Zina Goldrich, left, and Marcy Heisler. (Jennifer S. Altman / For…)
Forget what you've seen on "Smash."
Writing an effective theater song doesn't always require blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes all you need is a triple latte, a sexy barista and … many things.
So it was on the day 20 years ago when Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich strolled into a Starbucks on Lexington Avenue and 78th Street in New York and crushed on a guy named Taylor behind the counter.
As the songwriting team left, they came up with the idea for a lyric — and a song:
"Taylor, the latte boy
Bring me java, bring me joy"
Days later, they were still trying to turn the two lines into a song. And each faced obstacles.
Although Goldrich hit on a tune, it sounded like "Our Time" from Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along." Heisler was writing about a girl who fell in love with Taylor but couldn't say why. And neither, at first, could the lyricist:
"There's a boy who works at Starbucks who is very inspirational
He is very inspirational because of…"
How to finish the line? Heisler solved the puzzle by channeling the girl's passionate — and endearingly inarticulate — feelings:
"He is very inspirational, because of many things"
"Taylor," with its loopy lyrics and lilting melody, became a hit when Marcy and Zina performed it in New York cabarets. It got hotter when Kristin Chenoweth sang it on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," then on "The Late Late Show" and at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Cheered by the reception, the team went on to stage two well-received children's musicals, "Dear Edwina" and "Junie B. Jones," and kept expanding their already prodigious songbook.
To close friends, "Taylor" was hardly unique.
"They have been writing these astonishing songs for years," said Scott Coulter, a respected performer, teacher and musical director who has sung with the duo for more than a decade.
"The secret with 'Taylor' and their other work is that the words and music fit together so beautifully. They sound like they came from one person. That's the magic of Marcy and Zina."