Matt, you are the musical doctor/director for this new play, “Yahweh’s Follies, the Musical Comedy Extravaganza of Biblical Proportions!” which is opening on June 11 at Ars Nova. How’s it going? What kind of music goes with a “musical comedy of biblical proportions”?
Yahweh’s Follies is a caberet/vaudeville style show that tells the story of religion – from the beginning of humanity up through about the year AD 403. Writer/Director Rob Reese wrote the script and lyrics. The seven characters take the audience on a really funny voyage from Paganism to Judaism to Christianity. The characters all play a hillarious assortment of Gods and Goddesses, and the songs are written in lots of various genres. We’ve got klezmer, hip hop, blues, funk, rock and a waltz! The lyrics are really funny and raunchy.
We just had our first music rehearsal last week. We worked on two songs with three of our amazing cast members: Darilyn Castillo. Katrina Day, Nicole DiMattei. The first song was Goddess, composed by co-composer Eric S. Brenner, a sultry blues number with some intricate harmonies. Then we worked on Swan Song, the finale to the show, and a song that Rob and I actually just wrote a couple weeks ago. I’m really excited about that song, it’s a lot of fun to play on piano.
Sounds fun! tell me about the hip hop song: can you give us a taste of the lyrics? Also, are you thinking of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at all as you approach this? If not is there another musical this feel related to?
The hip hop song tells the story of Exodus through the lens of the Godfather, and beat is made of samples from Bob Marley’s Exodus. Here’s a sample:
Allow me to introduce the nile god Hapi.
Went for a massage but his end is just sloppy.
Just like Francis Ford’s bloody baptism scene,
he took it in the eye through the glasses like Moe Green!
Bloody river pushing frogs into Cairo City.
We’re gonna miss ol’ Hapi and his big ol’ god titties!
Yeah, we’re thinking about lots of musicals that have come before this and Jesus Christ Superstar certainly comes to mind, in fact we parody it during the “Real World: Jerusalem” scene.
Will you be onstage during the show? Also, as a sound designer for the Wooster Group, how does this experience compare with your work on, say, “North Atlantic”?
During the show I’ll be onstage playing piano with the band, which consists of drums, bass, sax and piano. I also play guitar on one song, and I might do some sound effects playback. This of course is completely different than a Wooster Group show, where I’m behind the mixing board, and where we create a muli-layered sonic experience for the audience. In Yahweh’s Follies, I just have to trust that it sounds good out in the house, and concentrate on getting the music feeling right. I have a lot more fun behind a piano than behind a sound mixing board and computer.
You also serve as the web designer for the mighty online journal, Ohio Edit. And you are an Ohioan who coincidentally went to the same high school as Amy Fusselman, OE’s editor. How do you think your growing up in Ohio is connected to your avant garde artistic pursuits here in NYC?
That’s a really interesting question, and I’m not sure there’s any connection. I saw a lot of theater as a child in Ohio, so I’m sure that influenced me. I suppose that artists who develop in places where there is a lack of experimental art may have in interest in getting outside the box. I’d like to say that the gritty post-industrial wasteland influenced me, but my childhood was centered around piano lessons, trips to the Cleveland Art Museum, and hikes in the Metroparks. And let’s be clear, I don’t really seek the avant-garde, I’m just into whatever grabs me, and experimental art usually has a good chance of getting my attention.
Tickets to “Yahweh’s Follies” are here!