Writing: Day One

I spent the last two days of February making index cards to organize scenes and songs. These cards will shift and change over time, but my goal now is to put it on paper.

cards

In case you’re wondering, the program I’m using is called Celtx. It’s a free program that I downloaded a few years ago when I was writing a play called “Two Weeks Notice.”* One thing that I hate about writing things that aren’t novels or short stories is that I’m never sure what the proper formatting should be, and Celtx takes away all of that uncertainty by automatically formatting whatever I’m working on to the proper style. It has templates for not only stage productions, but also film, radio plays, and comic books. And as you can see above, it also has index cards that can be color coded to keep all your stories and plots straight, as well as automatically formats cover pages, cast lists, and will even save it in a PDF in the proper format for distribution. I highly recommend it.

My plan for writing is this: The outline I made for myself is to have the majority of the book written by July, which includes all dialogue and lyrics. Then from August to November, I would be working on the music portion of it all.

Breaking that down even further: I’m going to try and write for at least one hour each day (shooting for doing it in the morning), which will hopefully knock out an index card or two. If I stay on this track and am on an incredible role — knocking out two index cards a day — I could have this thing written in a month. However, knowing me, the end of July is a pretty great estimation.

Why do I say this? Because today is day one of writing, and I’ve spent most of my morning writing this blog post instead of my script.

Anyone else taking on a writing project? What is your plan of action? What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

 

* Don’t ask about this play. It needs some major rewriting, and it’s meant to be a comedy, but with some distance, I don’t find it as funny as I used to.

Writing: Why this show, and why now?

As I made a “breakthrough” of sorts with my research, I thought I would take a moment to explain why this show is so important.

When I tell people that I’m writing a musical about the Easter Rising, I always get asked, “Why?” At first, I tried to explain that I was partly inspired by the success of Hamilton, and then tried to explain how the events of the Rising were full of drama and could make a compelling story.

Recently, I realized that my explanation was not only kind of boring to listen to, but also missed the point entirely.

I had a realization recently, when I remembered what I read in the Writing Musical Theater a while back about what the “story” of the musical is: ideally, the “Story” of any musical should be something that’s timeless, something that’s universal so that, no matter the audience, everyone can relate to the central emotional concept.

With that in mind, from now on, when people ask me what my show is about, I’ll tell them: It’s a story about citizenry fighting back against oppressors to gain their freedom.

When I decided to start this project in October, I went into it thinking that it would be a fun project that I probably wouldn’t ever finish. Then the US Election happened, and now my President is, literally, a conman who brags about sexually assaulting women, who treats people that aren’t on his level as “less than.” That’s unacceptable.

And at this point in his Presidency, he’s done literally everything in his power to destroy the very fabric of democracy in America. It’s unacceptable. It’s not normal.

And since art can, and should, be political, this musical is now my statement against tyranny.

Because the Irish people were sick of being ruled by the British, who clearly showed that they didn’t care about what happened in Ireland. There was no help during the Famine. There was no real representation in Parliament. For a small faction, there was no choice but to fight back.

I don’t mean to elevate myself to the mantle of “artist” and “activist,” but with this musical, I’m doing my best to fight back. And I hope that, through exposure and stagings, you all can fight back with me.

Writing: Act I is giving me trouble…

While I was on vacation over Christmas, I took an opportunity to review all of my notes for the actual events of the Uprising and to organize the events into some preliminary scene summaries. Right now, I have everything set up and organized into six scenes for Act II, but I’m sure that once I continue to dig in and see how the events of Act I influence the events of Act II, there might be a few more scenes.

Speaking of Act I: There’s SO MUCH INFORMATION and I’m not sure how to dig into it and find out what is relevant, what would make good drama, what can be staged, and how it will all work out.

As I was plotting out Act II on vacation, I had a thought for how I want Act I to play out. From my notes:

Scene one: musical scene — may review major events/struggles for Irish independence.

