John Johnson and Very Intensive Productions are pleased to announce the release of 35MM: A Musical Exhibition in Focus, an album of commentary, original cast interviews, and track-by-track song breakdowns. The album is available now (March 9) via Spotify, Apple Music, and all streaming platforms.

  • Did you know that the song “Crazytown” is structured around the 20 most common nightmares of college students?
  • Or that “The Ballad of Sara Berry” was written in 2 days before its world premiere?
  • Hear how the guitar riff of “Good Lady” was pulled straight out of “Giants in the Sky,”
  • The first line of “Party Goes with You” was recorded with the wrong lyric … and no one caught it,
  • And learn the tragically true story that inspired “Cut You a Piece.”
  • Plus so much more.

35MM: A Musical Exhibition is a cult-hit musical written by Ryan Scott Oliver that has been performed hundreds of times all over the world, including Japan, Australia, Scotland, England, Canada and across the US. With a cast recording (by Ghostlight Records) that has been experienced more than 20 million times, the show is song cycle based on photographs by world-renowned Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy (Murphymade.com).

The podcast-style album is narrated by Ryan Scott Oliver and features interviews with original cast members Alex Brightman, Ben Crawford, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe, with additional commentary by Murphy. Every song (including transitions) receives a track-by-track breakdown, analyzing music and lyrics and digging deep into their origins and inspirations.

A comprehensive deep dive perfect for actors, directors, writers, and creatives of any kind, 35MM: A Musical Exhibition in Focus also includes Oliver and Murphy reflecting on the decade-old songs and photographs respectively (“Matt and Ryan Grade 35MM”), a discussion with the original cast about the show’s legacy (“Parting Shots”), and a TedTalk-style tutorial guiding young creatives on how to develop and produce their own work by the writer himself (“RSO’s Thoughts on Making Stuff Happen”).


RSO and Very Intensive Productions are pleased to announce the release of Future Demons, an album of songs based on tales by acclaimed 1950s psychological horror author Shirley Jackson, composed by Ryan Scott Oliver with words by Jackson and Oliver. The new recording is available now (October 9) via Spotify, Apple Music, and all streaming platforms.





Among the stories included in the spooky collection:

  • In “My Life with R. H. Macy,” a young woman gets a job working at a dystopian department store where everyone’s called Miss Cooper and sales associates go missing all the time.
  • In “What a Thought,” a man is enjoying an evening at home with his husband, when he gets the thought, “I should kill him.”
  • In “The Story We Used to Tell,” two women become trapped in a photograph and must fight for their lives to escape.


“An object of enduring fascination, RSO reacts to her world with protean glee, producing a kind of endlessly evolving music that is breathtakingly exciting, making its listeners almost part of the process of its invention.  Yet, though he gallantly preserves much of her texts in each of his masterfully modernised, transformed and crafted lyrics, it all sounds – as ever – like totally him, and no-one else.” — BritishTheatre.com

“‘What a Thought’ by Ryan Scott Oliver and Shirley Jackson plays with the merry murderousness of couples stuck together for way too long during quarantine. The increasingly hilarious daydreams of violent retribution tap right into the increasingly dark humor we’re all using to deal with these days.” — Broadway World Album Review

“Ryan Scott Oliver and Shirley Jackson’s ‘What A Thought,’ performed by Oliver and by Jay Armstrong Johnson, is a riotously funny account of the effects of isolation, when a loving couple are driven to consider murdering each other.” — Reviews Hub


PLAYBILL: Lindsay Mendez introduces RSO’s write-up of Future Demons

BROADWAY.COM: Check out a sneak peak on Broadway.com!

Jackson’s work was the basis of the hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and the classic Robert Wise-directed film The Haunting. She is also the author of the iconic  short story “The Lottery,”  and was the subject of the recent film Shirley, executive produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Elisabeth Moss.

Future Demons will feature an impressive line-up of theater stars including (in alphabetical order) Kerstin Anderson, Britney Coleman, Jessie Hooker-Bailey, Victoria Huston-Elem, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Gerianne Perez, Catherine Ricafort, and Heathcliff Saunders — with Allie Boyle, Nicole DeLuca, Caitlin Doak, Samantha Ferrara, Alina Fontanilla, Adam Magnacca, Liam Joshua Munn, Kim Onah, Chloe Savit, Andreas Schmidt, Byron Turk, and Nicole Zelka.

The Band features Joshua Zecher-Ross on synths, keyboards and  auxiliary instrruments, Felix Herbst on violins, Allison Seidner and David Tangney on cello, Andrew Zinsmeister on guitars, banjo and mandolin, Joseph Wallace on bass, and Joshua Samuels and Gary Seligson on drums/percussion. The album is produced by Zecher-Ross and Oliver (JZRSO Studios), and orchestrations by RSO.

