Collaborating on the New York Spectacular has been so invigorating for Billy Jay Stein and AnnMarie Milazzo that they have had trouble sleeping. Milazzo, who grew up a “fan girl” for her musically talented parents, has arranged vocals for multiple Broadway productions and toured with rock acts like Santana and Anjelique Kidjo. Stein, a native New Yorker and longtime musician and producer, has worked with Bono, The Edge and Ray Charles, and won a Grammy Award in 2015 for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
You’ve been working together for more than 20 years. How did the opportunity to produce and arrange the music for the New York Spectacular come about?
Milazzo: Mia Michaels and I collaborated on Broadway’s Finding Neverland and became fast friends. While we were out to dinner, she asked me if I would be interested in doing a “couple of songs” for her gig at Radio City. I agreed and told her that I wanted to do it with my best friend and genius, Billy. Once they met, they totally connected and a few songs morphed into this amazing opportunity where we’d take on the challenge of creating one-of-a-kind music for the New York Spectacular.
What’s unique about the music?
Stein: We’re basically creating the immersive experience in Radio City Music Hall. It’s like making a record—a lot of it has to do with mashing up classic melodies and grooves with more modern, edgy things. We’ll take a classic song like “Singin’ in the Rain” and then
put a contemporary spin on it. With computer tools and sound synthesizers, we can really reengineer sounds and create new instruments. We can even have a human voice impersonate a trumpet!
Milazzo: Whenever you can have the human voice do something that a computer could do, I’m up for it! That’s why I call myself a vocal designer. A voice has a lot of colors and texture—a human being can make so many amazing sounds without words. You can tell a whole story.
How does it feel to be working with the Rockettes?
Stein: It’s so cool! I feel really, really blessed. It was an amazing directive for Mia to say, “Let’s push the Rockettes into the future. Let’s push boundaries and do some fresh beats.” She’s so amenable to us taking it to the next level.
Milazzo: It’s great to do music for dancers and a genius choreographer like Mia, because you can do unexpected things. You might have some preconceived notion of what the Rockettes are, but it expands in a beautiful way.
How does the character of New York City contribute to the way you produce music?
Stein: Living in New York City, the energy, the people and the excitement really inspires me. This city gives me energy, and I love that we have connections with all different types of people from around the world.
Milazzo: It’s just the sounds of the city. The sounds are sharper. I grew up in a town with 500 people. Coming from the country, the sounds are very different when you immerse yourself in a city as vibrant and electric as New York.
Check our Spotify playlist to hear the full-length original songs that Billy and AnnMarie re-imagined for the New York Spectacular: