First, daily cuteness:
Look at that kid! Adorable. That's Ari at around 7 months now which means I've known him about 5 months! Wow!
Ok when you've all finished awwwing, let's talk about the ride that was Supersoldier.
Review: got cast in the ensemble of the reading of 'Supersoldier' which is the newest incarnation of a musical originally called...I forget, it's had many names, but it has been around since the 70s when it was performed off-Broadway. Jim Rado wrote all the music and lyrics, and wrote the book alongside his brother Ted. Jim also co-wrote Hair, cult favourite, widely considered Broadway's first concept musical, unlike anything before or since.
Here's a bit about Supersoldier. It is set in an alternative version of the now, on both Earth and on a rainbow. Literally, on a rainbow. That is above the Earth. And is populated by the Rainbeams, Red Yellow Orange Green Blue Indigo Violet...and Blanche. 'Blanche means white you know soldier. I stand out because I'm Blanche Dubois...you know, Stella's sister?' So Blanche is - again, quite literally - the character from A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. No symbolism, it's just Blanche Dubois. Also on the rainbow live Mother and Father - sort of like Mama Earth Papa Earth figures, they are spiritual parents not actual parents. We find out during the show that each Rainbeam bar Blanche was once a soldier killed on the field of battle.
So our main character, Billy, begins the show by being wounded in a battle and the opening song says 'Bombs of glory took away our innocent lives,
Bullets, shrapnel cut me like a hundred knives
And now I'm left with nothing
No breath no blood
No flesh no love
And I once hoped for heaven in this life'
I think it was originally intended to be based on either Afghanistan or Iraq but it could also be a fictitious war in the parallel universe that the show lives in, as the 'villain' of the piece is the President of the USA, a fictitious President Fabu who embodies the 'twisted-ruler-under-the-control-of-his-yes-men-and-money-and-demands-from-other-countries' archetype. His songs, gloriously sung by Vishal Vaidya, include 'The Important Word'
I fear nothing
I fright nobody
I'm scared of the shadow, the Fuzz and it
I stretch my palm to save thy son
I'm king of the madhouse because I fit
I kvetch, and bomb, and wave my gun
We want our manganese, we want our manganese,
We want our oil our oil our oil our oil
And I don't mean olive
And 'You've Got To Be Clever'
You've got to be naughty, you've got to be nice
You've got to remember we're rolling the dice
This President Fabu goes on a journey from stereotyped oil-drinking George Bush-type president whose presence on stage is accompanied by his big-haired gaudy and ditzy First Lady and vaudeville-style songs, to a destroyed and confused man singing heartbreaking and dark numbers alone in his own head.
Got a bit sidetracked but the President's journey is massively important. Back to Billy - so Billy is wounded in this war. His soul leaves his not dead but very close body and he finds himself on a spiritual plane - the rainbow. The Rainbeams have brought him there to heal his broken spirit, which they attempt through various means: Indigo and Violet vie over who can lavish the most romantic attention on him. Mother calls Dr Jung Freud Banana - a banana who is also a doctor. Yes. To give Billy a metaphysical. Also yes. She also sends him for aromatherapy among the flowers where Green attempts to seduce him. Red sings an uplifting country bluegrass song with no relevance to the plot but it is one of my favourites. They sing about how they love him, and a beautiful ballad to the stars 'starry cold night, save us with your music, star music, music to find us by'
Err also about guinea pigs...that's a song you kind of have to hear...it makes so little sense that it makes total sense, and is super fun to sing and would be an audience participation classic.
So Billy's on the rainbow and he's enjoying it well enough but he is worried about how his body is doing and is also convinced that he needs to find his Sergeant - Sergeant Stoner. Ohhh yes, this is after all a Jim Rado show. Meanwhile in the President's office, he is up in the polls which is good news, and we learn that his Vice President is a shady character and master of propaganda.
Off goes Billy, off go Indigo and Violet to check out how his body is doing down on Earth. When they return Billy is all set to jump back into his body and excited to go and protest about war and try to make a difference because his experience on the rainbow has left him feeling enraged that he killed for his country and that he never wants to kill again. Just as he is about to depart however, they learn that his body down on Earth has just died. So he is trapped in the netherworld between being a ghost and being a rainbeam. Devastated by the news of his own death, Billy throws in the towel and his spirit dies too, because it did not find peace. BUT he is being helped by a mystical rainbow race so naturally his spirit doesn't stay dead for long, they revive him through Transmogrification and Jesus Christ makes a cameo, natch.
So the brand new shiny Billy is what they call a 'solid-bodied ghost', a being who will be able to return to Earth and people won't know he is a ghost unless they touch him because he will be freezing cold. And when he has done what he needs to do (which will help him find his peace) he will be able to ascend happily to the rainbow.
Billy goes to see the President and basically freaks him the fuck out. There is a great song called The World is Round
The World is round it has no sides
Take a lesson from that
Don't take sides, sides can only mean you're square
When that reasonable argument doesn't do much, Billy gets angry. The President is naturally unnerved by him because 1) How did he get in?? 2) Why is he so disrespectful to his commanding officer 3)Why are his hands SO COLD???
To shut him up the President says let's see a real American hero, bring in the Sergeant! And it is none other than Sergeant Stoner, who is astonished to see Billy thinking he was dead. They talk, and they both realise that what shot and killed Billy was not enemy fire - it was his own Sergeant, confusing him in the madness of the battle for the enemy.
