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Musical Goes from Stage to Screen

Love, Music and Marriage

Like so much art, the musical-turned-web series Six Months for Six Weeks began with a star-crossed love story.

In 2009, singer-songwriter John Coons was studying music at the University of Southern Maine when he met a guy named Adam online. Whereas Coons was a liberal Catholic, Adam was an atheist, borderline anarchist—so expectations were low. Plus Adam was planning to move to the Midwest six weeks later. Despite its built-in expiration date, the connection between the two young men was undeniable, “like two trains rushing head-on towards each other in a dark tunnel,” Coons says in Six Months.

This intense, formative relationship unfolded while Maine was embroiled in political debate over gay marriage. “It made me ask, ‘What do I want out of a relationship?’ Do I want the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids?’” Coons says. “And this was happening as the rest of the state was arguing over whether we should even have that option.”

Coons moved to Seattle in 2011, and Six Months premiered on stage here last year. Songs alternate with monologues in the one-man musical, which broadens from the love story into the wider issue of the gay marriage debates.

As a singer, Coons is powerful, a tenor who has performed with the likes of Ben Folds, Boston Symphony POPS and the Seattle Opera. As a songwriter, he’s funny and audacious. His work is reminiscent of musical theatre’s Jason Robert Brown (himself a Billy Joel disciple), full of dramatic chord progressions, catchy choruses and witty, wordy verses peppered with phrases like “Whiter than an Episcopalian country club Christmas card.”

“When I first performed it for friends and colleagues, I didn’t know if I had anything,” Coons says. “I thought it would be for a niche, gay musical crowd. But when I had a stranger—a married, 50-year-old guy—come up to me crying afterward, I realized I was telling a story everyone can relate to.”

Since premiering in Seattle, Coons has performed Six Months in Boston, New York and back home in Maine. But he wasn’t done tinkering with the format. He approached filmmaker Alex Berry (the man behind the Jinkx Monsoon documentary Drag Becomes Him) about turning the show into a web series, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign this spring, the two went to work.

Recreating the intimacy of live performance in a 12–13 minute webisode is the biggest challenge, but in some ways those intimate stage moments are made even more personal through Berry’s close-ups: hands on a piano, Coons’ smiling face, a sweating iced coffee. Two of six episodes have hit the web, and if all goes to plan, the rest will be rolled out by Christmas. Even then, Coons may not be done tinkering with this story. He and Berry may submit the complete film to festivals, and he intends to bring it back to the stage on which it was born, a happy ending for an ill-fated tale.

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