Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fringe Spotlight: SCAR FACE: THE MUSICAL

You heard that right… Scar Face: The Musical. Producer Nick Howell and writer/director Chris O’Neill take a flying leap into the Fringe with a new musical that uses the film Scarface as its springboard. Check out this description:

Theatre is dying…especially British theatre. Nobody’s showing up to see Shakespeare, Chekov is just that dude from Star Trek, and Broadway is overrun with musical versions of Hollywood movies. What is the Royal Shakespeare Corporation to do but join in the reboot musical boom?

Writer Jonathan Pinter Sorkin (David Mapother) has convinced Britain’s most lauded theatrical producer Andrew Lloyd Mendes (Matt Murray) that Scar Face: The Musical will bring the people back to the theater. Now, acclaimed director Felicity Bigelow (Meghan Derr) must workshop the play to see if this is a theatrical bowel movement, or the savior of modern British theatre. [Andrew Lloyd Mendes…you’re killin’ me!]

Where did the inspiration for this musical come from? Chris O’Neill and Nick Howell give us the back story and what to expect from Scar Face: The Musical.

Chris, where did it all begin?

Chris: It started as a sketch idea to do an ad for Scar Face: The Musical on Broadway winning various Tonys (no pun intended) for songs with names like “Don’t You Ever Try to F**k Me, Tony.” Then came the idea to do a full stage show that follows the audience watching the Royal Shakespeare Corporation doing a workshop of Scarface as a musical, which gave us another layer of comedy. It was a chance to say something about theatre turning into musical adaptations of Hollywood films and I think watching that dynamic provides lots of opportunity for laughs.

Nick, how did you become involved?

Nick: Chris and I had riffed the idea as a short/parody commercial for a YouTube viral video, and it was filed away with the countless other ideas that live in that vault. Out of the blue one day, he approached me about submitting it for the Hollywood Fringe. I was initially against it because I thought it was a straight, on-the-nose musical adaptation. It wasn’t until I fully realized the layering-in of the studio execs workshopping it live that I ‘got it,’ but I was hesitant even through the first round of auditions. It’s one thing to read a script yourself; it’s another to have it read by talented musical theatre actors, and to visualize that layering materialize right in front of your eyes. It really helped it sink in. There’s an Inception ‘play-within-a-play’ nature to it that people won’t see coming, and is what really makes it unique, and ultimately what sold me and got my full support.

It sounds like it will make a great addition to the Fringe.

Chris: It is so outrageous, ridiculous, controversial and insane that the audience’s jaws will be on the floor from the opening number. The film Scarface is already over the top, with its bad ‘80s fashion, synth music, and overacting, so you have a fantastic challenge in taking it even further. It’s fast-paced, energetic, filled with one-liners and slapstick, and, honestly…where else are you going to see something like this? Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of how Scarface could actually be turned into a musical? It’s also very much the essence of Fringe because it’s a black box style show, with minimal props and no set, so it fires the imagination and suspension of disbelief of the audience.

Do you think people will remember Scarface well enough to get the humor?

Nick: There’s certainly an element of assumption on my part that most people are familiar with the 1983 film, and will have a huge ‘WTF?!’ moment when they hear about it being adapted into a musical, driving them to see it. I think what they EXPECT to see will be extremely different from what they ACTUALLY see, and that’s what excites me. Like Chris said, jaws will hit the floor in the first 60 seconds. For perspective, I’m personally not a big theatre guy. I dabble mostly in things that require cameras, but certainly respect and appreciate the art of live performance. If I wasn’t involved with the show and heard about it on the street, I would absolutely go out of my way to see how in the hell someone could adapt something as ridiculous as Scarface into a musical.

What made the time feel right to do it now?

Chris: Broadway has become increasingly overrun with huge budget musical adaptations filling the theaters -- Rocky being the latest one -- and it’s only a matter of time until London’s West End starts doing the same thing. Universal announced a ‘reboot’ of Scarface which also plays into the element of the plot where studio executives are cashing in on a film and redoing it. It’s exciting because it will be premiering in the town where these decisions get made…and might just be playing to an audience filled with execs.

Nick: It’s also very timely because a couple of months ago, Jimmy Im of Vanity Fair posted a controversial article about Quentin Tarantino and Rumer Willis ‘saving LA theatre,’ touting that LA theatre was dead. The Internet exploded and, as a producer, I’m all over what the Internet explodes about, good and bad. It showed, more than anything, the disconnect between celebrity press, Wilshire Blvd, and boots-on-the-ground awareness of what’s really going on in this town. For the record, we had already signed the papers to produce Scar Face: The Musical and were rehearsing already, but it certainly feeds into the whole parody M.O. of the show, with studio execs trying to ‘revive interest in theatre by adapting cult films into musicals.’

What type of music are you using for the show?

Chris: The musical style is cheeky, cheesy, over the top and very tongue-in-cheek. Without giving spoilers, we’ve taken certain Karaoke versions of certain well known songs and used them as the music for our songs.

Nick: Ever heard the phrase ‘Two Wrongs Make a Right?’ The lyrics of the songs pull directly from lines of dialogue, or call out certain subject matter, of the original film. They are completely over the top, set to some of the most recognizable (read: ridiculous) karaoke music of all time, creating this magical cohesion of comedy several times throughout the show. When I first heard them performed, I remembered I hadn’t laughed that hard since seeing some of the musical numbers in Team America.

June 7, 13 & 21, 2014
Theater Asylum (Lillian Theatre)
6320 Santa Monica Blvd
Tickets: $15

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