Rock Band? Musical Theater? The Best Of Both.
Bicoastal trio GrooveLily inhabits that contemporary space where creative musicians ignore the boundaries laid down by words like rock, folk, jazz and pop. Intelligent original songs with no shortage of wit connect lush musical textures and soaring vocals with the blazing six-string electric violin of Valerie Vigoda, the lightning-fingered piano of Brendan Milburn, and the joyful drums of Gene Lewin. With backgrounds in classical music, musical theatre, jazz and rock, the three members of GrooveLily are making a new music that’s all their own. The success of their first concert-musical, the critically-acclaimed holiday show STRIKING 12, has led them farther into the world of theatre, where they have carved out a unique niche as a rock band writing and performing shows. After years on the indie touring circuit, they are delighted to be creating many projects with various collaborators: STRIKING 12, the first GrooveLily concert-musical (Off-Broadway 2006, Lucille Lortel Nomination for Outstanding Musical, Bay Area Theatre Critic’s Choice Award); TOY STORY THE MUSICAL (Disney); SLEEPING BEAUTY WAKES (Deaf West Theatre/Center Theatre Group/McCarter Theatre/La Jolla Playhouse, Ovation Award for Best World Premiere Musical); WHEELHOUSE, the second GrooveLily concert-musical (premiering at TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley June 2012); LONG STORY SHORT (City Theatre of Pittsburgh/TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley/San Diego Rep); A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (McCarter Theatre/Paper Mill Playhouse); and ERNEST SHACKLETON LOVES ME, a new 1-woman fever-dream musical commissioned by TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley/La Jolla Playhouse. Their latest/proudest productions are Brendan and Valerie’s son Mose (age 6), and Gene and his wife Suzanne’s sons Elias (age 4) and Jacob (almost 3). All three band members left Brooklyn in 2009—Brendan and Valerie for sunny Los Angeles, and Gene for cozy Montclair, NJ. They now meet frequently at airports.
Valerie Vigoda, electric violinist and singer, is the founding member of GrooveLily. Originally from McLean, VA, Valerie is a classically-trained musician, honors graduate of Princeton University, and former Army lieutenant. She has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper (opening for Tina Turner and Cher), Joe Jackson and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. She founded GrooveLily (originally “The Valerie Vigoda Band”) in 1994, with a critically-acclaimed CD called “Inhabit My Heart.” Dirty Linen Magazine wrote: “to call Valerie Vigoda talented barely seems to do her justice. She has a great voice, is an intelligent lyricist … and an ace violinist. Methinks we’ll hear more of her.” Along with her husband and longtime collaborator Brendan Milburn, Valerie is a 2009 winner of the ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award, as well as a two-time winner of the Jonathan Larson Award for Excellence in Writing for the Theatre.
Brendan Milburn (keyboards/vocals) graduated from Pomona College and NYU’s MFA program in Musical Theatre Writing. He does a lot of arranging for GrooveLily, and he’s an accomplished record producer as well. He often yearns for his native San Francisco. Seth Rogovoy wrote: “Milburn was a deft pianist, his nimble fingerwork doing double-duty as the band’s bassist and provider of its harmonic foundation, delivered with the jazzy sophistication of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and the rock and roll theatrics of Billy Joel.” Brendan’s music and/or lyrics have been/will be featured in a growing number of off/on-Broadway shows, and he’s always on the lookout for new projects/productions which will add more slashes (“/”) to his bio/credits.
Gene Lewin plays the drums and sings, and hails from Princeton, NJ. Like many of his heroes (Jack DeJohnette, Russ Kunkel, Vinnie Colaiuta), Gene joyfully blurs the lines between jazz and rock, supporting and complementing the music but unafraid to instigate when the time is right. After graduating from Princeton University, Gene earned a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. He tours regularly with Audra McDonald, and has appeared on CDs with George Coleman, John Patitucci, and many others. “His gift lies in his frenzied dynamo attack of cymbals and skins. Think Tony Williams sits in with Weather Report.” (Mark Corroto, All About Jazz)