Wayne State music alumni trio creates, composes original production ‘Alyce’ for Meadow Brook Theatre

From left to right, Wayne State University Department of Music alumni Dave Fazzini, Mitch Carter and Matt Croft wrote, composed and orchestrated an original production, titled “Alyce,” scheduled to debut at Meadow Brook Theatre.

It’s been said (and sung) that three is a magic number.

For Wayne State University alumni Dave Fazzini ‘94, Mitch Carter ‘94 and Matt Croft, the trifecta power holds true. The trio recently came together to write, compose and orchestrate an original production, titled “Alyce,” scheduled to debut August 2024 at Meadow Brook Theatre.

But how they came to this point has been filled with serendipitous moments — with the Department of Music as a common thread.

“Going to Wayne State put me into this professional, working musician environment. All my professors were working musicians in town. They were all professionally involved in what I wanted to do with my life,” said Fazzini, who also met his wife, Suzie, in the music department. “At Wayne State, you have this wealth of everything Detroit has to offer. The older I get, the more I realize how invaluable that influence was. At that time, it was the perfect place for me to be.”

Fazzini and Carter met during their time in the early ‘90s at WSU, having taken a few music composition classes together and performing at various school events. They were both hired cantors at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and sang in the Archdiocesan chorus. As it happened, the director at the time was Dr. Norah Duncan IV, who would go on to become chair of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts’ Department of Music.

For Carter, pursuing a music education was an emotional decision. “I had been writing music since about age 11 but had no formal instruction in music until my senior year in high school,” he said. “So, with more desire than ability, I gave it a shot.”

As a composer, Carter had set his sights on the stage and screen. He scored a couple of student films but neither project was completed. While still in school, Carter started a jingle company with another student. They wrote and produced a few things for Chrysler Plymouth that got aired in Chicago.

From left to right, Department of Music alumni Dave Fazzini, Suzie Fazzini, Jen Hoffman and Mitch Carter during their days as the Bricktown Quartet.

As a student at WSU, Carter was drawn to music history. He aced all of Mary Wischusen’s courses and built a large library of classical LPs, including opera. However, Carter admits he did not have great success as a student composer, as far as quantity was concerned.

“Music composition was not for me,” said Carter. “By the time I finished my degree, I identified as a singer. I joined several choral ensembles — early music to modern — and began regular voice lessons with the Department of Music’s Francis Brockington. In Opera Workshop, I performed seven roles.”

And while Fazzini and Carter were toiling away in college, Croft was still a toddler. It wasn’t until Croft was in sixth grade and then high school that he and Fazzini’s paths would cross for the first of many times.

“Matt is a former student of mine at Notre Dame Prep High School who I met through working with the band director, Joe Martin,” said Fazzini. “Matt started in high school writing and arranging music. He had a savant-like brilliance at music. When you're a teacher, you see all these students. And every once in a while, you meet one who kind of scares you because their brilliance is that amazing.”

After graduation, Croft came to Wayne State from 2006 to 2010 as a music composition major. By 2014, their paths overlapped again. “I always stayed in touch with Dave and Joe. They would come see some shows sometimes such as community theater and original stuff,” Croft said. “Then they had an opening for a choir accompanist. I started playing piano for David for both high school and middle school choirs.”

But three months into his new gig, Croft had to say goodbye after being offered his first touring show. While bittersweet, Croft knew he had to leave. He maintained his friendship and stayed in contact with Fazzini.

Artwork for the production of "Alyce," an original musical based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop.”

So, when after Carter had finished the lyrics/book and Fazzini finalized the music, “Alyce” was in a good spot for Fazzini to turn to his friend and former pupil for some orchestral advice.

“I’ve done orchestration in the past, but I knew I would never be able to do this with the time I had. And I wouldn’t do it as well as what Matt was doing,” Fazzini said. “I got a hold of him and asked if he’d be interested in doing this on the side. He said yes and I sent him some music. It was a godsend for us.”

“Alyce” is an original musical based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop.” It’s about Alyce, a teenager orphaned from age six, and involves love and magic, a scarecrow, a witch, and a witch finder. Fazzini and Carter wrote all the original music, lyrics and book. They just needed something extra to complete it.

“They had me come in to do all the arrangements, taking that music they've written and orchestrating it out for a 15-piece orchestra that's going to be playing the score live,” said Croft, who is currently music director/conductor for the “Mamma Mia” 25th Anniversary National Tour and associate music supervisor for the “Jesus Christ Superstar” National Tour. “Basically, taking what they wrote and finding ways to translate that and make it work for all the different instruments — playing with colors, textures and sounds. Trying to tell their story through all the different ways the orchestral ensemble can help provide.”

Dave Fazzini (left) and Matt Croft go over orchestrations for "Alyce."

To start, Fazzini shared a few pieces of music for him to work his orchestral magic. What Fazzini received back was everything he hoped for — and more.

“I remember when I got his first mp3 for the show. I was driving home and pressed play on my phone. I was weeping in my car,” Fazzini said. “It was so gorgeous, what he had done. He made it so much more dramatic. Then I played it for everyone involved in the show and they all had the same reaction. It was a relief to know this thing was safe in his hands. He’s done a fantastic job.”

Throughout it all, Fazzini said the entire experience with Carter and Croft has been a blast.

“My original compositions, songwriting wise, throughout my 25 years of writing have not been prolific at all. I struggled with being a perfectionist,” Fazzini said. “Then, for some reason, when I focused on this dramatic piece ‘Alyce’ for the stage, and I started getting these lyrics from Mitchy (Carter) … I can’t explain it, but the music has just been pouring out.”

By Shawn Wright, Communications Officer for the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

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