REST OF SCENES

  • [Bulmer] Hobson and [Patrick] Pearse at one of the first meetings of the organization they both created (1911?)
  • As more meetings are held, followers fall into two camps — “wait” and “take action”
  • Closer to 1916, plans are made to take action
    • Hobson and Pearse disagree on time to act. Hobson is clearly stalling
    • Call to action is made, countermand issued, Hobson is kidnapped
    • Act ends with a song in which those who will act psych themselves up for battle

Now, do the actual events play out this conveniently? Probably not. I’m trying to work my way through Charles Townshend’s Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, a book that is full of primary documents and wonderful information. My only issue with it, as someone with an already short attention span, is that there is almost TOO much information. It’s all good information, and I’m taking a ton of notes. But between a busy work schedule and lack of focus, it’s hard to get through it all.

Rather than labor over making my way through this thick a book of information, I’ve decided (rightly or wrongly) to switch up my tactics. I’m trying to find some barebones overviews of what went into the planning of the Rebellion, and then I’m going to supplement my research from there.

Basically, that means I’m spending today reading the Wikipedia article of the rebellion to see what sort of plot I can make for the first act, then try to follow the research to flesh out some of the details.

My dream would be to go back to Ireland to explore the different locations where the Rebellion happened, and possibly to be connected to local historians to review and get more information about some of the primary documents and meeting spaces. For now, I have Wikipedia and my public library. They’ve gotten me this far; I’m sure they can carry me the rest of the way.

Writing: Sketching out the first song

Hey all, happy new year.

While I’m continuing to do my research and learn about the events that occurred before the rebellion began on Easter Monday, and thus gathering the material for Act I, this morning I stumbled upon what I think is the start of a powerful song for the musical. At this point, I don’t know who will sing it, when it will occur, or what it will be about. But I have an accompaniment and a melody line, which is one step closer to having a completed song than I was at yesterday.

I hesitate to post anything else about the song — pictures of the score, a MIDI file of the music to listen to, or even a video of me playing the accompaniment — because, maybe erroneously and naively, I fear of having my hard work taken from me and used for something else. So, music-wise, I will be pretty secretive.

However, when I start writing the actual book, with dialogue and stage directions, I will be sharing some of that on here. Again, maybe not whole sections or scenes of dialogue, but enough to show that I’m making progress.

Because what I really want this blog to be is a way to hold me accountable. I know it’s a pretty unrealistic goal to write an entire musical — potentially a three-hour venture once completed — in one calendar year. And even if I put butt in chair and write my “shitty first draft” — as author Anne Lamott encourages all writers to do — there will still be time for rewriting, workshopping, and all the other nitty-gritty things that need to be done before I can consider this work “finished.”

Therefore, my overall, long-term goal, is to have this thing performance ready by 2021, the 100th anniversary of Ireland gaining it’s full independence from British rule. That gives me four years to pour my heart into this and have it ready to go as part of that celebration. It would mean the world to me if I could have this performed in Ireland by that year, even if it’s only for one night.

So, again, happy new year to all of you. There’s work to be done.

Research: I think I’ve plotted out Act II

A couple of days ago I finished the book Agony at Easter: The 1916 Irish Uprising by Thomas Coffey, which is a minute-by-minute account of the events of the Irish Uprising on Easter Week 1916. It’s an interesting and fascinating read, providing behind the scenes accounts of the emotions, conversations, and events of the Irish Rebellion. In fact, this book was such a dramatic account of the events of Easter Week that Act II of this musical has basically written itself.

Just in taking notes based on reading this book, I identified 18 potential song ideas. This is a significant number to me, since I came into this portion of the writing process by wondering how I was going to find the “right” number of songs. These 18 song ideas include a couple of reprises, but for the most part, it is all original music, covering a gamut of emotions: dread, fear, love, bravado, among others.

This books has also helped generate a couple of unique staging ideas. I’m not sure how entirely feasible they would be on any given stage, but, as I mentioned in a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, theater is magical in that it can be whatever I want it to be.

