Broadway.com: First Person | 2007.june.19
About the author:
You wanna know the most terrifying combination of words in the English language to me? Rock Musical. Because the music featured in such so-called productions is stuff that no self-respecting rock fan would ever be caught dead listening to. Therefore, Passing Strange is the musical you can take your friend to who hates musicals.
We never do the same show twice. We couldn't have it any other way and still be true to the show's rock-and-roll "anything can and should happen" roots. Within all the precision that Annie, [movement coordinator] Karole Armitage, our great cast and band bring to the table, tons of room was left for me to improvise. THANK GOD!!! (Or rather, thank Annie). Otherwise, I'd be in a mental institution by now.
But the big challenge of freedom is figuring out what to do with it. That's where my pre-show jitters come from. I don't get nervous about whether it's gonna be a good show or not. My rock-and-roll swagger doesn't allow for that luxury, since even bad shows have value in our world. No, my fear is that tonight I'm gonna do what worked last night rather than invent something new. I never want it to become a canned performance. I want it to be fresh and real and unique every night. I really feel like every audience deserves its own very special Passing Strange. But sometimes I feel like I'm driving myself nuts trying to make that happen.
Heidi and I have worked together for 10 years playing dive bars, stadiums and birthday parties. We've been doing it long enough to know that a gig's a gig. And our amazing band is equally jaded and joyous. We couldn't do this gig with anonymous pit musicians. Each guy's personality informs the show. And one of them is single.
Every once in a while, Heidi and I look at each other and ask, "Are we show folk now?" I did almost buy a pair of leg warmers yesterday but I fought the feeling although as you read this, I am cutting the collar out of my sweatshirt.
But honestly, we're too "seen-it-all" to get overly excited about having a HIT SHOW!!! Except when someone told us Dick Van Dyke saw our show that was exciting!! Okay, it was probably someone who just looked like Dick Van Dyke. But geez, wouldn't it have been cool if it really was him???
Having never been interested in theater before embarking upon this journey and having only seen a small handful of plays in my 45 years, I happened upon some stuff about the old Greek play competitions. I also read a little bit about the vibe at Shakespeare's Old Globe and though I'm well out of my league here in commenting it seems like those worlds were far more rock-and-roll than the stuffed-shirt vibe that scares most people away from theater. Think about it: people standing around consuming alcohol, watching (and sometimes yelling at) men onstage dressed up as women. And the joint was in a sketchy neighborhood? Wait a minute, I recognize that dive! I've been playing there my entire life!
Working with this cast has been a life-changing experience for me. Being from Los Angeles (i.e. Hollywood), I didn't realize acting was such a high art. They really are magicians, shape shifters, alchemists and all that other mystical groovy stuff. I wanna get in a large Partridge Family bus with them and this amazing band we have and drive around Europe making shows. We'll bring a dog along and there will be lots of velvet clothing involved. We'll make up plays on the spot. It will be the realization of my dream of the rock band traveling theater troupe. But until that dream comes true, come see the one that already has down at the Public.