Youthful indiscretions and ill-fated wanderings found Paul Brill journeying as an herbal smokes salesman, street performer, valet, corporate errand boy, traveling musician and a marine biology instructor on dusty western streets. Hopes dashed and races run, he returned home to his native New York seeking firmer ground. He found meaning and sustenance in his work with disadvantaged children in East Harlem, yet after several years again felt the song siren stirring in his heart and reembarked on an illustrative songwriting and recording career.
Experimental forays into music production and orchestration soon led him to land compositional commissions in film, television and theater, where his early efforts drew quick notice and earned him consecutive Emmy Nominations on his first three films. The ensuing years found Brill leaning-in-hard on his compositional work, resulting in further acclaim and his scoring over 100 films, series and plays that would carry him around the world to screen, perform and conduct his compositions.
Recently, during quieter and lonelier times, the songwriting spirit unexpectedly reawakened with fury and fired out Brill’s wildly ambitious new musical breakthrough/breakdown: The Cost of Believing – a theatrical lyric-ballet, song-cycle, fever-dream examining physical and emotional isolation, the lengths we travel to find fulfillment, and the revival we confront in the pursuit of truth and faith. In a moment where our world seems forever riven by political and cultural divides, and the light of truth is often obscured by radical voices aiming to distract or dismay, The Cost of Believing seeks to reset the human spirit with the universal and timeless ideals of love and compassion.
The Cost of Believing tells the tale of a wandering spirit, lost to the world and abandoned by conventional society, living in the margins of modern life. After itinerant stints in the fruit trees of the Northwest, in a drug-fueled transcendent moment the drifter encounters a raging oracle in a meadow spewing false dogma to his ragged band of sycophantic followers. Under the sway of his call for destruction and structural rebirth, the drifter is entranced into an apocalyptic vision of the world’s future, where environmental catastrophe has laid the land to waste. Determined to avert this hell-fire vision, the drifter sets on a course of self-sacrifice as an act of protest that ultimately leads to near-death and the rejection of the false paths of violence and enmity. The drifter is, in the end, lifted – saved by the illuminating notion of love, and pledges eternal devotion to the promise of light.
Brill’s ambitious vision for The Cost of Believing is a fantastically ornate theatrical staging featuring a full complement of performers: large chamber ensemble and full supporting band, vocal choir, an accompanying dance troupe, multi-media film, light and sound design and a cast of actors bringing the musical’s characters and narrative to life. The Cost of Believing will present an original book for its staging as well as a full-length animated film that will both be employed as part of the production and have its own life as a stand-alone presentation. Brill has partnered with esteemed choreographers Jen Lott and Rachel Harris in developing the dance component of the musical and with celebrated visual artist Valerie Hird, who will weave her intricately flowing images into fluid animation.
The first iteration of the musical will be presented in January 2024 in Los Angeles in a limited run as a ballet, with live performance by Brill with full band, chamber ensemble and choir, six dancers, portions of the original film and other multi-media lighting, stage design and costuming elements. Following this initial production, Brill will bring The Cost of Believing back to New York for further development, including partnership with a playwright, directors and producers with hopes of further productions of the work in greater scale.