Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
In this interview, The musical director for Octomom the Musical talks about how the production evolved from a simple idea to a full show packed with 14 new songs.
There's nothing more American than kismet.
When voice coach Rachael Lawrence agreed to work on a musical about Nadya Suleman, aka the Octomom, most of her work had been done. The show’s chieftain, lyricist and director/actor/producer Chris Voltaire, had already written all of the songs – a series of light-hearted parodies of public-domain works. He just needed Lawrence to teach the cast how to sing the songs.
Lawrence declined, instead proposing that they come up with all original songs. Voltaire got on board with the idea, and in a rapid-fire production that’s asked its principals to wear many hats, Lawrence put on her “composer” hat and teamed up with Voltaire to crank out 14 new songs in two weeks. These new songs will populate a pan-genre musical that bears the title Octomom without actually calling Suleman by name, and which lampoons other up-to-the-minute media figures such as the Shamwow guy and Bernie Madoff, who gets the no-brainer nickname "Bernie Made-Off" in the musical.
In fact, Lawrence and Voltaire are aiming for a ripped-from-the-headlines flavor for their entire show, which will only run about an hour. That lean runtime has allowed Lawrence and Voltaire to continue revising their show to include timely topical humor, a must for a show that Lawrence herself conceded will become dated with some speed.
"[Suleman] may be in the news forever, and she may not, but our larger point is to make a social and political comment about the country," Lawrence said.
Suleman did manage to dominate several news cycles before revolution in Iran, Jon and Kate and a few notable celebrity deaths pushed her below the fold, but she's still appearing on plenty of tabloids. Best of all for Lawrence and Voltaire, Suleman has heard about Octomom the Musical – and she's not happy about it. Although she's taken no official legal action yet, Suleman has consulted with lawyers.
The whiff of lawsuit has combined with the show's topical humor to propel Octomom the Musical onto news outlets around the country, from highbrow MSNBC to gossip mecca TMZ. (We here at CC2K expect our coverage to catapult this show to Broadway, of course.)
(Side note: Going back to the show's up-to-the-minute subject matter, the question presents itself: Will Octomom include any kind of reference to a certain, recently deceased King of Pop? Lawrence said no, explaining that it's just too soon to include any reference to Michael Jackson in such a satirical show.)
Lawrence and Voltaire seem to have stumbled onto the right idea at the right time, and regardless of how lurid the subject matter might be, the two are putting all of their musical muscle into making Octomom a memorable show. Lawrence will receive credit as the show's musical director and composer, and as such, she called upon years of experience as a composer for Garry Marshall's Burbank, Calif.-based Falcon Theatre. She drew from dozens of musical sources to conjure up the show's soundtrack, which will include songs inspired by the work of Lauren Hill, MC Hammer and Debbie Gibson, among others.
Lawrence explained that unlike the show's original incarnation, which featured "Weird" Al Yankovic-style spoofs of already existing songs, the version of Octomom that will hit the stage in Los Angeles will be a medley of new songs in styles from across the musical spectrum. Among her favorites, Lawrence cited a "vampy, razzle-dazzle" number that invokes the memory of Kander and Ebb's Chicago, and a piece that echoes the grand old style of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.
Naturally, Lawrence didn't have any fun what-soever writing all these songs.
Strike that, reverse it.
"I get to go and play and take whatever instrument or whatever musical style I want and put it in the show," she said.
When pressed, Lawrence pointed to one number called "American Angels" as her favorite. It's a synth-heavy anthem that calls to mind any number of classic 80s hits. Lawrence herself said that the song's chief inspiration was Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." The song is posted over at the Octomom website. Give it a listen.
Lawrence's main gig is as a professional voice coach, a job that splits her time between both coasts. Voltaire works regularly as an actor under the name Christian J. Meoli. His credits include appearances on Dollhouse, Eli Stone, Life, Cold Case, In Plain Sight, Everybody Hates Chris, as well as a regular spot on the old show Nash Bridges. Despite those demands on their time, the two have been devoting hours and hours to making Octomom as good as it can be.
"The show is a lot smarter than everyone might realize," Lawrence said.
Octomom the Musical will run for 10 performances from July 18 to August 15 at the Fake Gallery, located at 4319 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.