When they learn this, both soldiers turn on the President, incandescent at the fact that they are even killing their own friends because of this perpetual war.
There is a beautiful and moving song, 'American Soldier'
I was killed by friendly fire
My death, it was mistaken
Now I'm gone
But now I'm here
As a ghost to tell the truth about what happened
I was killed by an American soldier
(He is dead from an American soldier)
(Yes he faced the bloody spree)
Now I am on bended knee
To implore you
To implore you
To implore you
To implore you
As commander in chief of this army
I implore you to end war
President Fabu has had just about enough and tries to get Billy to leave, saying 'you are a bad dream' etc etc
Instead of leaving or vanishing, Billy hugs him and the intense cold emanating from what should be a human being really sends the Pres over the edge and there is a sort of vision sequence where the President is seeing all kinds of craziness. Also Billy reaches into his own chest, removes his heart and gives it to Fabu which leads him to an epiphany
I am not free in the land of the gun
I am not free I am tied to the sun
And then he wakes up.
The Rainbeams are amazed that Billy gave his heart away but are comforted by the thought of stem cells because this after all spirit fiction.
Then the Queen of the Universe shows up and sings a really bloody inspirational song
Oh men arise
Be conscious of you dreams and powers
For those who will
Need not be afraid
Unfold each day
As does the flower
For Earth is yours
And Heaven is yours
And she heads on up to a higher plane, Rainbeams follow and Billy, finally at peace having done what he meant to do, goes with them and has an emotional goodbye with his Sergeant who promises to spread the story of the ghost soldier.
And then we all sing a lovely song of constellations and stars
Betelgeux Bellatrix Orion
Camelon Castor Pollux
Ursa Minor Ursa Major
Auriga Denab Cygnus
Starry cold night, save us with your music
Dig the grand harmonics
The voices of the Universes
Singing down upon us
And that's the end!
Figure it out if you will. But I advise not.
It was a wonderful experience. The leads were extremely, extremely talented and such a pleasure to listen to day after day singing. Like, mad talent. Like, why aren't they famous talent.
And Jim is also a joy - what a brain. For one person to come up with all that material - it's a long show with a LOT of music, and in every style - country, jazz, vaudeville, soul, blues, rock, gospel, pop that is borderline Lady Gaga, ballad, comedy. And the WORDS! He likes to play with words. 'Where's the soldier, the one with the frigid digits?'
'Littered globe so discombobulated,
Overheated over-globucopulated baby
In exhaust fumes of the auto
We go blotto
Gobs of mobs sing murder motto
When the two female leads are pledging their love to Billy, they sing
'What can I do for you? What can I give you?
I'd like to give you the morning
Papers and sun
I'd like to give you the evening
Kisses and star
I see in you great goodness
And my heart goes out to fetch it
Like a coal of fire to warm me'
The President at one point sings
'My trichonosis psychosis
My gashole has halitosis'
That's just...having fun with words, man! 'What can I do for you' is poetry. Know who else liked to play with words? Shakespeare. Know who else, and with music? Freddie Mercury. There's something very Bohemian Rhapsody about the whole thing - like the principle of Bohemian Rhapsody, certainly musically and lyrically, but expanded into a whole show.
And I got sing in it, which makes me very lucky. What makes me luckier is that I got to do it alongside my roommate Sena - yep there we are behind fellow AMDA grad who played Billy
And dear Xalvador of Brighton then Yorkshire who looks so uncannily related to me that several people in the cast genuinely asked if we were brother and sister. My answer is 'if that is what the casting people want then yes we are brother and sister, twins if necessary!'
And a whole bunch more photos besides
|Full cast in the shows opening|
|The majestic TJ Mannix who I love and admire, he is a stellar performer and the sweetest man on Earth AND he was Santa in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for cryin' out loud!|
|Violet (Anne), Billy (Todd), Blanche (Luis) and Indigo (Talia)|
|Vice-President Big Time (Chris), First Lady (Gerianne), President Fabu (Vishal)|
|Anthony Fett as Sergeant Stoner who as far as I'm concerned stole the show with his amazing detailed performance and perfect characterisation.|
|In rehearsal at Chelsea Studios which happen to be a few doors down from where I lived the first time I ever came to New York. How things change!|
|'Will unite to free the mind of man'|
As you can see, an amazing experience.
One final word on Supersoldier - my friend Carlos who came to see it thought the exact same thing as me which is that there are really great parallels to Hair. Billy is a Claude-like figure, a poetic soul who ends up being made to fight. His Sergeant, when we finally meet him, could definitely be his Berger. We have Mama who occupies the Dionne role, singing the big belting soul and acting as a strong binding force. The three female Rainbeams - Violet, Indigo and Blue - correspond pretty well with Sheila the serious, emotional student, Jeannie the free-spirited dippy hippy and Chrissy the young innocent who just wants to know where Frank Mills went. It's almost as if those characters left the universe of Hair and came to this universe, what would happen? I love that shit. They're not the same, their aims and objectives are different, their whole circumstances are different, but it's really cool that you could interpret that there is a time lapse between the end of Hair in the 60s and the beginning of Supersoldier in say the 2050s - what happened to the tribe?
Wah I could wax lyrical about it for hours and probably will next time I get the chance.
Peace love rainbows