Monday, July 04, 2011

How Long Until The Shaggs Hit The Regional Circuit

Last week, two of my fellow bloggers were latecomers to the new musical play The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, which just wrapped up a run at Playwrights Horizons.

Boston playwright John Kuntz was in New York and caught the play, while New Yorker Rolando Teco saw the penultimate performance and praised it on the Extra Criticum blog.

Both enjoyed the play very much, and both wondered why the play didn't find more success. Indeed, The Shaggs wound up with a C+ average over on Stagegrade.

It seems that reviewers posting mixed to poor notices believed the material was a bit too depressing. This dreariness, in their opinion, overwhelmed the quirkiness that many of the positive notices praise. Some just thought the idea of making a musical based on supremely untalented musicians yields just the kind of results you might expect.

I have to say, I've heard very positive things from word of mouth about the show. Hopefully, as John Kuntz muses, we'll get a chance to see it here soon enough.


Esther said...

I really enjoyed The Shaggs. I found it more quirky and sad rather than truly depressing. I've seen a few musicals lately that just seemed like cookie cutters, the latest stage incarnation of whatever movie was popular a decade ago. At least The Shaggs was different and refreshing. I liked the music, too. The women who play the sisters sing like angels when they're using their "inner" voices to describe their thoughts and lives. It's only when they play together as a band that you get an idea of how awful they sounded. And the musical treats their story with great sensitivity.

Daniel Bourque said...

I was at the Saturday matinee of Philosophy of the World a couple of days back and would like to add my voice to the chorus of people who loved it - I thought it was one of the most fun and entertaining shows I've seen all year. Interestingly enough, a large number of audience members at the show (including the elderly couple next to me) seemed to have no idea that the Shaggs were a band and were shocked when I told them the story of the group and pulled out my iPod to show them the original album. One of the best things about the musical, IMHO is the way that it mixes original songs in with a handful of Shaggs tunes, and in some cases even uses reworked lyrics from the group into new songs to create something fresh. And the rearranged "Pop" versions of the Shaggs songs which are played during the recording session are a real scream if you know the originals.

I do think it's important to note that this isn't a new show by any means and I'm surprised nobody here seems to have heard of it before now. The musical has existed in one form or another for nearly eleven years, and has had runs in Chicago (at LookingGlass) and in LA. I'm sure it will get licensed and see a few runs around the country, whether or not it gets a Boston production is another question, or indeed if it should. There are quite a few things which work against it from that angle - the obscurity of the source material, the seemingly mixed reviews (which I completely disagree with, btw) and the show itself which requires a band in addition to singing/playing actors. If it does, I really hope whoever produces it doesn't cut corners - there's nothing more painful then seeing something which is brilliant in NYC get a trimmed down production which doesn't gel here in Boston. Passing Strange, for example which I thought was one of the most evocative, colorful shows I ever saw in New York was highly dissatisfying by comparison when recently done at New Rep. Some stuff just doesn't translate.

BTW, I'm always amazed you don't have Everything I know I Learned from Musicals on your Boston Theatre blog list. Chris gave the show a rave.

Art said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the info.

I follow Chris on Twitter and retweet his stuff a lot, I'll add his blog today.

Sometimes I just procrastinate on updating the blogroll.