Friday, December 11, 2009


Not sure how I feel about this. I loved the album, but the idea of putting it onstage as a show...well, let's just say I'm skeptical, and this clip doesn't do that much to remove my skepticism. But, here it is. There are more clips on the tube of you.

UPDATE: Reviews are coming in, and it looks like the production is Broadway-bound!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rocky Gothic / American Horror

I have always been intrigued by the appearance of Grant Wood's 1930 painting, "American Gothic," in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Some thoughts about the painting and its possible significance in Rocky Horror after the jump...
The painting is always associated with Riff Raff and Magenta, played by Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, and is always associated with death. First they appear playing the farm couple who sing backup in the "Dammit, Janet!" scene. Then, the painting itself is seen next to the Tempus Fugit clock as Riff Raff and Magenta introduce "The Time Warp." Finally, the triple-barreled laser used to assassinate Frank provides a chance to spoof the image.

What, if anything, does this mean? None of it is in the script, and it likely arose from a combination of production designer Brian Thompson's pop-collage aesthetic and Jim Sharman's own sense of humor. Was this just a little joke? I can see them making the "Dammit, Janet" couple into the American Gothic couple, and then carrying on the joke from there. But, was it intended to mean something? Is there anything to unpack here? I can't claim to have a coherent thesis, but here are a few thoughts.

The "American Gothic" couple are stoic icons of probity and hard work, the very embodiments of the American heartland. Interestingly, the work was controversial as as viewers could not decide whether the image was a tribute to or a parody of Americana. The "Gothic" of the title refers to the style of house in the background, particularly the arched window (the church set in "Rocky Horror" features similar windows). The couple are often thought to be husband and wife, but Grant Wood's sister (the female model) thought the age disparity indecent and insisted that they were father and daughter. Wood himself never commented. The painting has been the subject of countless spoofs and imitations over the years - there is even a blog dedicated to collecting parodies of the image.

Riff Raff and Magenta are space aliens with an oddly puritanical world-view which finds Frank's revels decadent but incest, androgyny, and murder acceptable. Perhaps for Riff Raff, incest is the ultimate form of purity, or perhaps a way of exerting control over his wayward, hedonistic sister. Perhaps it's really Frank's "miscegenation" with human-kind that rankles. Or, as author Richard O'Brien suggests in his notes on the 15th Anniversary box set, perhaps Riff is just jealous that the more gregarious Frank gets all the attention. But what's clear is that these two eldritch beings have infiltrated the American heartland of Denton, USA - they are in our midst!

The "American Gothic" couple who sing backup in "Dammit Janet" appear to be the church caretakers. The man wipes Brad's chalk heart off the church door, and later, the couple change the church decor from "wedding" to "funeral," swapping white flowers for black and bringing in a coffin. They are joined by a second woman (a daughter?) played by Little Nell, who later portrays Columbia. Tim Curry plays the priest.

The Narrator has a slide with a wedding photo that has Curry's priest and O'Brien's caretaker circled - does this indicate that these people ARE Frank and Riff? That seems extremely unlikely from the way the narrative plays out. Perhaps it was a way for the film-makers to clue the audience in on the joke? Some will say that trying to find narrative sense in Rocky Horror is a fool's game - and though I think this is selling the movie short, it's also true that by its nature, Rocky is a surrealistic pop-art collage more than anything. Also, it was never intended to for the repeated viewings that were its lot.

At the beginning of the "Time Warp," we find a framed print of "American Gothic" in Frank's foyer, complemented by a clock fashioned from a coffin and skeleton (this was not a prop, by the way, but an authentic 18th Century item). Is the American dream dead, rotting, ready for the ground? Are Brad and Janet, the all-American couple, being warned that their way of life is doomed?

Or is it the so-called American Dream itself which is deadly? When the image re-appears during the film's climactic coup, is this American Puritanism reasserting itself in the face of unbridled hedonism? Rocky Horror was, after all, a product of the early 70s, a post-Altamont cultural product, with Richard Nixon's Moral Majority already starting to put its collective foot down (and the disgraced Nixon himself makes a cameo in the film, in the form of his resignation speech heard on the radio).

The climactic coup finds Riff Raff (having struck an "American Gothic" pose with his triple-barreled laser and Bride of Frankenstien-coiffed sister) unexpectedly allied with Dr. Scott, the Nazi scientist turned American college professor and government stooge, who appeases Riff by approving of the carnage. "Society must be protected," he smugly pronounces. "But from who?" we ask ourselves.

