Heather Christian covered “We Are Not Strangers” from the Runaways musical. The track is off of The Liz Swados Project, a tribute album honoring the late theater director, out May 22nd via Ghostlight Records.
The video above features the Brooklyn-based composer and artist recording the Runaways song in the studio, with scenes of a New York City apartment and other performers flashing across the screen.
“I think the song is an invitation into a community, addressed to someone who feels like an outsider,” Christian tells Rolling Stone. “In the show, it feels like a gesture from an extrovert. The lyrics also hold as an invitation from one introvert to another, when you deconstruct the arrangement. That’s a testament to some damn good writing and is all Liz.”
Christian recorded the song prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the video was made while in quarantine. “I was delightfully surprised that the song had a new depth to it from the eyes of someone locked away in their house,” she says.
She also addressed the theater community struggling during the crisis: “I’m not the only person on the planet who cares deeply about the future of my chosen medium,” she notes. “I’m one in eleventy-billion. I don’t have an answer — I’m not sure any individual one of us will — but we are a community comprised of problem-solvers and freethinking generatives. No one chooses the theater because it’s lucrative or smart. We choose it because we’re compelled. That doesn’t go away, even if its temporarily inhibited or dimmed. Once we figure out a way to get out from under the thumb of the big fear and the big grief, then we can take our place at the table — and I think the song, with these ears right now, is an invitation to do just that.”
The Liz Swados Project also features contributions from Sophia Anne Caruso, Stephanie Hsu, Starr Busby, Amber Gray, and Michael R. Jackson, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his musical A Strange Loop. The record is currently available for preorder.
Kris Kukul, Swados’ longtime musical director, co-produced the record and provided orchestrations and arrangements. “This project is to celebrate the music of Liz Swados,” Kukul says. “From the 1970s to the 2000s, Liz wrote music for Broadway, off-Broadway, and theaters around the world, yet so much of her music went unrecorded.”
“While Liz was well-known in New York City, this is an opportunity to introduce more people to her incredible body of work,” he adds. “She spent her career pushing the boundaries of what theater music could say and do, and was misunderstood for refusing to fit into the traditional musical-theater mold. This project means that her legacy will continue to grow and be appreciated by people who aren’t familiar with her work.”