July 10, 2008

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Musical monsters
Butler and Leeman produce The Gay Bride of Frankenstein
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Billy Butler and Dane Leeman spent the month of February churning out a new musical.

They recorded the songs for The Gay Bride of Frankenstein that month for the RPM Challenge. Headquartered in Portsmouth through The Wire, it’s a global project in which musicians challenge each other to record an album in 29 days. There’s no competition. It’s just to get something done.

The new musical is scheduled to run at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth from Oct. 17 through Nov. 2.

The storyline for Gay Bride is “nothing new ... It’s a love triangle with a twist,” Butler said.

Edna is in love with cheerleader Chloe, who is dating the quarterback, Thad. Thad is trying to lose his virginity in order to join a fraternity the following year, but Chloe doesn’t believe in sex before marriage.

When the high school Halloween dance is canceled, they are invited to “The Monster Ball.” Chloe is killed before the kids get to the party, which turns out to be an annual rising of the dead.

Leeman pitched the concept to Butler one night and they talked about story and characters and ideas for about a year. Leeman said he pretty much moved in with Butler for the RPM Challenge. Leeman would write for a while, Butler would take over the computer and erase some of Leeman’s work, then Leeman would erase some of Butler’s.

“We wanted to put some moral messages in,” Leeman said. Those include “It’s OK to be true to yourself” and “It’s OK to be a virgin,” Butler said.

The Gay Bride to Frankenstein is a nod to Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein novel, Scooby Doo, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Rocky Horror Show and comic books.

“We’re both sort of old theater hands. In every musical there’s all this scenery.... Honestly it’s all about the acting and the music and the feel of it,” Leeman said. He met Severed Heads Comics at a comics convention and the Dover artists have been recruited to draw the comics that will appear on a video backdrop to help tell the story. There are lots of technology tricks planned for the production.

“We figure there aren’t enough musicals out there for women. ... The two ingénues are women,” Butler said.

For Butler, The Gay Bride of Frankenstein stems from a scene in Shelley’s Frankenstein. Before the character Justine dies, she tells Elizabeth she has always loved her. “So we took that literally and wrote a whole musical around it,” Butler said.

Butler said he’s written a lot of music and a few short scenes, but not a whole play or musical. His album and The Gay Bride of Frankenstein incorporate all his musical influences, from punk to opera, he said. He grew up in theater, he said.

Butler performs with Tim McCoy and the Papercuts, as well as with The Donkey Show on Thursdays at the Central Wave in Dover.

Butler will be in the Gay Bride band, which is part of the show. He’ll be joined by McCoy on bass and Jamie Perkins on drums, who plays in a band out of New York called Famous and local band Museum of Science. Another MOS member, Jon McCormick, will be on guitar. “People aren’t going believe this … band. I’m serious,” Butler said.

Don’t try to find a preview on the RPM Challenge album, though (listen at www.rpmchallenge.com). There wasn’t time for much more than piano accompaniment on that recording, Butler said.

The two are also trying to build in audience participation opportunities like a possible dance competition and inviting the audience to come dressed as their favorite monsters. Both Leeman and Butler have worked on or in the August tradition of live Rocky Horror Show performances at the Seacoast Repertory over the past 10 years and wanted to do something that could lend itself to that kind of cult enthusiasm, Leeman said.

“Personally I think that’s the reason why Rocky Horror ended up having the following that it does. Because it involves the audience. It gets people in and they talk back to the show,” Leeman said.

Leeman said they are using local contributors, as in the Severed Head choice, as much as possible. They want to involve lots of people in the project both to keep new ideas flowing and so the two creators don’t overload themselves, he said.

Leeman is currently a technical director at the Barnstormers in Tamworth. Butler will direct Toad of Toad Hall there and play Renfield in Dracula this year. He was recently seen in Manchester in the one-man show Cotton Patch Gospel at the Acting Loft.

Although producing a musical is usually pretty costly, Butler pointed out that at least they won’t need to pay royalties. Renting materials for a title can cost thousands of dollars, and the rights for each performance cost extra.

“And if nothing comes out of it at least I took a risk and I did it,” Butler said.


Join the party
Open auditions for The Gay Bride of Frankenstein will be held Sunday, Aug. 24, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Seacoast Repertory’s rehearsal Hall at 7 Walker St., in Kittery, Maine. There will be callbacks Monday, Aug. 25. Those auditioning should prepare a pop, rock or contemporary musical theater-style song and bring sheet music. More details are at www.myspace.com/gaybrideoffrankenstein.

They need six strong pop or rock singers who look high school age: three women and three men. They are also looking for two adult males for speaking parts, plus crew and other volunteers. E-mail gaybrideoffrankenstein@gmail.com.

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