Sprayberry discusses recent work

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Composer Robert Sprayberry is working with the UA Department of Theatre Arts perfecting his most recent compositional undertaking, the musical "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Sprayberry has composed scores for film, modern dance and theatre, as well as playing keyboards on tours with music celebrities such as Chaka Kahn and Rod Stewart. In a recent interview with the Wildcat, Sprayberry talked about his past and his experience working on this Tucson version of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

Wildcat: Why did you switch from performing to composing?

Sprayberry: I decided I wanted to live to see 40. When I started writing, I decided that I didn't want to play as much anymore; too much upkeep. I'd rather write and let other people interpret.

WC: What is "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" like?

RS: Originally, the show was less to my liking more musical theatre with a positive spin. My take of the piece is more desperate people thrown into the mix together and clawing their way out. It is musical theatre, there is comedy that comes out of it, but it is a dark comedy. It's more real life humor as opposed to "Hello Dolly" it's ironic and dark. It's entertaining. We've been searching for a way to show despair in an entertaining way, if that's possible.

WC: How is working with the UA?

RS: When you get out of school, and get into the real world, you forget how the enthusiasm and the talent level is still very high at colleges and universities and the facilities are great. There are very good facilities here and the talent pool is wonderful (at the UA). It makes you want to do your best. The students can affect the way a song is performed. I've adjusted things, key-wise, in every performer to get the best out of what they are doing. For the students, it's a very good experience in the development of the show.

WC: Do you feel any pressure from the success of the film adaptation of the musical?

RS: I feel very personal with the whole piece it's a brilliant film. I don't feel pressure from the movie, I feel more inspired by it. I'd like to live up to that kind of power. It's very dark stuff and to be true to it you have to be dark. "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is something off the beaten path, you'll definitely think you've made a journey after seeing this. It's not "The Beauty and the Beast" it's more like "In the Belly of the Beast." It's a lot of work, but it's a labor of love. It's like going through birth, but eventually you have to take the credit, or the blame. The proof is in the pudding if you hear people laugh, cry or come out going, "where's the bar?"

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