All of this definitely throws unsavory light onto the "American Gothic" image, an image which had for decades been the subject of parody and critique, both from left- and right-wing perspectives. A celebration of the plainspoken, hard-working American spirit, or a savage parody of it? Likewise its use in Rocky Horror is ambiguous, but its constant association with death is telling. I can't claim to have any answers, and if I ever get to interview Sharman, Thompson or O'Brien, that will definitely be a question I'll ask.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The awesome blog Dangerous Minds (which is fast becoming indispensable) turned me on to this insanely catchy song from Forbidden Zone, a 1980 mondo musical - mondo beyondo, by the looks of it - by the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo - better known today as Richard Elfman and his brother Danny, film-score maestro extraordinaire. I have always heard of this movie, but had no idea it was on DVD. I will need to track it down. And oh, look, there's Hervé Villechaize smoking one of his trademark cigars.

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, here comes Susan Tyrrell with "Witch's Egg."

I, for one, had no idea witches were oviparous.

UPDATE: The Sacred Fools Theater Company will be producing a stage version in May, 2010. Sounds like fun!

UPDATE II: Here's a trailer:


Thursday, September 3, 2009

CINDERELLA 2000: Tomorrow's Sexiest Comedy - Today!

Tip of the hat to the excellent Dangerous Minds blog, which has turned me on to the sexploitation musical Cinderella 2000. The trailer is a sheer delight. Nobody did sleaze like the late '70s.

"Welcome to the future, in the hopes that it will suit ya!" Might be a bit NSFW.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Addams with a Twist

Avant-garde puppeteer Basil Twist has joined the creative team of the new Addams Family musical, set to open at the Lunt-Fontaine in April 2010.

Basil Twist is a true genius of puppetry, whose water-tank abstractions set to Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique was an unexpected smash, and whose collaboration with drag chanteuse Joey Arias was renowned for its trippy inventiveness. Twist will no doubt be bringing life to Thing, Cousin It and who knows what other grotesques in the show.

Though I was originally trepidatious, with Twist on board, plus Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth and Terrance Mann in the cast and music by The Wild Party's Andrew Lippa, I have to say it's shaping up quite well.

Here's a great feature on Twist's work.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Well, it looks like the Spider Man musical, with songs by U2, is kaput. The NY Post says it's the biggest Broadway fiasco of all time, with millions disappearing down the hole.

I was never a fan of this idea anyway, so I am not sorry to see it go. Still, we can likely expect a U2 album of Spidey songs someday. Joy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Did you know that Andy Warhol produced a space-themed musical with songs by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas? Neither did I, and by the looks of the clip below, it had a "grown-ups doing a school play" vibe that's pretty charming.

Plastic Bouquets-Man on the Moon from DANGEROUS MINDS on Vimeo.

I won't say that much about it, because the excellent blog Dangerous Minds has a long and fascinating post about it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I haven't seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yet, but until I do, this unauthorized spoof musical is keeping me tickled.

An interview with the creators is over at io9.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DESTINO: Disney & Dali

I have always heard of the Walt Disney / Salvador Dali collaboration Destino. It's not a musical, though as with everything Disney touched, music plays a vital role. Apparently this short project (which I thought was lost/abandoned) was released in 2003 and will make its DVD debut in 2010. Read more about the fascinating history of Destino on Wikipedia.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

HE-MAN: The Bollywood Musical!

I have not addressed Bollywood on this blog, partly because I don't know enough about it, and partly because Bollywood's genre-blending, over-the-top musicals would probably ALL qualify as "mondo" by Western standards. I do have good memories of living in New York City, when a local station would show Bollywood musicals on Sunday afternoons. Just the thing to go with the post-hangover brunch cocktails!

Anyway, I came across this and thought it too good to pass up. It's a musical adaptation of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" performed as some kind of nightclub act. Behold:

Via Topless Robot.


Hey, why not? Seems like vampires are Broadway box office poison, and Frankenstein already had his own show. Can Wolf Man be far behind? Read about it at the LA Times.

Friday, June 26, 2009

MICHAEL JACKSON: The King (of Pop) is Dead

As everybody knows, Michael Jackson passed away yesterday in Los Angeles (1958-2009). He was rehearsing for his big comeback tour, something which even a casual fan like myself hoped against hope would be the return to form that everybody was always looking for. Twenty-seven years after his biggest album (which just happens to be the best-selling album of all time), he was still one of the biggest stars in the world, an international mega-celebrity the likes of which we will never see again. I remember my whole family going to see the "Victory Tour" from 1984. My mom even bought my sister, step-brother and I matching red vinyl jackets!