An example of a staging idea that may not be “kosher” in the theater world is that I would have an entire scene of no singing. From what I read in the Cohen and Rosenhaus book is that there shouldn’t be a long period of drama between the music — I forget the specific amount of time they mentioned, but it was something like, “If there is more than 10 minutes of dialogue, it means you’re overdue for a song.”

However, the events of the latter part of Easter Week — specifically, I noted, Thursday, April 27 — are the most tense and most dramatic of the entire rebellion. This is when the Volunteers and the IRB are realizing that they are dead, that the British are going to rise up and quash this merry band of men, and they’re all going to die. They realize this almost right away in the morning, when a British artillery shell strikes the building where the Volunteers published the Irish Times, a revolutionary newspaper, and the building starts on fire. Eventually, the fire spreads to Wynn’s Hotel, where the Volunteers first met to discuss this rebellion plan.

April 27 is also the day when the leaders of the rebellion realize they need to come up with a retreat and evacuation plan. They were so dead set on this being the event that will lead to their independence that the thought of needing to retreat never crossed their minds. Yet, here they are, with the city on fire and artillery shells striking their command center in the General Post Office, needing to leave as quickly and safely as they can in order to continue the fight.

There’s a lot of drama and significance in all of this, and, to me, trying to contextualize all of it in a series of songs doesn’t seem like it will do it the justice that silence and pure dramatic acting can do. So my plan, for at least the scene(s) for April 27, are to have no music. No songs, no incidental underscoring. Just the weight of what is about to happen hanging throughout the room.

One of my strangest fears when I’m writing is to do things “wrong.” There’s a novel project that I’ve been working on for years that I don’t think will ever be finished, because I have these weird ideas of shifting between past and present and hallucination that are “wrong,” and I feel as compelled to find the “correct” way to write them as I do to say, “Screw it, this is how it’s going to be done.”

That fear has creeped up as I’m rounding out my research and making the beginning plans to write this musical. It is “wrong” to have a scene in a musical that has no music. It is “wrong” to have an antagonist that doesn’t ever make an appearance (the Coffey book talks a lot about how the British soldiers never really attacked the GPO, but hid back behind barriers and in surrounding buildings to snipe the Irish Volunteers). It is “wrong” to start a scene with your actors in the audience. It is “wrong” to try and do anything outside of the confines of the musicals that are popular and/or I’m familiar with.

But, then again, maybe “Screw it” is my mantra. Who’s to say I can’t tell a story however I want? Hasn’t the rise of experimental and avant-garde theater shown that anything is possible on (or off) the stage?

I’m sure I’ll be wrestling with these ideas throughout the year. But as I wrestle with them, I’m hoping that I will also discover and create an amazing, powerful, and moving theatrical experience.

Research: This musical might be longer than I thought…

There have not been any posts since my book review because, at this point in the process, I have switched gears from “learning about the artform” to “learning about the topic.” As part of this early dive into research, I’m reading Thomas Coffey’s Agony at Easter, which is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour account of the events of the Easter Uprising in Dublin in April 1916. A more full review will come once I’m finished with it, but I will say that I’m very impressed both with the amount of information present in the text, as well as how it’s written. At times, it reads less like a historical account and more like a novel; Coffey states in the foreward that “[t]he events and conversations [in the book] are related exactly the way careful research indicates they happened. The precise wording of quotations has been used wherever it could be established, and even when the precise words were unascertainable, the sense and tone of each conversation was preserved.”

In fact, this careful attention to detail might be a little too informational: as I’m reading through the book and taking notes on what I might or might not include in the musical, I’m getting the feeling that I might have to readjust how I approach writing this thing. There’s so much that is important to the story that, at this point, I’m not sure what I would have to cut.

As my plans stand now, the general arc of the story was going to be Act I being all of the stuff that happened before the actual uprising — an overview of the events that would lead to the Irish people wanting to rebel against the British, followed by the events leading up to the Uprising, including planning, arguments, recruitment, and the tensions that rise from the high amount of stress that comes from figuring out how to fight against an entire British military system. Act I was going to end with the night before the actual occupation of the General Post Office, with Act II being all about the events of Easter Week.

