Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Music Producer Blog 001

In the late 80’s my uncle noticed that I was a big fan of Oingo Boingo and gave me a bootleg copy of FORBIDDEN ZONE on VHS that he had taped off of Night Flight or The Movie Channel one evening. I asked him what it was and he told me, “It’s the Oingo Boingo movie, nephew.” My uncle was always ahead of the game. He was calling me nephew 15 years ahead of Snoop and he had to foresight to bend my brain with Richard Elfman’s cornucopia of comedy and cartoon consequences.

I immediately began nightly screenings of the film. It became (and remains to this day) a litmus test for how much weird you can handle in your day-to-day existence. It is the gut-check for every entertainer I meet and is the gold standard of nuttery. I managed to spend the next 20 years using quotes and songs from the film in almost every artistic production that I had some degree of control over. If you saw a show I produced and someone turned on a TV, chances are they would be watching the Masseuse sing the Yiddeshe Charleston. If someone turned on a car radio in a short film, the best bet would be that Bim Bam Boom was about to joyfully explode from the speakers.

As I produced art and entertainment, I continued to keep FORBIDDEN ZONE in the circle of possible productions. When I luckily found myself backstage during the final Oingo Boingo shows, my first topic of conversation with Steve Bartek was, “Who, exactly, has the rights to a live production of FORBIDDEN ZONE?” At different points in the past decade, I approached notable theatre producers about putting together what I thought was a good bet for a hit production, only to find them not getting it at all…and one of these folks is well-known for batshit crazy theatre. It was a steep uphill climb to get them to listen, but as soon as I had them on point with the idea of a world premiere Elfman musical in Los Angeles, Gramps would spend two minutes beating a man to death while eating a pie and the whole thing would fall into a delightful Dada nightmare ending with the producer wondering how the hell I got into their house.

So the project went on the back-burner while I got busy on a lot of theatre and music production. This string of work led my band, Renfield, to perform at a benefit at Sacred Fools theater. I was appearing in the most recent production of Bill Robens’ excellent and canny musical A Mulholland Christmas Carol and getting to know people a little bit at Fools. Renfield was performing on Dia de los Muertos 2008 and after we ended our set with a little remix of the Oingo Boingo song Dead Man’s Party, I was approached by adaptation author Michael Holmes with the fateful question, “Ever hear of a movie called FORBIDDEN ZONE?”

How did this come to be? How would I have an uncle deranged enough to give a child this film for his birthday? How would I end up in Los Angeles and become warped by the pink and purple smoke that fills our lungs as we listen to odd bands and participate in strange theatre? How could I hunt musicians in order to form a band (and keep it together for over a decade) so that we could play a show on the Day of the Dead and be in front of the two gentleman who were carrying the standard of the Zombie Baby Army? How is it that all this happens in proximity to Sifu Richard Elfman and Maestro Danny Elfman so that we can gain their blessings and begin work immediately?
The answer is plain to see from where I sit. This was meant to be. Los Angeles loves the denizens of the Forbidden Zone and wants them to live again and is doing everything it can to help us make this demented fantasy a reality once again. I believe in magic and I do not have to look any further than my schedule have daily proof of magic at work. Very soon you will have proof as well.

Once I was brought aboard the production to bring the music of Danny Elfman and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo to life on-stage at Sacred Fools, I did a very smart thing. I asked Ryan Johnson to be the musical director. He accepted this Olympian task without hesitation and has given the production solar strength. Ryan and I began sourcing musicians in autumn of 2009 and began workshopping the many vocal numbers contained within the film. As of last week, after uncounted hours of charting, arrangement, interviews, playdates, sing-a-longs, and one kajillion emails (and a final run-through on the best Super Bowl Sunday ever) we have in our simian skulls the mathematics required to target a trajectory that will place us in the heart of the Sixth Dimension.

