Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on the New York fringe festival’s appetite for mad musicals about everything from serial killing to Jersey Shore, plus European music festivals with arts programmes to shout about...
THE MAIN EVENT: FringeNYC
After giving Edinburgh Fringe a head start, New York’s fringe festival kicks off on Friday with its own blend of theatre, comedy and genitally fixated performance art. If FringeNYC has a defining genre, it’s the preposterous musical about literally anything. Here are ten of this year’s most bizarre, ironic or just plain WTF?-ish…
1) Yeast Nation
The Tony Award-winning co-creators of Urinetown (the only ever FringeNYC musical to transfer to Broadway, and the only ever musical full-stop about charging people to wee) return to the festival with a musical set 3,000,458,000 BC in a primordial Earth populated by single-celled organisms. Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann are proof that in New York, even the most preposterous of pitches can, cough, rise. Watch the opening number here.
2) Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera
MTV's reality phenomenon Jersey Shore gets the rock opera treatment courtesy of Daniel Franzese, who’s been something of a gay icon ever since he played opposite Lindsay Lohan in classic bitch flick Mean Girls. Padded muscle suits and surprise famous guests will abound. ‘Get right with God and go see a bunch of guidos dancing’, says Franzese.
So much more than a Glee pastiche… it’s a Scream pastiche, too. The Landless Theatre Company’s musical comedy thriller tells the tale of a vaguely familiar high school choir club hacked to death by a mysterious masked slasher.
4) Love In A Tub
Restoration comedy with added widdly widdly rock solos and spandex. Not so different from a Darkness concert really.
5) Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story
Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers has been reconceived in just about every format. But not yet, we suspect, as a lesbian pop-folk musical with drag queens. Velvet caps off to Purple Rep.
6) Jeffrey Dahmer Live
Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer who committed 17 murders between 1987 and 1991, involving rape, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism on his male victims. Roll up, roll up, for the hummable version of his story from writer Avner Kam.
7) Goldilocks and the Three Polar Bears
From Wide Eyed Productions, the creators of ‘Jack and the Soy Beanstalk’, an R ’n’ B-tinged puppet musical that aims to ‘warm the heart – not the globe!’
The first Afghanistan musical? Chinese Canadian writer Karmia Chan Cao tells the story of Abraham Niu, an Asian-Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, on the darkest night of his life. Her motivation? To provoke an urgent discourse on the post-9/11 decade. Her medium? Folk rock, naturally.
9) Zombie Wedding
Is Cat’s fiancé Keith just a jerk? Or, um, a zombie? Find out in UpMarket Productions’ '80s power pop musical comedy with a romantic Zombie twist.
10) The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady
Why pastiche one seventies American sitcom when you can do two? It’s the summer of 1974 and, according to Silverhair Productions, the recently cancelled Brady and Partridge Families are meeting away from America's watchful eye in a blood-soaked clash of Shakespearean proportions.
BEST OF THE REST
- Dubbed Europe’s answer to Burning Man, Hungary’s mammoth arts and music festival Sziget is running all this week on the Danube with a healthy dose of street theatre, live literature and performance installations (including the KaleidoAct, where puppetry and dance are performed inside a giant kaleidoscope) alongside sets from Prince, Pulp and Dizzee Rascal.
- Another island-based arts and music festival, this time with a big emphasis on visual arts, Dockville takes place on Hamburg’s River Elbe from Friday to Sunday
- In the UK, Shakespeare’s Globe turns its talent for rough-and-ready stagings to the The Mystery Plays. Some of the earliest theatre in the world, these bible-based stories from Creation to the Last Judgement were performed on wagons hauled through the Medieval streets. Poet Tony Harrison has devised this version, and the ensemble is largely drawn from the theatre recent excellent 'Much Ado About Nothing'. Watch a trailer here.