It may have started with a mutual affection for Burt Bacharach, but the affair soon grew to include Dusty Springfield, Etta James, the Supremes, Ray Charles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Fifth Dimension and the Ronettes.
"Our initial thought was to do a Burt Bacharach show," says Leeds, the director. "We've both wanted to do a Bacharach show for forever and a day. But then, we started to listen to Petula Clark, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, and we thought, 'But these songs are magnificent.' So we decided to open it up."
They lost count, but they think they listened to somewhere between 200 and 300 songs before shaping the show into something more manageable, eventually adding Motown artists and composers such as Henry Mancini and Michel LeGrand to the show.
"I was a dancer first," choreographer Black explains. "I started my career in theme parks and moved to cruise lines. In those revue-type shows, you get a great education not only on the history of dance but the history of music. You do big band music, '50s music, '60s music. So I knew all of that. But I did not know exactly what the Watusi [dance] was, so I researched it."
Then, they tapped Eric Alsford as the musical director and arranger and assembled the cast of Leah Sessa, Sara Ashley, Brandy Ward, Shane Tanner, Clay Cartland and Mike Westrich. Leeds says, "We wanted actors who sang, singers who act — people who understand the lyrics and bring that out."
Black adds, "It's great to have this amazing cast with great voices, but to see them give themselves over to the dancing and see them have fun with it, that was an unexpected bonus."
Songs in the show include "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," Leavin' On a Jet Plane," "Eleanor Rigby," "California Dreamin'," "Walk Like a Man," "My Girl" and "Our Day Will Come."
"We set guidelines," Leeds says. "First, what are the most popular songs? Then, what are the songs that are maybe not the most popular but fit into a story? And the third rule is what songs are so entertaining and so fun that we want to see that in the show? Then, you juggle. It's kind of like grafting a nightclub act. Kevin and I are so versed in that."
Black, who lives in Plantation, recently staged "On the Radio: Sounds of the 70s" at Stage Door Theatre and "Rags" at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. He has also directed and choreographed shows for Entr'Acte Theatrix in Delray Beach and is artistic director for CAST (Career in the Arts, School of Talent) in Cooper City.
Leeds, who lives in Boynton Beach, is a screenwriter (“The Simian Line” with
Harry Connick Jr., William Hurt
) and choreographer (“End of Summer” with
). Locally, in addition to “Butterflies Are Free” which is also at Stage Door Theatre, he has directed shows for Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, Naked Stage in Miami Shores, the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan and the Boca Raton Theatre Guild.