Because of the heartfelt work by musicians Ryan Johnson (keyboards and arrangements), Noah Lifeschey (bass), Nikki Medlin (guitar), Peter Gilabert (guitar), Cosmo Jones (drums), Travis Thomas (trombone), Brian Wallis (trombone), Paul Literall (trumpet), Matt Rubin (trumpet), Colin Kupka (saxophone) and workshop vocalists Megan Crockett, Bryan Krasner, Rebecca Larsen, Alyssa Preston, Aileen-Marie Scott, Matt Valle we have been able to figure out the most dangerous compositions (that would be QUEEN’S REVENGE – seriously, that song is a double black diamond run) and how the live show can be best served by the amazing numbers that will now be shaped into stunning moments of entertainment by choreographer Natasha Norman and director Scott Leggett as we move into full production. You all have my eternal thanks.

What is this? This is a nightmarish amount of work for a hardcore group of professional entertainers. This is a dream come true for a kid from a poisoned cow town. This is the most ridiculous and resplendent show you’ll ever see in a 99-seat theater. This is FORBIDDEN ZONE: LIVE IN THE 6TH DIMENSION.

- Marz Richards

Friday, February 5, 2010

Author's Blog 001

I kind of got into Oingo Boingo backwards. See, in the mid-90's I was as big Rude Boy as I could be living in Albuquerque, NM and as such tried to dabble in as many ska related things as possible (If you ask nice, I'll show you my tattoo sometime). There was something about the flamboyance and sheer PEP of ska that really appealed to me, and for a long time I felt if you couldn't dance to it, it wasn't worth it. I blame the Skeletones, Let's Go Bowling and The Concentrators for this. Now, around this same time I also happened to be studying theatre, since I had managed to snag a scholarship to the local university and they didn't yet offer musical theatre or acting for film as a major, so I made the most with what I could. Between rehearsing plays and attending Ska shows, my dance card (pun only moderately intended) was pretty full, and having taken notice of my newfound musical obsession, and old, dear friend of mine gave me a copy of "Good for Your Soul" on vinyl. I was skeptical, I'm not going to lie. For me, for the longest time (and I realize now just how close minded I was), Oingo Boingo was nothing more to me than that "Weird Science" band. But hey, a free record is a free record, right?

From the moment the needle hit the record, I was hooked. It had pep. It had showmanship. Now THIS was a band to latch on to!

But let's back up a little further, even. When I was wee, my mom worked part time at a video store owned by some friends of our family (which, if memory serves was just called "Video Movies"), and it being the early-mid 80's and Blockbuster not yet having put the kibosh on mom and pop shops, this was a rare opportunity for me. I spent literally hundreds of hours walking up and down the aisles looking at the video covers (or attempting to), and I swear that one day I came across this day-glo, impressionistic wonder on the shelf: a buxom woman grasping her breast flanked by the devil, a frog...and Tattoo? I was fascinated, I looked at it again and again, until eventually I got caught. But "Forbidden Zone" had entered my vocabulary.

Now let's get a little closer to the present. A few years ago, having become fascinated with the swath of bizarre musicals that cropped up in the late 70's and early 80's ("The Apple,""Phantom of the Paradise,""Shock Treatment"), I FINALLY watched "Forbidden Zone." And from the moment the movie started, just like that needle hitting on the record, I was HOOKED. It was like Alice in Wonderland on PCP filtered through a Dali painting directed by Eugene Ionesco. This Richard Elfman cat? A genius! Oh, and it was funny and sexy and about halfway through the film, I said to myself "This would be killer onstage. I wonder if anyone's done it before?"

Come to find out, they hadn't. Not fully, anyway. And it's a darn good thing, otherwise I might be prepping a production of "Jacques Brel is Alive And Well And Living in Paris" right now.

I did some research and after some digging I found Richard Elfman's contact info, and took an uncharacteristically bold leap and contacted him. I was prepared to write it off and was proud of myself for at least getting that far. Imagine, then, my surprise when Jack Murphy, his business partner in FZ LLC, contacted me to let me know that they just HAPPENED to be screening a new color print of the film at The Egyptian that week and maybe I should come say hi. Seriously, you could've knocked me down with a feather. So I went. And I met Jack. And Richard Elfman himself, who had expressed some chagrin about people having approached them in the past and the feeling not being there. But I lived in LA, so that was a point in my favor. And after the pair of them (and Richard's wife, Lauren) attending a performance at Sacred Fools, the enthusiasm began to grow, and I set about adapting this quintessential bizarro entertainment for the live stage. Which I assure you is no mean feat. How weird is too weird for stage? How do you do the 6th Dimension animations "live?" Do you keep the Princess topless throughout the whole thing (the answer to that one is an emphatic yes, by the way)? Just what the hell do we think we're doing here?! We had a few mandates, but we've also been given a wide berth with this project.

