The Adventure Continues

TT in the Blue Mountains and Sheldy in New York.

Culture Shock.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strange Music

I wish we had seen THE SHAGGS: PHILOSOPHY OF THEWORLD a little earlier in its run at the Playwrights Horizon (it closes in three days) because I would have said run as fast as you can to see one of the most original, disturbing, hilarious and tragic musicals to come along in years. Based on a true story, this is the tale of Austin Wiggin who forced his three talent-free teenage daughters to form a musical group and record an album in 1969 because his mother had predicted before she died that his girls would be his fortune. The resulting album of songs written by the girls themselves was incredibly unspeakably terrible but Wiggin nonetheless subjected his family to a reign of terror as he strove to launch them on the music scene from their home in Freemont, New Hampshire. The album has since achieved legendary status in much the same way that Ed Wood's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is considered to be the worst movie of all time.
The creators of the musical, Joy Gregory, Gunnar Madsen and John Langs, have created a haunting score in which the three sisters sing like angels in their bedroom and in their fantasies but become tuneless drones in the recording studio.
Peter Friedman as the psychotic Austin gives a terrifying and uncompromising performance, his voice as harsh and strident as his misguided ambition.
 Annie Golden as his put-upon wife stops the show with her second act ballad "Flyin'" where she acknowledges that her husband lives somewhere in the clouds but to turn her back on him would be akin to dyin'.
The direction by John Langs and choreography by Ken Roht spring some glorious surprises including a brilliantly funny dream ballet in a supermarket.
The cast features knockout performances from Jamey Hood, Sarah Sokolovic and Emily Walton as the Shaggs and Cory Michael Smith as Kyle, young suitor to two of the sisters who becomes a victim of Austin's overbearing protectiveness.
tt predicts a long life for this piece in regional theatre, and it will certainly reignite a cult following for the original album which, if you listen to a couple of tracks on YouTube, absolutely beggars belief.

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