But I’m starting to rethink this plan. Maybe Act I ends with the end of Day One of the occupation of the GPO? If you’re “supposed” to take an act break on emotional uncertainty and tension, based on this book alone, the Volunteers are pretty confident in themselves after Day One. They fought back against the British Lancers (a cavalry unit meant to break up the occupation almost immediately after it started), they raised the new Irish flag, they’ve occupied several strategic locations throughout Dublin, and they’re getting new soldiers every moment (most of them arriving late due to various reasons). “My God, we might actually do this!” they cry! Act Break, with Act II being all about how they eventually get their ass kicked by the British Army, and many of the leaders are executed. Curtain.

But it’s not just the structure of the musical that I’m rethinking; there’s information that I’m learning that I just never suspected in my basic understanding of the Uprising that I briefly learned about on my trip to Ireland last year. For example: Did you know that the GPO occupation was not well-received by the general public? Patrick Pearse and his militia were openly mocked when they took over the GPO. Usually when you hear stories of revolution, they just kind of gloss over any public outcry against it, as if everyone was on the same page. And I’m debating whether I include much, if any, public resistance in the final product, because I think it tells a truer story than trying to deify these men and these events.

A note that I made about how to incorporate this comes after a song idea: Pearse and potentially others sing the official proclamation that Ireland is an independent nation, and as this major event reaches it’s climax, have someone as a citizen (potentially even someone in the audience), shout “feck off!” at the stage. It’s an idea that I will fight hard to keep in the show, but I ultimately have no idea if it will actually stay in.

Speaking of Patrick Pearse, there are also a lot of people involved in the Uprising. My main character list as it stands now include Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett, as they are the Commandant Generals of the Volunteers that occupy the GPO. They are in charge, so it makes sense to focus on them. But there are also so many other characters involved, each with their own stakes and their own beefs with everyone else, that if I wanted to go with emotional tension, I’d have to include all of them, which is virtually impossible. There are seven main conspirators when it comes to these events — Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett, as well as Michael Collins, Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott, and Thomas MacDonagh. With them, there are several other leaders within the Irish Brotherhood (where many Volunteers came from), including Michael O’Rahilly, Desmond Fitzgerald, and Bulmer Hobson.

Ten people. And that’s not including other soldiers, British soldiers, the women’s faction of Cumann na mBan, townspeople, etc. So many characters, and I know I’m going to have to cut and condense some, but in this preliminary research stage, I’m not sure who that would be at this point.

I know, as I’m gathering information, that I shouldn’t have these answers yet; in fact, I probably shouldn’t even be thinking of these questions in the first place. But this immediate discernment has also led to several song ideas, including six from the Monday events alone. Naturally, some of those ideas will be cut as I start writing, but it’s kind of fun to be doing this sort of planning.

Per the timeline that I created for myself, I’m in research and information gathering mode until the end of January. By the end of February, I should have my acts and scenes outlined, as well as my characters identified and sketched out so that I can dig into writing the book by March.

Book Review: “Writing Musical Theater”

It’s a strange thing when you decide all of a sudden to do something with little prior knowledge. People don’t declare that they’re going to try out for a professional sports team without having, at the very least, knowledge of the fundamentals of that sport. People don’t decide to pursue an interest in painting without at least knowing a little bit about art and what someone can do with it.

Yet here I am, deciding that I’m going to write a full-fledged musical, without really knowing anything about musicals other than “It’s like a play but there’s a lot of singing.” The first step of the journey, then, is to have a better understanding of what a musical is, including structures and rules, so that I can have a general idea of what exactly I’m getting into.

I’m very lucky to live in an area that has a public library with access to a variety of resources (and you might be, too. Please check out your local public library, because there’s some pretty cool stuff going on in there), and was able to get my hands on a book called Writing Musical Theater by Allen Cohen and Steven L. Rosenhaus.