That initial was a little over a year ago as of this writing, and we are still about 5 months away from mounting it.I can already tell you I am incredibly excited and more than a little anxious to put this zombie baby on its feet. As a fan and fanboy, I am all too aware of what the best intentions can do to cherished memories. And I'm going to do my damndest to make sure that not only do they continue to BE cherished memories, but maybe help foster a few new ones before I'm done.

Now go with the Princess. And don't be cheeky.

- Michael Holmes

Director's Blog 001

When I was an acting student, back in the mid 90’s, a friend of mine showed me Forbidden Zone. It was a bootleg on a crappy VHS tape, there were about 5 of us in the room and I will be perfectly honest, much beer… and other intoxicants. The movie started and I was swept away. My mind was blown and I was generally freaked out. I love surrealism and the avant-garde… but this wasn’t like anything I’d seen before. Forbidden Zone was its own thing, with its own aesthetic, totally unique, and completely original. It was an explosion of insanity with as many nods to Max Fleischer cartoons as there were to Fellinni, fused and held together with any amazing and eclectic soundtrack.

Cut to 14 years later, Forbidden Zone floating in the back of my mind and my dear friend and colleague, Michael Holmes brings it up out of the blue:

Michael: “Have you ever seen a movie called Forbidden Zone?”

Me: “Yeah! That movie is crazy!”

Michael: “I think I wanna adapt it for the stage…you wanna direct?”

Me: “OK!”

Fear immediately bubbled up in my brain. How was I going to stage this? How I was going to be faithful to the movie while making an original staged musical its own thing? Where am I going to find someone to fill the shoes of Herve Villachaize?

Well, as I write this many of these questions have yet to be answered. But after Michael and I met with Richard Elfman and his business partner Jack Murphy it became clear that we had the full support of Forbidden Zone’s Master. As anyone who knows him will tell you, Richard’s energy and passion is second to none and absolutely infectious… I felt inspired.

As Michael and I, along with our amazing production team, embark on this journey to the Sixth Dimension we have many challenges to overcome. But we are determined to bring back to life Fausto, Doris, Frenchy and all of the beautifully insane characters that inhabit the Forbidden Zone! We look forward to seeing you all there in May!

- Scott Leggett

You are my hostage and don't you forget it!

Producer's Blog 2/5/10

Welcome Zombabies to the Production Blog for Forbidden Zone: LIVE in the 6th Dimension! I type fast, but even so, typing Forbidden Zone: LIVE in the 6th Dimension is a little much, so we have been using FZ6D as shorthand for the title of this show. But what is this show? I describe it as a new stage musical entertainment, a bawdy and thrilling sci-fi/fantasy romp that explodes with color, song, humor and horror that is at least as demented as the film that it is adapted from. Everything that you hope to see is in there. It is what you never expected to see that is going to blow your little frog-servant loving, art-boxing, dice-dealing mind.

We are about a week away from announcing audition dates and casting information for the show and we are many moons out from the start of rehearsal, but as this is such a rigorous production, we have been hard at work for the better part of a year getting all our corpses lined up so that when we are granted the POWER OF ZOMBIE we can take over the planet!

I'll be back next week to report on the final Music Workshop in which an eight piece band will perform all the vocal numbers from the show for a select audience of producers and Sacred Fools company members at a remote location. All shall be revealed to you in time.

Until then, tide yourselves over with missives from Director/Producer Scott Leggett and Author/Producer Michael Holmes. In the coming months you'll also hear from Music Director Ryan Johnson and Choreographer Natasha Norman. We look forward to seeing you in the near future as we gather in the land of sin and pleasure. You'll be surprised by the things that you will see!

- Marz Richards