Perspiration as Inspiration

By day he's a personal trainer. By night he's a... musical composer? Yep. David Sexton is co-owner of the South Beach gym IronWorks, and his first musical comedy, Nothing Less Than Love, opens this week at the Hollywood Playhouse. The show is patterned after traditional Broadway hits from the '50s and '60s, but the story behind its genesis is nothing less than bizarre.

The fictional story line is about Broadway composer Lawrence Harper, who had a string of hits in the '60s followed by a series of flops. He moves to Miami Beach and collects royalties while his piano and pen collect dust -- that is, until he meets a young male lover who wants him to write a show. Harper's agent and arranger also push him to compose again, but once Harper resumes writing and playing, he sees hope for his future and realizes that shallow physical relationships with twentysomethings aren't what he really wants.

Sexton, a onetime theater major, says his musical is somewhat inspired by the biographies of great composers like Stephen Sondheim. But the idea for Nothing Less Than Love actually came from the gym. "I train clients, and some of them have such a sad sense of reality," says Sexton, age 31. "A lot of what happens at the gym is about the aging process. They don't invest in something deeper [than physical beauty]."

Not everyone could turn such an observation into three acts with choreography, but what happened to Sexton next is even more unlikely. "I had been doing little readings with my friends," he says. "I decided I needed to hear people who knew music, professionals.... We held auditions, and two people who auditioned were [Hollywood Playhouse artistic director] Andy Rogow and [veteran South Florida actor] Louis Silvers."

Rogow decided to mount the show at the playhouse and to cast Silvers as the lead, his last role before he moves to Los Angeles. "I don't put much stock in fate," Sexton muses, "but it does seem interesting."

Nonetheless the show's inspiration and serendipitous staging aren't even the weirdest part of the whole experience, according to Sexton. "It's that I don't read music," he says. "I would sing the songs in my head, and I hired someone to write down the notes."

If you think Sexton's musical ignorance led to a strange collaboration, you're right. Says Sexton: "Now, at rehearsals, there are all these conversations about songs that I wrote that I don't really understand."

-- Robin Dougherty

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Robin Dougherty