Just in time for the holidays, Virginia resident and artist Susan Derry has released her debut album, I Wish It So. The album is inspired by a holiday cabaret of the same name that was streamed by Creative Cauldron in 2020, to a record-setting audience during COVID.
Many local theatergoers have likely seen Derry on the stage. In 2018, she played Francesca in Keegan Theatre’s The Bridges of Madison County. Her gorgeous soprano voice was lauded as a powerhouse in the production, which I saw first-hand. Derry’s performance as the emotionally starved housewife struggling with the choice between embracing her own passion and happiness or fulfilling her duties as a wife and mother was breathtaking. Derry commands the stage with her rich voice and a powerful presence that emanates from her petite frame.
Aside from gracing some of the DC area’s top theater spots, Derry has performed internationally, on Broadway, and at Carnegie Hall. Her career has a long list of roles and appearances that is beyond impressive, and if you haven’t seen her perform then you are missing out on one of DC’s treasured leading ladies.
In addition to the beloved, classic ingenue characters like Christine in Phantom of the Opera and Marian in The Music Man, Derry has a taste for original works as well. The Bold New Works project commissioned by Creative Cauldron in Virginia premiered works written by Matt Conner (music) and Stephen Gregory Smith (book and lyrics). Five shows in the course of five years, four of which saw Susan Derry in a lead role: The Turn of the Screw, Monsters of the Villa Diodati, Kaleidoscope, and Witch.
Derry also serves as Board President of UrbanArias, a DC-area contemporary opera company she co-founded with Artistic Director Robert Wood. Churning out new art since 2009, the company has produced over 25 shows in DC, Virginia, and New York City.
In September of this year, Derry appeared in a solo show titled Ingenue You When at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City. The cleverly titled cabaret was created to reflect her life as a young musical-theater leading lady. The original hope for Derry’s debut at 54 Below was put on-hold when the pandemic started in 2020. But that disruption allowed for the creation of the holiday cabaret that would ultimately evolve into the new CD.
Derry felt that “the holidays, no matter what you celebrate, are about joy and tradition and family, but the pandemic made so much of what is special about holiday time impossible.” So instead of simply sticking to the holiday standards, Derry includes selections made with the intention of “going beyond the expected tunes and digging deep into lyrics that would bring comfort and light and hope at a dark time.”
In addition to the title song, “I Wish It So,”,the album includes “Cockeyed Optimist,” “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas/Get Here mashup,” “New World Coming,” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.”
With a dozen songs, featuring Howard Breibart as the Musical Director and Arranger, I Wish It So is an uplifting and joyous listening experience born of a time when life was put on hold and dreams were stalled. But Susan Derry’s (dare I say it) cockeyed optimism shined through to create beauty and inspiration from the shadows of the pandemic. Further proof (as if any more were needed) that Derry is a local treasure who continuously gifts the theater community with her time, heart, and talent.
I Wish It So was recorded at Cue Studios May 21–23, 2021
Howard Breitbart: Music Director and Arranger
Executive Producer: Matt Conner/Nevermore Records
Producer: Warren Freeman
Engineer: Blaine Misner