18 Jan Staging Horror on Broadway
Hope you’re all doing well…let me shamelessly start by letting you all know that I started my day out with a nice hot cup of KHDK Ghoul Screamer Coffee made by Dark Matter (shameless plug). And yes, it’s really good (another shameless plug!). I’ve had about two cups of it so I’m ready to really, really-really-really-really-really-really ready to roll here (shameless but still accurate plug number three!)…
I wanna get into the whole topic of Horror on Broadway, or more specifically, horror in the theatre. Check it out, I feel like I discovered this new thing! It might be an old thing for a lot of people out there but you know how I am, and maybe I’m the last to discover something that everyone else has known about for over a decade. Anyway, last time I was in London (October) as we were driving around and happened to go by the theater district in London’s West End, I noticed that the play of Young Frankenstein was on at Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road…and that piqued my interest.
Literally two minutes later, I saw a sign for Toxic Avenger, The Musical. And I thought to myself, “Will you look at that, Young Frankenstein and Toxic Avenger?!!” And then it was brought to my knowledge soon afterwards that The Exorcist, the play, was also in town. And I thought to myself, really? This is really happening? I mean, stuff like this doesn’t happen where I come from. It’s like, Jersey Boys and Mama Mia, that kinda stuff. The closest genre thing that I can think of like that was Phantom of the Opera when it ran for, like, 386 years.
It’d been a while since I’ve been to a play or been to a musical, so I decided to check out Young Frankenstein after I’d spoken to someone who had already seen it who said it was amazing. I went and was very pleasantly surprised. I could not believe how great it was. I’d looked online and read about it, where I found out that Mel Brooks actually had everything to do with the play, which was a really, really good sign. And he had written the music and the lyrics as well, which I thought was tremendous. I had visions of all those slapstick scenes, like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, and all those others where the cast just break out in song and dance. Unexpectedly, I was blown away! Because not only did it have the spirit of the original movie and story line, but the lyrics brought a whole new dimension and aspect to the story. It actually opened up the story a bit, and all the great old jokes were there too, with a bunch of new jokes thrown in. One of the greatest parts was, remember at the end of the movie the whole “Putting On the Ritz” routine? In the movie it runs, what, maybe 90 seconds max? Well, guess what? In the musical it’s a complete song and dance routine, lasting about five minutes or so. It’s just fantastic, I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe how much fun I had seeing Young Frankenstein for what seemed like the 50th time, or maybe I should call it Young Frankenstein 2017.
Same thing with The Exorcist. I thought it was great, although I think it’s important to mention that I did see it on Halloween night, so it was a convergence of the faithful. Before I went, I’d been thinking, “What’s gonna happen? Is it’s gonna just get bogged down in dialogue?” Were the people just gonna sit there and grimace? But as I later found out after seeing the first 15 minutes of the play, it was a complete production with sound, lights, special effects. It was fantastic, you know? A full-on horror movie put into a play performance format, it was just epic, especially when she just rose from the bed stiff-legged in Jesus Christ pose at the very end. It was super intense. And there’s a lot of rear projections that were produced up above (in the higher/ceiling areas) there were even pyrotechnics as well that really caught me off guard. They weren’t just used for ‘effect’, they were part of the story line and had a reason for being there. I was also impressed with the graphic parts. It was amazing that they were able to contain everything onto the stage, and that there weren’t overt amounts of blood and barf flying through the air. I would’ve been nervous if I had been in those first two or three rows, but they had complete control of the production and all relevant body fluids. And, OK, spoiler alert. For the particular version of the play that we saw, they used Ian McKellen. Yes. That Ian McKellen as the voice of the demon, and it was epic if not confusing to hear the warm and almost relaxing tones of Gandalf incanting the words of Satan…I thought he was great! It had this “gothic” overtone that reminded me of Roger Corman movies, or Witchfinder General.
Let’s get to the Toxic Avenger now. Toxic Avenger was a completely different animal. I love the original Toxic Avenger movie. It was one of those movies that we used to watch on the bus during Master of Puppets and, …And Justice for All, but it was one of those films that we used to just snicker at because it was so funny, so stupid and so outrageous, to the point where we would quote it often. So fast forward 30 years later to Toxic Avenger the musical, and I have to say I was really excited about it. First of all, I was marveling at the ambition of doing it. Second of all, I was actually really impressed to see that the music was done by one David Bryan, the original keyboard player of Bon Jovi. And so it had a more up tempo, more rock-ish feel to it. The production was just as kitschy as the original movie, the characters were really great, and even though it was obvious to me that this play had the lowest budget of them all, the cast members really believed in it and put 100% into it. I was amazed at the performances they all put in and how much commitment they all had. Again, I was just blown away by it, it was hilarious! So, if any of you people out there have a chance to see any of these productions, they come with my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth)!
It all got my wheels spinning as to what could next go onstage from the world of horror. I know that there has been a Re-animator play down in southern California few years ago. I was skeptical at first when I heard about that, but you know, by all accounts it was good so if that particular play ever gets revived I’m there, man. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could be cool if done right, Invaders From Mars is another…but perhaps the one that really leaps out at me, is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Just the sets alone would be worth seeing! That’d be tremendous fun. Another one which would be great? The Black Cat!
I think we’re going to see even more cool horror and sci-fi theatrical productions. I’m more optimistic about the whole thing than I ever have been because, like I said, when I heard about the Re-animator play, I was skeptical. I kinda winced and said, “Really? How can that be?” But after seeing The Exorcist, after seeing Young Frankenstein (which by the way were two completely things – The Exorcist was not a musical, Young Frankenstein was a musical) I am feeling the possibilities more than ever.
By the way I’m ready to answer more questions, so fire away, I’m all eyes and ears…which makes walking rather difficult but I manage it!
See ya soon,