own songs early — focusing on music for film or television and comedic songs. When he began studying at CMU in 2015, musical theatre immediately grabbed his attention.
"The idea of writing songs for characters seemed so challenging to me, so I had to do it. I thought musical theatre would be the perfect outlet to express myself as a serious composer, as well as a comedic songwriter," Prevett said.
Bringing together the talent
For Prevett, one of the most challenging parts of developing a musical is gathering the talent for the live performances. This meant tapping into CMU's
School of Music and
musical theatre department to find the right musicians and performers for his musical.
Prevett is the second School of Music student to produce an original musical as an undergraduate. He anticipates being the first to have his musical performed at CMU with a musical accompaniment.
Around half of the performers for "Three Pekes in a Pod" are fellow students Prevett recruited from CMU's various musical concentrations.
"There are savants who know every football score, every stat of every player — that's what Steven knows when it comes to Broadway plays and musicals, down to the specific quotes from Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and so on. This is his passion." — Quincy Dobbs, Flint Institute of Music professor
Stephan Wilson, a senior in musical theatre, is one of the vocalists. Prevett invited Wilson to collaborate after hearing him perform at an honors recital.
"It's one thing to write a song as an undergraduate in composition, but to produce a fleshed out, full-length musical, requiring a collaboration with someone to write the book, developing the orchestration and accompaniment of each song, and working with the ranges of the singers — not a lot of people can do that within four years," said Wilson.
Prevett credits much of his success to his peers, CMU faculty and resources like the
MIDI Computer Lab, a digital audio production room located in the Music Building.
Sharing the dream to be a Peke
When it came to writing a musical, Prevett knew he wanted to create something fun and "not just some silly musical about dogs."
"We think that our show is shaping up to be a fun and unique way of showing the conflicts between different cultures in our world," Prevett said.
The Pekingese dogs in the musical are inspired by three real dogs — Benny, Peng Chau and Xui Ma — owned by the collaborator who wrote the book for the musical, Quincy Dobbs, a professor at the
Flint Institute of Music.
Prevett met Dobbs at Mott Community College in 2014 and began taking piano lessons with him shortly afterward. Even then, Dobbs recognized Prevett's passion for Broadway musicals and plays as something special.
"There are savants who know every football score, every stat of every player — that's what Steven knows when it comes to Broadway plays and musicals, down to the specific quotes from Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and so on. This is his passion," Dobbs said.
No date is set for the first showing of "Three Pekes in a Pod," but Prevett plans to present the musical at CMU after spring graduation in May. The performance will feature musicians and musical theatre performers from CMU alongside student performers from the Flint Institute of Music.
"It's important to Steven to have this performed at CMU because it's been such a huge part of his time here," said Dobbs. "What comes after is anyone's guess, but I think this musical is going to go places."