SCR artist Adam Gwon wins $100,000 Kleban Prize for lyrics
New York City writer-composer Adam Gwon has been introduced to Southern California audiences over the past 18 months: as the creator of “Ordinary Days,” a musical about young Manhattanites that had its West Coast premiere at South Coast Repertory early last year, and as the composer and co-lyricist of “Cloudlands,” a darker piece SCR commissioned from him and Octavio Solis (pictured together), scheduled for its world premiere in April after a preliminary spring runthrough at the Pacific Playwrights Festival.
Gwon, in his early 30s, will pick up another credential -- and a boost to his bank account -- on June 27 in New York, as he receives this year’s Kleban Prize for most promising musical theater lyricist. Gwon will receive $100,000, to be paid over two years, as will Michelle Elliott, New York-based winner of this year’s Kleban award for the most promising musical theater librettist.
“Ordinary Days” was first seen at the Roundabout Theatre in New York and came west to SCR before making its way to London's West End; in September, the Signature Theatre of Arlington, Va., will stage the premiere of “The Boy Detective Fails,” with music and lyrics by Gwon and a book by Joe Meno, based on his novel of the same name.
The Kleban prizes, intended for artists still in the first stages of a career, are administered by a foundation that Edward Kleban, lyricist of “A Chorus Line,” set up in his will. This year’s judges were composer Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime”), lyricist-librettist Michael Korie (“Grey Gardens”) and lyricist David Zippel (“City of Angels”). Past winners of the Kleban awards include John Weidman (“Assassins”), Korie, Jason Robert Brown (“Parade”), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”) and David Lindsay-Abaire (“Shrek the Musical”).
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Adam Gwon, at piano, and Octavio Solis. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times