Lyricist Linda Hildonen, right, and composer Colby Michaud look at their mixed track for one of the songs in “Once in a Lifetime: A COVID Love Story” at their office in Yarmouth last week. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Faith and Charlie have two amazing dates before the pandemic hits. Then comes lockdown and months of isolation. But amidst all that bleak, the women might have a real connection. So now what?

Their tale, “Once in a Lifetime: A COVID Love Story,” is a new will-they-or-won’t-they podcast musical by Linda Hildonen of Lisbon Falls and Colby Michaud of Sabattus unfolding over six weeks, starting in September, with a new original song in each episode.

The frequent collaborators and heads of LinCo Media didn’t set out to write this musical, or a podcast — COVID-19 temporarily derailed a new production they’d planned to stage in 2020. But the more they were inspired by real life, the more “Once in a Lifetime” took root.

“When the listener first meets the characters (Faith and Charlie), it’s the end of the second date and there’s a little bit of awkward conversation before it launches into a song that would normally be at the end of a musical,” said Hildonen, 37. “It’s this great, optimistic, looking toward the future song and one of the things we really liked when we first started is that it’s almost a happy ending song.”

Except in this case, “things are about to get real,” she said. In a later song, “there’s a line: ‘This uncertainty gets the best of me.'”

The project began in April 2020 with Hildonen writing the script and lyrics and Michaud, 31, composing the music.

“It’s universal, relevant, timely,” Michaud said. “The story itself and the characters are fiction, but what they’re going through is not.”

Actresses Becca Lewis, right, and Sam Dedian rehearse as Faith and Charlie in the upcoming podcast musical, “Once in a Lifetime: A COVID Love Story.” Submitted photo

Faith and Charlie are played by actresses Becca Lewis of Biddeford, and Sam Dedian of Saco, with the cast rounded out with people from all over the country, many of them members of one character’s virtual COVID-19 support group. While it’s set in Maine, “we did that very intentionally to bring in voices from other regions,” Hildonen said.

It’s in production now with a crowdfunding campaign underway that they hope can offset marketing, studio time and other costs.

Episodes are planned to be 15 to 25 minutes each.

Accessibility is the biggest benefit to the format, Michaud said. “Podcasts are free to listen to, no matter who you are or where you are. The biggest challenge is a creative challenge, which is there are no visuals at all, so a lot of the things that you would see on the stage you can’t do or you have to have another way to say that, either through dialogue or through song or through sound design. … We’re making this up as we go — that’s part of the fun and excitement, I think.”

It’s also been a challenge to find sponsors for a limited series podcast that won’t have much time to build an audience and awareness before it’s over, Hildonen said.

The two collaborators met at Schooner Estates in Auburn five years ago, when Hildonen, who worked in marketing there, gave a campus tour to Michaud, who was planning video work with his company, Praxis Production Studios.

Lyricist Linda Hildonen and composer Colby Michaud in their office in Yarmouth. “Once in a Lifetime: A COVID Love Story” is their third collaboration. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

“He saw one of the many beautiful pianos they have there and asked if it was OK if he noodled around on it,” she said. “He started playing it and immediately blew me away, he’s an incredible musician. We were making small talk when he asked if I ever happened to write lyrics.”

She did. It turned out they both had dreams of writing a musical someday.

After she set words to some of his new music, Michaud wrote her back: “These lyrics are incredible. Our partnership has officially begun.”

Next year the pair hopes to stage “Hopeless!”, their first full musical with 17 tracks, temporarily derailed by the pandemic.

“We have a lot of projects in the works,” she said. “We’re constantly referencing about five musicals out. We have many, many ideas. We’re five years in; we have enough work for at least five more.”


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