Sacred Fools Theater Company, 2019
is an original stage musical telling the true story of murder during the 1893
World's Fair in Chicago. Dr. H.H. Holmes was a charming and successful
entrepreneur. Among his many exploits, he built a new hotel to welcome the
city's visitors in time for the fair. Little did his visitors know that the 3rd
floor had been outfitted with trapdoors, secret windows, and chutes leading down
to the basement incinerator. Holmes may have been America's most prolific serial
killer and the true number of his victims is still unknown today.
Deadly premiered at the Broadwater Mainstage in Hollywood in September 2019, enjoying a successful run and rave reviews. Written by playwright Vanessa Claire Stewart (Louie and Keely: Live at the Sands, Stoneface) and directed by Jaime Robledo (Watson, Mr. Burns, Stoneface), I composed the music and scored it for a cast of ten performers and four musicans (piano, drums, violin, cello).
A Miracle on 34th Street
Pasadena Playhouse, 2017
|After working my tail off on Mr. Burns (see below), I got a call from the Pasadena Playhouse asking if I'd like to perform music for their Christmas show. They were going to perform A Miracle on 34th Street as a 1940s radio show broadcast. I would sit onstage at a piano and provide the music. Jeff Gardner would provide live foley effects. And the cast would be top-notch talent: Alfred Molina (Frida, Boogie Nights, Raiders of the Lost Ark) as Santa Claus, Peri Gilpin (Frasier), Beth Grant (Speed, The Artist), and Jim Rash (Community, screenwriter of The Descendents). It was like paid vacation. I learned a few Christmas tunes, improvised around the action, and they even got me up onstage to do a scene, something I would have gone nutty over in my acting days.
Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play
Sacred Fools Theater Company, 2017
Washburn's Mr. Burns is a truly odd piece of work I
was excited to music direct. In the first act, some sort of apocalyptic
event has taken place causing electricity to disappear. A group of new friends are gathered around a campfire and spend
much of the act amusing themselves by trying to remember all the gags of
a particular Simpsons episode. The second act is a few years later. Now
they exist as travelling performers specializing in performing that very
Simpsons episode, singing old hit songs, and reenacting old TV
commercials - nostalgia porn for the post-electric age. The third act is
many years in the future. It's an operetta wherein the Simpsons have now
become the Greek mythology of their time. The music by Michael
Friedman is a strange tapestry of songs mentioned in the first two acts.
Kanye West, Britney Spears, etc. are all subtley referenced throughout
the score that, otherwise, sounds tribal, solemn, and dark.
But here's the catch - The cast is meant to play all the instruments themselves. Finding good enough actors to handle two dialogue-heavy first acts is hard enough. We needed solid actors and, as a result, had some people who were new to playing guitar, barely knew their way around a squeezebox, and had to deal with Friedman's occassionally odd meter. It's a tough, tough show to pull off. But godammit, we got fantastic reviews and the piece was a hit.
Sacred Fools Theater, 2012 - Pasadena Playhouse, 2014
Jaime Robledo said he was doing a show about Buster Keaton starring
French Stewart (3rd Rock from the Sun). He wanted to know if I would
perform sitting at the corner of the stage at a piano, scoring it live
as if it were a silent picture. I'm a huge Keaton fan. I signed on
It forced me to work on my ragtime chops (I began and ended the show with Joplin's 'Heliotrope Bouquet'). The show, written by Vanessa Claire Stewart, struck a chord. We sold out through a long extended run and got added to the Pasadena Playhouse's 2014 season. Our scrappy little show graduated from 80 seats to 600. I won an Ovation award and got a couple nominations elsewhere. The show won an LA Weekly Award for Production of the Year.
Astro Boy and the God of Comics
Sacred Fools Theater Company, 2015
I loved this show. Another directed by
Jaime Robledo, Astro Boy tells
the story of Osamu Tezuka and his most famous creation - Astro Boy. Not
unlike Mr. Burns, the cast must be able to draw as they build the show
with illustrations as it's performed. It's magical, insightful, and
really shows how the history of anime is rooted in the tragedy of
Hiroshima. For my part, I recorded buckets of retro sci-fi music to
accompany the show. It opened to wide acclaim.
Sacred Fools Theater Company, 2013
|The challenge of adapting Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is that it started off as a TV series, then it was a novel and graphic novel. What it wasn't was short. It's scope is long and epic in one medium or another. It's a surreal fantasy that takes place when everyman Richard Mayhew stumbles into the parallel world that exists underneath London, complete with monsters, warriors, and magic. A Chicago theater company had taken up the challenge and adapted it for stage. At Sacred Fools, director Scott Leggett gave this adaptation its west coast premiere and asked me to record some music. That meant creating a big, giant bucket of music to accompany the various worlds and characters Richard encounters during his hero's journey. I wanted London Below to have its own culture as a mirrored but separate society from that above. So I mixed together electronica with West African elements, traditional Indian, and new classical. Gaiman himself came to see it and must have enjoyed it since he hung out with the cast until 3 a.m. Audience members kept asking where they could buy the music, so I threw it up on Bandcamp.
HitRECord Fall Formal
Orpheum Theater, 2013
|OK, it's not theater. Film actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Inception, Lincoln) asked me to music direct this live event. His company Hitrecord is an online community where people collaborate on art. My job was to assemble a band. We would prepare 12 of the songs that people had collaborated on within Hitrecord and perform them at the Orpheum Theater. I called up the my guys in Überband and proposed that we play this 2000-seat gig instead of the 60-capacity bar we were going to play. The house band wound up being Überband joined by genius DJ Kid Koala. We played with guest artists Sia Furler, Anne Hathaway, Tasha Taylor, as well as Joe himself. The night also included film screenings, a story being read by Gary Oldman and a sketch Joe performed with Neil Patrick Harris. We pulled it together in about a week and somehow Joe did it while shooting Batman.
Sacred Fools Theater, 2010
|My first creative foray with theater director Jaime Robledo. He concocted this funny and bizarre tale of Sherlock Holmes that focuses more of its attention on Watson. It's hilarious, particularly French Stewart's portrayal as Sigmund Freud in the original production. It was also the show where Robledo defined a sense of theatrical visual trickery that has stood paramount throughout his career. Early on, I offered to write music. Jaime challenged me to write a score entirely for string quartet, insisting that I not use synths. So I pulled favors and hacked together my first string quartet material, which opened up a world of composition to me. The show still gets produced with some regularity around the country, featuring my music.
Forbidden Zone: Live in the 6th Dimension
Sacred Fools Theater, 2009
|The show that stuck me in theater. My Renfield bandmate Marz Richards told me that he was part of a theater company. They were going to do a stage adaptation of Richard and Danny Elfman's bizarro midnight movie musical Forbidden Zone. It would require assembling a 7-piece band, transcribing and adapting about a dozen songs, and learning Elfman's first film score by ear. Putting on this show still stands as one of my greatest challenges and about 1000 times as much fun as anything I've ever done. It was a huge hit and has kept me involved in theater ever since.