In general, I’m a fan of “insider”-type knowledge. The podcasts I listen to are usually ones that provide insight into the creation of some of my favorite things, and any time I can read or consume something that provides more history and context to things I enjoy (such as reading the oral history of Saturday Night Live), I come away awed and inspired.

The first half of the book is “nuts-and-bolts,” going over all of the minutiae of the different elements of musicals, from what goes into the libretto or book of the show, down to the nitty-gritty of the different musical elements. Even if you’re a Broadway Superfan, I’m sure that you would enjoy learning more about what goes into the show, as well as tips and tricks for making sure that nothing in a musical goes to waste.

The first half of the book is where I learned the most about what exactly a musical is. It’s where I learned, for example, that songs and music are not simply shoehorned into an existing play, but they, in fact, serve a dramatic function in the whole story, whether it’s to move the story forward or to make a character more likable and appealing.

(If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s just common knowledge,” keep in mind that I didn’t realize there were Nazis in The Sound of Music until years after I first saw the movie. I always assumed the story ended at what is actually the halfway point.)

The second half of the book is all about actually writing a show, and, for someone about to wade into those waters for the first time, the information they provided was extremely helpful. The authors “write” two shows at the same time, illustrating the differences between adapting an existing work into a musical compared to conjuring up a new, original idea. They go through writing character sketches, scene summaries, and go through the process of “song spotting,” or identifying the optimal places for music and song to be introduced. The authors also go through the process of writing some of the songs from both of the shows, providing insight into deciding not only what character is singing, but also what they are singing and how they are singing it.

In summary, I gleaned a lot of knowledge from this book, and I took a copious amount of notes. While reading this book may not guarantee that I’m going to write a smash Broadway hit, it has given me the knowledge and the confidence to go forth and see what I can create.

And who knows, maybe if this musical does become the smash hit I hope it becomes, maybe I’ll save a couple of tickets for Allen and Steven. After all, they’ve been tremendous teachers for the last month or so.

Analysis: “Wait For It” (from Hamilton)

At this point in my journey of writing a musical, I’m finishing an excellent book called Writing Musical Theater by Allen Cohen and Steven L. Rosenhaus. This is a really great book that provides a lot of insight and information into exactly what a musical is and how to write one (I’ll post a full review of the book when I’m finished).

Currently, I’m finishing a section of the book about songs; specifically, the dramatic function of songs in musicals. Because the best way to synthesize information is to teach it, I’d like to take a moment and do a song analysis on one of my favorite songs from the musical Hamilton, “Wait For It.”

Before we get into the actual song, we should first have an understanding of the context in which it appears:

“Wait For It” comes near the middle of Act I: shortly after Alexander Hamilton meets and marries Eliza Schuyler, Aaron Burr enters to congratulate Hamilton on his marriage. Hamilton and Burr have met earlier in Act I, when Hamilton first arrives to New York, and we have already seen that these two are polar opposite people. Hamilton is all about taking immediate action, while Burr prefers to wait out his adversaries until the most opportune time; as an example of this characterization, when Burr gives Hamilton the advice of “Talk less; smile more,” Hamilton rebuffs him and turns to join up with three revolutionaries he finds in a pub, which leads to Hamilton declaring, “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

After congratulating Hamilton on his marriage, Burr confesses to him that he is having an affair with the wife of a British officer. Why does Burr tell Hamilton this, especially after Hamilton just got married? My guess is that it’s because Burr is pretty proud of how subversive he is in this action. Burr and Hamilton are on the same side of the Revolution, they just have two different approaches to it. Hamilton doesn’t see it that way, however; he tells Burr that he should take a chance: “I will never understand you. If you love this woman, go get her! What are you waiting for?” Hamilton departs, and Burr sings.

