Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 17, 2011

Nancy Holson Pens "Ludwig Live!"

Five-time Emmy Award winner Nancy Holson is well known to Berkshire audiences for her hit comedy The News in Revue which ran for 15 seasons as well as Off Broadway. She recently created Ludwig Live! which is an irreverent song-filled cabaret tribute to Ludwig von Beethoven. The play runs from June 30-August 30 at Seven Hills Inn, Lenox. For information and tickets call 866-811-4111 or check the web at

ITS: Having seen your terrific "News in Revue" several times, I anticipate that "Ludwig" will be a bit irreverent and edgy. Is that the case?
HOLSON: "Ludwig Live!" channels the irreverent spirit of The News in Revue and applies it to the life story of Beethoven. Sounds crazy, no? Well, it is! But somehow it works. I am totally in love with the way this show has turned out.

ITS: Was writing the "Ludwig" script the same as writing lyrics, as you did with "Revue"? Are you fitting your words to Beethoven's "greatest hits"?
HOLSON: I'll bet Beethoven never suspected that his masterpieces could become actual songs. But it's wild how well it works. It is a major challenge to craft lyrics to such iconic music, but all those years writing The News in Revue have been a big help. Also, I recently completed writing a musical version of "The Nutcracker," putting lyrics to Tchaikovsky's music, so I had to learn how to take a classical piece and repurpose it as a song. That was very helpful.

ITS: Why Beethoven? Does he have a particularly interesting or funny past?
HOLSON: Beethoven is a fascinating character. He was arguably the most important classical composer (though the NY Times rates him the second most important!). He was larger than life with a life filled with angst, drama, and brilliance. Does that make him a guy who is lampoonable? YOU BET!

ITS: How much of the play is based on fact? Did the writing process call for research?
HOLSON: Although I take liberties for comic effect, the essentials of Beethoven's life are accurate. I did do a lot of reading about Beethoven's life and felt like I had a real sense of who he was. Comedy comes from heightened reality, so I took all of the key events in Beethoven's life and added a comic veneer. For example, his lover Josephine, a widowed mom, has a touch of Sarah Palin in her as a Mama Bear who takes care of her cubs and can see Prussia from her window.

ITS: How did you find yourself in this business? Any mentors?
HOLSON: What a crazy career I have had. I have been writing and producing "Revue" for 20 years. Plus a smattering of other shows along the way. I had no clue when I started out that this was where I would be at this point in my life. But I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have this career. I have taken my own path and have had to blaze the trail continually. I have never followed the rules when it comes to either writing or producing, so it's not been possible to have had a mentor; I sure wish I had someone to help point the way, but it didn't work out that way. I have had the steadfast support of my wonderful family which has made all the risks I've taken less scary.

ITS: Is the Seven Hills production the premier? What do you hope will be the future of "Ludwig"?
HOLSON: Seven Hills will be the very first home for "Ludwig Live!". It was designed as an entertainment for the Berkshires. I think it is ready-made for the crowds that enjoy visiting Tanglewood. I hope that the audiences will love it and that it will have a future in other parts of the country where there is a classical music scene.