The track list is as follows:

1: “My Life with R. H. Macy” — Kerstin Anderson and ensemble

2: “James Harris” — Heath Saunders and women

3: “The Story We Used to Telll” — Britney Coleman & Victoria Huston-Elem

4: “What a Thought” — Jay Armstrong Johnson

5: “Family Treasures” — Caitlin Doak, Alina Fontanilla, Jessie Hooker-Bailey, Kim Onah, Gerianne Perez, Catherine Ricafort & Nicole Zelka

Shirley Jackson, the author of “The Road Through the Wall”, is seen in this April 16, 1951 photo. (AP Photo)

SHIRLEY JACKSON was born in 1916 in San Franciscco and later moved to Burlingame. At university in Syracuse, she met her husband, the future literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, with whom she had four children. In 1948 she published her iconic short story “The Lottery” in The New Yorker, sparking furious letters from readers to the magazine. Her novels —— most of which involve elements of horror and the occult —— include The Road Through the Wall, Hangsaman, The Bird’s Nest, The Sundial, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House. Her short story collections include The Lottery and Other Stories, Come Along with Me, Just an Ordinary Day and Let Me Tell You. Shirley Jackson died in her sleep in 1965 at the age of 48.


This spring has been incredibly challenging (the pandemic), changing (#BLM!), and finally prideful for us all. Here are a few RSO updates.

Applications Are Open for Rhinebeck Writers Retreat's NEA and ...


The new collaborators are at work revising Rope together during a digital retreat this summer. Find out more, including who the other recipients are, here.


RSO was thrilled to join Duncan Sheik and an incredible roster of writers for SIGNAL IV, a concert on YouTube presented by Adam Lenson (who directed RSO’s 35MM at the Other Palace in London in 2017). Kerstin Anderson performed “Bleed You Dry” from Three Points of Contact. Check out more about the event here, and watch Kerstin’s performance below at the 2’00″00 (2 hour) mark.


RSO, Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Adam Gwon, and many others wrote songs for Artists in Residence, songs by writers during the quarantine. RSO penned “What a Thought” for his upcoming EP based on tales by the queen of classic horror Shirley Jackson, and the shocking, murderous comedy song was performed by Jay Armstrong Johnson. You can listen to it here on Spotify (and stay tuned for upcoming news about the Jackson project).

Artists in Residence [MP3] — Broadway Records

Here’s to Summer 2020 during a global pandemic!

Ideal Cuts for RSO Songs

Below you can find RSO’s suggested audition cuts for some of his most popular tunes.

A BALL OF GOLD IN A BLOOD SKY: Start at “What do you make of us” and go to the end. Cut the 3 bars between “and you know what I think?” and “I forgot,” so that there’s no dead air.

A HYPOCHONDRIAC’S SONG: Start at “these pills, this problem” and go to the end. You could also just start as “Get me out of my mind” to the end.

AWFUL PEOPLE: From “These days the kiddies” through end of first chorus “pavin’ the road to Hell.” You can also do just the first chorus.

BLEED YOU DRY: From “Your woman is something” through end of first chorus (ending on the B major chord.)

BROKEN MACHINE: Start at “with a ruptured spout” and go to the end; take the last note up the octave.

CARALEE: Start at “Caralee likes spaghetti” and go to the end.

CLEVER: Start at “And I think I love you boy,” and go to the end—but! Cut the four empty bars between “feelings seem to well, stick” and “My heart got stolen.”

CRAYON GIRL: From “And now I’m in a world off starving artists” to the end.

CUT YOU A PIECE: Not an ideal cut, but you could start at the top and after the first chorus, you could jump to the ending playout (last three bars).

GIRL IN CAMOUFLAGE: The second verse through the chorus, adding a button “G” chord.

GOOD LOVE: Start at “My love for you is why, why I’ve come back” (verse 2) through that chorus (“who’d have guessed.”)

GROUND: This one is very hard! Start at “You will always  be a child” and go through first chorus, “Never tied to the ground.” If you have time with your accompanist to work it, you could do the B-section “Oh if life were just easy, easy,” through “but somehow I’ll get through on the ground” and end.

HALFWAY: I would sing “Now I’m here in this Kansas town” (lower line) and sing through the  final “stay,” but resolve it to G major instead of Gsus (don’t sing the ending).

HEMMING AND HAWING: Start at “I’m tired of  hemming and hawing” and go to the end, but only sing “Goddamn I hate you heart” once.

HOW WE GROW: From “Unknown muscles” through end of the first chorus “and now we go.” (singing all parts as a solo.) You can also just do the chorus.

I DON’T WANT TO BE SAD ANYMORE: Not an ideal cut for an audition.

I GO ON WITH YOU: Either verse into its chorus.