Of the different types of songs outlined in the Cohen and Rosenhaus book (ballad, comedy song, rhythm song, list song, charm song), I believe “Wait For It” is a charm song. Charm songs are meant to humanize characters and make them likable to the audience, and Burr definitely needs some likability. Burr is established as the villain in the beginning of the musical, singing the line “I’m the damn fool that shot him” in the opening number. But in the several reviews I’ve seen or heard regarding Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has been praised for how “human” he makes these historical figures; no one is a saint, and things don’t just “work out” in the end. Even Hamilton is a flawed figure, and he’s the star of the show!

How does this song work to humanize Aaron Burr? I’ll start with a brief quote from Miranda in an interview with the New Yorker:

Burr is every bit as smart as Hamilton, and every bit as gifted, and he comes from the same amount of loss as Hamilton. But because of the way they are wired Burr hangs back where Hamilton charges forward…. I think we’ve all had moments where we’ve seen friends and colleagues zoom past us, either to success, or to marriage, or to homeownership, while we lingered where we were—broke, single, jobless. And you tell yourself, ‘Wait for it.’

The lyrics to “Wait For It” begin with Aaron Burr discussing his current affair with the British officer’s wife, and it’s obvious that he would love to take Hamilton’s advice (“He can keep all of Georgia; Theodosia, she’s mine.”), but he prefers to hold back. The second verse, Burr speaks about his upbringing (“My grandfather was fire and brimstone preacher…, my mother was genius, my father commanded respect”) but also recognizes that there is no “right way” to go about protecting and honoring their legacy.

The choruses in this song more directly speak to the emotion that Miranda spoke about in his New Yorker interview: the feeling of being left behind, of watching all of your friends find success while you feel stuck in a rut…

Sidebar: maybe this is why I relate to this song so much? My friends are all getting married and earning graduate degrees, and I’m kind of “stuck” as a single guy, wishing, even though I love my job, that I could do more with my life?

… as Aaron Burr philosophizes about life, love, and death. In each of these cases, Burr says that they “don’t discriminate/between the sinners and the saints/it takes and it takes and it takes,” but also sees that “if there’s a reason” things seem to be working out how they have for him so far — with Theodosia, “if there’s a reason I’m by her side/while so many have tried;” with life and death, “if there’s a reason I’m still alive/when everyone who loves me has died” — then something bigger must be on the horizon, and he’s willing to wait for it.

The song takes an interesting turn when Burr starts speaking about Hamilton. Burr begins this section by identifying his life philosophy (“I’m not standing still, I’m lying in wait” — which might also be a reminder to himself as he watches Hamilton get all these accolades and promotions), and then starts speaking about Hamilton, and how he must have “something to prove” with “nothing to lose.” At first, Burr seems to be frustrated or angry about Hamilton’s quick rise to power, but as the music comes to a crescendo, Burr all of a sudden reins it in and asks, “What is it like in his shoes?”

That line tells us that, however Burr might be feeling that Hamilton has all of this success, he still very much admires the man and wonders what makes him tick. Is it because Burr is hoping to glean any sort of information to apply to his own rise to power? Or is it simply curiosity?

Burr finishes his song by discussing his disbelief at Hamilton: “… he exhibits no restraint/he takes and he takes and he takes/and he keeps winning anyway/he changes the game/he plays and he raises the stakes.” In Aaron Burr’s worldview, this sort of reckless abandon should have failed Hamilton years ago. It should have prevented him from achieving any sort of success in New York, much less being named Gen. Washington’s right hand man and marrying the daughter of a successful businessman.

The final line of this chorus, however, is curious to me: “And if there’s a reason he seems to thrive/when so few survive then goddammit/I’m willing to wait for it.” It’s curious to me because, while I think I know what he’s saying, I’m not exactly certain.

What I think Burr is saying is that Hamilton must be a fluke. Hamilton is having all of this success, despite being an impulsive brute with no foresight. He’s not doing it the way it should be done. And if he’s having all of this success by doing things that are against conventional wisdom, then by following conventional wisdom, Burr should be able to find much greater and more meaningful success.

