Can indie rock save musical theatre - and indie rock itself?

J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail [Canada], 11/3/12

Stratford Festival has commissioned a "meditation on Hamlet" that will feature music by Stars, bringing together Shakespeare with one of Canada's biggest indie-pop bands. Engineered by Stars front man (and sometimes actor) Torquil Campbell with director Alisa Palmer, the metaphysical cabaret will mash-up the band's existing songs -- and perhaps some original ones -- with words by playwright/novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald. But the project is only part of a constellation of outside-the-box projects in development that are uniting Canadian indie musicians with the lesser-known stars of indie theatre -- and none of them fits snugly into the traditional storytelling musical theatre mould. These crossovers could be a win-win situation for both camps, argue the artists involved. "[I'm] pretty certain that the way forward for the theatre is to harness some of the chaos and ego of rock 'n' roll," Campbell writes. "The way forward for rock 'n' roll is to grow the fuck up and take action in the form; that is to say, act!" Glam-rock singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman will try to grow artistically this winter when he stars in a solo show, The God That Comes, based on Euripides's The Bacchae. Around the same time, songs by Destroyer - a.k.a. Dan Bejar of Vancouver's New Pornographers - will mix with novelist Sheila Heti's words in a theatrical mash-up called All Our Happy Days Are Stupid. "Interdisciplinary" is the buzzword for the up-and-coming generation of theatre artists -- and that means that more and more creators are interested in breaking down the barriers between different forms of live performance, in this case rock concerts and plays.


Kurt Cobain: The Musical?  I'll never let it happen, says Courtney Love

Edward Helmore, The Observer [UK], 11/3/12

He is revered as the last true rock god and his band, Nirvana, created the soundtrack for the alienated grunge generation. So now, nearly two decades after Kurt Cobain's death at age 27, is it time for "Kurt: The Musical"? Certainly not, according to Cobain's combative widow, Courtney Love. Suggestions that a Nirvana musical could be in the works -- masterminded by Love's sometime co-manager, Sam Lufti, and going ahead with her blessing -- have led the singer-actress to come out swinging. "There will be no musical. Sometimes it's best just to leave things alone." Rumours that Lufti was working on a Broadway musical which would tell the story of Love's life with Cobain have coincided with reports of a new CBS sitcom entitled Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the auctioning of a smashed bass guitar from the original "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. Love, and many Nirvana fans, fear the commercialisation of Cobain may be getting out of hand. A Nirvana musical would undoubtedly offer rich commercial pickings. ABBA are estimated to have made up to $6 billion from Mamma Mia! -- far more than they made during the lifetime of the group. The genre worked for the hair band musical Rock of Ages and for Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which has made $2 billion worldwide. But some investors in the Nirvana catalogue have found the music is largely too hard-edged to be useful in a commercial context, although a staged version offers some control. "It all comes down to how intelligent and cool the work is," says the former manager of Smashing Pumpkins, Andy Gershon. "It's possible to do a successful grunge musical, but you'd have to find a great story to tell."


Will a hit French rock musical about Mozart head to Broadway & West End?

Classic FM [UK] website, 10/23/12

A rock musical based on the life and music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been licensed to all major territories after a phenomenally successful run in France. Mozart, L'Opera Rock, which has taken in over $100 million during its three-year run in France, could be seen in the US, Japan, South Korea, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The lavish production's soundtrack [sic] has sold over 750,000 copies so far.  It features both music composed by Mozart and a collection of pop songs. Theatre producers Gregory Young and Atanas Ilitch have bought the rights to the show for English-language territories. Young told Variety: "When the French write musicals, a lot of their songs are written like pop singles placed contiguous to each other, while on Broadway, it's necessary to have a storyline and a semblance of relationship." The marketing of the musical has been notable in that several singles were released from the soundtrack before the show opened in theatres, maximising the public's interest in the production. At present it is not known whether any overseas versions will follow the same model. "Tatoue-Moi," one of the songs from the show performed by Mikelangelo Loconte, topped the singles chart in France in 2009.


'Genius grant' theater artist's unlikely ballet collaboration with a bad-boy rocker

Emerging Pictures website, 10/15/12

Vasco Rossi isn't exactly someone who most people would associate with "high art." His sex, drugs and rock-n-roll lifestyle, paired with his racist, misogynist and xenophobic lyrics, make him an unlikely candidate for anything more than a grumpy, late-night bender. These credentials make Vasco an unlikely candidate for collaboration with Martha Clarke, the MacArthur "genius grant"-winning choreographer. And yet, in L'altra meta del cielo ["The Other Side of the Sky"], that's exactly what's happened. Clarke is known for her desire to plumb the darkest depths of human sexuality. So in way, it makes sense that she would partner with such a provocative figure. Clarke's Garden of Earthly Delights is a great example of how the dark possibilities of sexuality are explored in her work. At the end of the day, Clarke remains a choreographer above all else, seeking to express emotions -- and not just polite ones -- through her art. Vasco's rough-and-tumble songs have found him millions of (mostly male) fans in Italy; it's clear that he's popular because of his outrageous persona and offensive lyrics, and not in spite of them. His popularity proves that his message is rooted in a deeper human need, a deeper human impulse -- and Clarke's exploration of this dangerous terrain is boundary-pushing. [You can watch a short video interview with Clarke about the development of this work here.]


Veteran rocker unveils new music in an upcoming ballet

Gary Graff, Billboard magazine, 11/1/12

Peter Frampton isn't thinking about renaming his song "Do You Feel Like Tutu," but he is fired up for his collaboration with the Cincinnati Ballet that takes place next spring. Frampton will provide music for the production, which will be performed three times on April 26-27 at the city's Aronoff Center for the Arts. Two of the show's segments will be choreographed to existing Frampton songs -- with Frampton and his band playing live -- while a third section will feature a new piece of music he's composing with regular collaborator Gordon Kennedy: "We've been working on this for the last month, and we're about three-quarters of the way through the 20 minutes. I love dance. I love ballet. All my girls went through that, so, yeah, I'm very excited about it." Frampton also acknowledges that he's "scared stiff" about the ballet project -- but in a good way. "I like things to scare me a little," he says. "It's always good to do stuff that just push the envelope for you. I'm just looking to stretch myself. It's on my way to film music, hopefully, one day when I don't want to go on tour." Frampton says the Cincinnati performances will be filmed, and there's some talk that it may be performed by other ballet companies in the future. Meanwhile, he's thinking about putting the new music out as an EP which may be a model for his future releases as well. "That seems to be the way to do it now, rather than taking a long time and making a full album."

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