I HAVE SEEN THE AFTER: Start  at “This time in the after” and go to the end. Don’t do the accent.

LEAVE LUANNE: Start at “Luanne’s fat lip is drying” and sing through first chorus.  If you have time with your accompanist you could start near the end, “Someone’s howling” and sing through the end (if a screaming dark song is what is best for your audition??? EEK).

LOST BOY: Start at “But doesn’t every person” and go to the end. You could also begin at “But there’s some new kid” to the end. Don’t forget to play the positive—it’s not a sad song—and don’t worry about the high Bb.

MAKE ME HAPPY: Start at your preferred verse, but when it gets to the chorus, skip to the end and sing your preferred line as a solo.

MAP OF SCARS: Start at “Blood now boils in my veins” and go to the end, but at the end jump to the final today instead of the first one (ending on the C the first time you sing it, and trimming it a bit).

MAMA, LET’S MAKE A PORNO: Start at the top and sing through the chorus.

MRS. SHARP: If you’ve purchased the music from this site, contact RSO, subject “Mrs. Sharp cut” and he will send you the cut version.

MY LASS, SHE TIED HER LACE TO ME: From m. 19 to the end, singing all parts like a solo. Tell your accompanist to jam like an old Irish folk song.

ON MONDAY: Start at “You are cute but juvenile” and go to the end—BUT, make a few tiny cuts. Cut the fourth system of page 9, and  the first bar of page 10, so you sing “But I uh I uh  I, I wanna kiss you now.” Cut the 3rd-6th “and kiss you” (and their bars) so you only sing the first, second and last. Tighten it up!

OUT OF MY MIND: Start at “For now I’ll still cook every meal” to the end. You could also start at “’Cuz soon I won’t care, dear” and go to the end.

PLEASURE IN THE DESERT: Start at “But man this pleasure in the desert brings a sort of guilt” and go to the end.

RECOVERY: Start at “So she waters the plants” and sing through the end.

ROOTS DIG DEEP: Start at page 7, “Yes the roots dig deep,” and go to “grow what’s good once again” before the final recit. Have your accompanist end on A major instead of A minor, and add an octave bass button.

RUINATION: Dicey for an audition due to content, but hey! Start at the bridge (“Our ilk ties the tether”) and go to the end.

SORROW DONE:  From “Free my heart from the drawer” to the end. Feel free to take the second phrase (low!) up the octave.

STEPS IN THE SNOW: Start at “When I return it’s cloud number 9” and continue through the top of page 9 (singing the melody in the chorus as a solo).

STROKE BY STROKE: From “So let’s jump!” to the final “by stroke.” You don’t need the final lines. I also recommend listening to John-Michael Lyles’s version, who has the best optional notes.

STUPID BOYS: Start at “He loved me Sunday” through the end.

THE BALLAD OF SARA BERRY:  If you’ve purchased the music from this site, contact RSO, subject “Sara Berry cut” and he will send you the cut version.

THE FORGETTING: Start at “Now it isn’t uncommon” and go to the end. It’s a rarer song so make sure your accompanist sees the time and tempo changes or it could be a disaster!

THE KILLING: From “Agnes showed me more than a killing” to the end. You could also begin at “See the corpses after a killing” to the end.

THE LAST LOVE SONG: Start at the second verse through the first chorus. You could also just do the chorus.

THE MAD DOG: Start at “Now I’m changing shape before an empty moon” and sing through the  end, skipping the ensemble hum.

THE PARTY GOES WITH YOU: From “And when we’re dancing nose to nose” through the ending.

THE SERAPH: Final verse (“I don’t believe in God”) through first “I’ll be blessed.” (You don’t need  to repeat them.) You can also just do the final chorus.

TO DO: Start at “All the time that I’ve waited” and sing to the end.

TWISTED TEETH: Do page 6 and 7, but instead of the final bar or 7, have them end on a C octave button.

WE JUST WORK TOGETHER: Start at the top and go through the first chorus.

WHAT I WOULDN’T DO FOR YOU: Start at “My life was school weekend and summer” and go to the end.

WHAT YOU  CALL FREEDOM: Begin at “Maybe I’ll change my clothes,” and go to the end.

WHEN LILY CAME: Start at “Round Lily came near a dozen girls” and sing through the end.

WHEN YOU GO: Start at “You who live in your private light” to the end. You could also just do the final chorus.

WHY MUST WE TELL THEM WHY: From “Why excuse each deviation” through “Look closely” and conclude the passage with a C5 chord to button it.


On February 27 and 28th, 2020, the first workshop of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (based on the novel by Brian Selznick and film, Hugo, by Martin Scorsese) was held at the Dominion Theatre in London as part of the show’s ongoing development. See the images attached for the cast and crew, and stay tuned for more news about the show.