By the end of the song, there is no doubt that Aaron Burr is still the antagonist of Hamilton. But we also get a glimpse inside his head, and we can see that Burr still wants the best for this fledgling country called America; he just disagrees with Alexander Hamilton about how it should be done.

Recommended: “Cannibal! The Musical!”

Yesterday, I realized that I had inadvertently watched two musicals centered around feeding humans to creatures to survive. On social media, I made a joke that, in order to keep the trend going, I would need to watch a musical centered around the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who got lost in the Rocky Mountains and famously had to resort to cannibalism to survive.

Shortly after posting my joke, a friend reminded me about one of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s early creations, Cannibal! The Musical, based on the true story of a man named Alfred Packer who led an expedition from Utah to Colorado, and ended up getting lost in the Rocky Mountains and resorted to eating the rest of his party to survive the harsh winter.

I remember trying to find it when I first learned about it about eight years ago, but could never find a copy or version anywhere unless I wanted to buy it. Today, on a lark, I searched for Cannibal! on YouTube, and to my surprise, the full musical is online!

I won’t do a full analysis on it, but I’ve embedded the video here for your enjoyment.

Analysis: “Little Shop of Horrors”

See A Note on Analyses for more information about this type of post.

Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Alan Menken
First produced Off-Off-Broadway in 1982
I ended up watching the movie version from 1986, starring Rick Moranis as Seymour

THEME/STORY: Little Shop of Horrors is a love story, but also a warning of what happens if you do anything to get what you want. Seymour discovers a plant from outer space, and discovers that when this plant is fed human blood, things suddenly go right for him. This eventually backfires on him, as his new-found fame overwhelms him, and he must destroy the very thing that gave him that fame.

IMPORTANT SONGS:
“Skid Row” (beginning of Act I) — Establishes setting and mood, but also introduces us to Seymour. Seymour’s section of the song is simultaneously an “I am” and “I want” song: we learn that Seymour is an orphan, that he’s a sweet guy, hardworking, and a bit of a pushover. We also learn that he doesn’t want to live on Skid Row, and is looking for any way to leave.

“Feed Me (Git It)” (end of Act I) — Sets up the events of Act II. Audrey II reveals that it’s a supernatural entity (“If I can talk, and I can move, who’s to say I can’t do anything I want?”), and in order to continue Seymour’s success, it needs blood. Seymour is resistant at first (“I have so, so many strong reservations”), but when Audrey II pushes Seymour to think of someone who deserves to be “plant food,” Seymour thinks of Orin Scrivello, the abusive dentist boyfriend of the love interest Audrey I. Now we have motivation: Seymour is to kill Orin and feed him to Audrey II, who will, in turn, give Seymour anything he wants.

“Finale (Don’t Feed The Plants)” (end of Act II) — Sums up the rest of the events. While it can be argued that the emotional climax of the entire show is when Audrey II kills and eats Audrey I and Seymour, this song wraps up the events of the show and, in a way, reiterates the point of the show: don’t let your emotions get the better of you, or else alien plants will take over America. Or something like that.

WHAT I LIKE:

  • The doo-wop trio of Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal is a great story-telling device, reminiscent of the Greek Chorus of ancient plays.
  • This show is hilarious. The premise is just so absurd, and the film has many visual gags that can be easily missed if you don’t look out for them.
  • Doo-wop is, like, the best type of music for cheesy musicals like this. The show never gets dark enough to warrant a “legit” ballad, so the overall mood of the show matches the style of music presented.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE:

  • There’s so much to like about this show, that it’s tough to find something not to like. If I had to find something to critique, it would be that the characters are kind of dim. Like, almost too dim. It’s a little unbelievable that Seymour immediately jumps to the thought of “If blood makes it grow, it has to be my/human blood.” I mean, even in Sweeney Todd, Mrs. Lovett mentions using cats as meat in her pies. I don’t know, if I was Seymour, I probably would have tried stray animals in the streets before jumping to killing someone to feed my alien plant.