I Will Strap on Mine

I love this show.

We had our second run-through of Bukowsical Thursday night and it was such fun! We've got exactly the right cast for this vulgar, hilarious, sweetly old-fashioned, neo musical comedy -- a bunch of fearless New Line All-Stars who earned their stripes on bizarre shows like Bat Boy, Urinetown, Return to the Forbidden Planet, The Wild Party, Cry-Baby and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. They're all fully at home in this weird, dissonant, hybrid style. The content is dark, dark, dark, but the style is light and playful.

Even in this slightly rough state, I laugh at so many things in the show every time I hear them. And now that the cast has been through the whole show a couple times, they're settling in and starting to play -- the most important step for a comedy like this. I'm a funny guy, but I've got eight people onstage, every one of them as funny as me. I could make the show funny, but together we'll make it nine times funnier.

And really, we have a powerful head start because the material itself is so very funny -- "wrong" funny, which is my favorite kind.

So here are my Top Seven Favorite Moments in Bukowsical right now (a Top Ten or Top Five list would be too conventional for this show). I bet these will change as we polish the show and put it in front of our audiences, but today, these are the Seven...

Maybe the funniest thing about the show is hearing Joel Hackbarth, the sweetest, most decent guy I know, spew out obscenity after obscenity all night long. The one moment that makes me fall apart every time is in the middle of the opening number, when Joel sings, "When you're fucking a whore..." and he sings it  -- almost shouts it -- with such crazy joy and such high musical comedy energy that you'd swear he's singing "We're the U.S. of A.!" The whole line is "When you're fucking a whore, after downing a case, and you shit on her face..." and the choreography Robin has given them for "shit on her face" always makes me laugh again. You'll have to see the show to find out why...

Second, in the song "Art is Pain," in which we witness Bukowski's horrific childhood, there's a section in which all the schoolchildren yell terrible things at him, and Ryan yells, "Hey! Let's pee on him!" And all the kids joyfully agree. It's so wrong and it's so very, very funny -- and significantly, it's also a moment that really forces the audience to confront the horror of Bukowski's early life, even as they're laughing.

Third -- Zak and Kimi singing "Chaser of My Heart," the show's big love song, when Bukowski has just met One True Love. It's a beautiful song with the grossest lyrics you've ever heard -- and not just really funny, but again, revealing the horrors of his life in a very pointed way. When Zak and Kimi learned the song in music rehearsals, we all thought it was hilarious. Then we staged it. And they decided to play the whole song sloppy drunk. That choice hadn't occurred to me, but it couldn't be more perfect. It makes it even funnier but also kind of poignant in a weird way. And there's nothing better than the climax of the song, when Kimi lets loose an American Idol power-pop moment. Zak sings, "But if my cock should lie supine..." and Kimi finishes the sentence for him, with a fully belted "Then I will strap on mine! Strap on mine!" The lyric is hilarious, and the American Idol moment is even hilariouser...

Fourth is Chrissy as Sylvia Plath. Chrissy decided early on that Sylvia Plath has no sense of humor, so all throughout the Writers' big vaudeville number, "Get Down, Get Dark, Get Dirty," Chrissy is totally stone-faced as she dances, and it's really funny to watch. It's a choice that totally embodies the show itself -- both outrageous and straight-faced.

Fifth is my favorite piece of choreography in the show, "Love is a Dog from Hell," for which Robin has a created a cool Jack Cole/Bob Fosse kind of number. But here the misogyny is right there on the surface rather than subliminal -- it's funny and uncomfortable at the same time, as Bukowski repeatedly shoves and abuses the women in his life, but all in the form of uber-cool dance...

Number six on my list is Nick as the French director Barbet Schroeder. Throughout the song, "Through a Glass, Barfly," Nick "studies" and "frames" Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke, as possible leads to play Bukowski in Barfly, and you have to see it to understand why it's so funny. Barbet is so serious and the song is so ridiculous -- and did I mention the accent...?

Maybe my favorite moment in the entire show is the faux operatic "Elegy," in which Bukowski mourns over the body of one of his women. The writing is amazing and Zak delivers it like it's Grand Fucking Opera and he's at the Met. It always makes me think of "What's Opera, Doc?" Such serious music coupled with lyrics like "Oh, cocksucking motherfucking fuck!" Again, a moment that totally encapsulates the spirit of Bukowsical.

This is clearly not a show for everyone. This will be only the second show of mine -- ever -- that my mother won't see (she would hate this). But for people who don't mind adult language, there is so much here to enjoy. It's so smart, it's so funny, and strangely enough, sometimes it's unexpectedly sweet. And on top of everything else, it also gives you a rough idea of the arc of Bukowski's actual life.

I'm so glad I happened on this recording on Amazon and that I decided to find the show's authors. It has been such fun working on Bukowsical, and I don't have to wait long now, before we can share it with our audiences.

Which is the best part.

Come join us on opening night, Friday, May 31, and stay for the after-party to meet the actors and musicians.

Long Live the Musical!
Scott

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