This is a tragedy and a shock, though sadly, I cannot say I am surprised. I always predicted an early Judy Garland-style end for Michael Jackson. Lost in the pop-fame hall of mirrors, I certainly couldn't see him getting old, gracefully or otherwise. The sad thing is, there is a whole generation who never knew him as anything other than a tabloid freak and late-night punchline. Hopefully the long view will prevail. Whatever negatives you can say about him (and people have said and will say plenty), the man was a genius of a performer, with a vocal and dance style that wove a myriad of influences into something truly unique - crossing lines of race, sexuality and musical genre in the process. He will truly be missed, and my prayers are with him and his family, especially the kids.

Here is a link to the infamous 1983 "Thriller" video, directed by John Landis. This was the first long-form video, and constitutes a self-contained mondo musical. I remember being scared silly by this when I was 10, even as I chuckled at the campy Vincent Price rap and thrilled to the dance moves and fantastic Quincy Jones-produced beat. Where this leaves the planned "Thriller" Broadway musical is unclear (hopefully they will quietly drop the idea).

Here's my personal favorite Michael Jackson song, "Smooth Criminal." A great track and another lavish video.

And speaking of amazing dance moves, here's what was, for me, his single finest moment - premiering the "moonwalk" dance in a live performance of "Billie Jean." He only does it twice, and briefly (first at about 3:30) but you can hear people crying out in surprise and delight when he does. The next day it was all anybody could talk about. Kind of like today, actually.


Friday, June 12, 2009


Adam Pascal talks to Playbill about his plans to bring the seminal 80s metal concept album by Queensrÿche to the stage.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

REPO! On the Road

The stage show Repo! The Genetic Opera (which spawned a movie musical) is hitting the road. Tour dates here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

CHESS - In Concert

On Wednesday June 17, the PBS series Great Performances will broadcast a spectacular concert performance of the Tim Rice - Benny Andersson - Björn Ulvaeus musical Chess. The concert, taped at the Royal Albert Hall, features Josh Groban, Idina Menzel and Adam Pascal, plus the City of London Philharmonic Orchestra. A CD and DVD are released June 16.

This has long been one of my favorite shows. Chess was originally a 1984 concept album and was staged in 1986, with Murray Head and Elaine Paige. It tells the complicated tale of two chess champions, one American and one Russian, vying for the world championship, with Cold War politics and the messy entanglements of love looming over all. The ending is truly bittersweet, a rarity on the musical stage, but it fits a story where politics, national identity, ambition and status distort every relationship.

The acerbic lyrics are by Tim Rice, of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita fame, and the themes of politics and celebrity are right in line with his previous works. The ABBA duo of Andresson and Ulvaeus mix their trademark disco-pop with chamber music, sweeping orchestral interludes, and power ballads. The most famous number from the show, "One Night in Bangkok," was a big hit single for Murray Head. The show was a huge hit in London, though a Broadway version (with totally re-written book) was a flop. I saw the UK tour, which combined the best of both, in 1990 and was quite blown away. I can't wait to see this!

Monday, May 18, 2009

AMERICAN IDIOT: The Green Day Musical

It seems that original musicals are few and far between, and here comes another adaptation. This one seems intriguing and possibly mondo. It's a stage adaptation of the Green Day album American Idiot.

This fantastic collection of songs, with its loose (all right, vague) storyline focusing on the young and discontented in Bush-era America, was a big hit for Green Day in 2004 and yielded the superb singles "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends." The book will be written by Michael Mayer, who directed the amazing Spring Awakening. The new show will debut at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in September.

Green Day have also just released 21st Century Breakdown, a new rock opera concept album.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ADDAMS FAMILY - Lane, Neuwirth

The new musical of The Addams Family, due on Broadway in April 2010, will star Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. Great casting, I must say. The full cast list is here. My thoughts on the show are here.

CORALINE: The Musical

Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt talks to The Decider about his new musical adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, which was also adapted into a lovely stop-motion 3D film released this year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BEA ARTHUR: Thank You For Being A Friend

The fabulous Bea Arthur passed away this weekend (1922-2009). With her imposing stature, raspy baritone, withering put-downs and impeccably timed "takes," Bea Arthur was comedy gold from start to finish.

