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

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