Her only connection to the world of Mondo Musicals is her appearance as the singing barkeep of the Mos Eisley Cantina in the ill-fated Star Wars Holiday Special, but she's beloved by the gays (myself included) for her turns as the left-wing harridan Maude Findlay on Maude (1972-78) and as the relatively-sane Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls (1985-92).

As a kid, I was a huge fan of Maude (my parents should have known right then) and I've discovered to my delight that it's still one of the funniest and most daring shows ever aired on network TV. Everybody knows about the abortion episode, or the pro-pot episode. But who remembers episodes like the Emmy-nominated "The Analyst," an episode-length monologue delivered by Bea Arthur to an unseen therapist? Or "Vivian's First Funeral," where Maude is forced to steal jewelry off a corpse (with hilarious consequences)? Stuff like that just doesn't get made anymore.

Bea Arthur's Broadway triumphs include playing Lucy Brown in the seminal 1956 New York production of The Threepenny Opera with Lotte Lenya*; portraying the original Yenta in Fiddler on the Roof in 1964; and starring opposite Angela Lansbury in Mame in 1966. She was also the only saving grace of the Mame film starring Lucille Ball in 1974. She headlined a one-woman Broadway show in 2002.

Her last performance was on a Comedy Central Roast for Pamela Anderson, reading "erotic" passages from Anderson's book in her trademark deadpan style.

Here's Bea with Angela Lansbury singing the bitch-fest "Bosom Buddies" from Mame.

* Also starring future TV luminaries Jerry Stiller, Ed Asner, Charlotte Rae, John Astin and Jerry Orbach!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Music and lyrics Jon and Al Kaplan. SILENCE! Silence of the Lambs: The Musical won the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Musical at the 2005 NYC Fringe festival. Their next project is a musical film of the 60s cheesefest They Saved Hitler's Brain.

Monday, April 20, 2009

REEFER MADNESS - Have a Brownie!

As today is 4/20, I thought I'd toke up cue up "The Brownie Song" from the hilarious spoof musical Reefer Madness. Enjoy the nutty goodness.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

LITTLE SHOP: Another Remake?

Shock Till You Drop is reporting that director Declan O'Brien has optioned the remake rights to Corman's Little Shop of Horrors. O'Brien promises "I have a take on it you're not going to expect. I'm taking it in a different direction, let's put it that way."

My take? I think it's frustrating to consider another remake of the film while the "original ending" version of the Frank Oz movie still languishes in the vaults, some 23 years after it was consigned there by a bad preview audience.

Still, I look at it this way. O'Brien has optioned the rights to remake the original film, not the musical. There might, indeed, be some value to seeing another take on the material, a take that gets it back to its low-budget shock-comedy roots, with sick humor and buckets of gore. And who knows, it might spur Geffen and/or Warners to pony up the dough it would take to finish the musical right and put it out on BluRay. So, I am cautiously optimistic about this project.



Monday, March 16, 2009


The Hollywood Reporter says that Heathers, 1988's black satire of high school life, will be turned into a stage musical. Creative types from the musicals Reefer Madness and Legally Blonde are taking the reigns.

"'I love my dead gay son,'" Fickman quoted. "If you can get that into a song, then that is just perfect." Well said.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

THRILLER: The Musical

The Nederlander organization has announced that they will mount a Broadway musical version of "Thriller," the Michael Jackson song made legendary in a long-form music video directed by John Landis in 1983. Definitely mondo, and most likely made of "meh." In a way it's appropriate - Broadway has been full of revenants and patchwork monsters for 20 years now. Michael Jackson's monster-mashing zombies will find very few delicious brains to feast upon in the Great White Way.

It's interesting to re-watch the video now, as Jackson's fey Romeo shyly confides that he's "not like other guys" and soon undergoes a variety of terrifying transformations. Jackson's obsession with radically re-inventing himself is there for all to see, though the world could not appreciate how prescient his character's metamorphosis from skinny black man to creepy werecat (repeated in the "Black or White" video) to pasty-faced ghoul (repeated in real life) actually was.

I had to admit, this video scared me silly when I was 11, even as it tickled my funny-bone. I was au courant with Vincent Price at that age, so his presence on the soundtrack was actually reassuring.

UPDATE! John Landis is suing to stop the production, claiming that MJ owes him big bucks in unpaid royalties. Read all about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama On My Mind

Not very mondo, but definitely topical. reports on a new political satire entitled Obama On My Mind.

In other news, God bless America!