Earth Girls Are Easy, but theatre is hard.
Those words could almost be writer-performer-director Julie Brown's mantra as she prepares the musical comedy based on her 1989 MTV film for a major concert reading Sept. 30 at the Village Theatre. The performance, a benefit for Off-Broadway's Lark Theatre Company, stars Broadway talent like Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), 2002 Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Urinetown's Hunter Foster and Bat Boy himself, Deven May.
Brown's also in the cast, reprising her film role as the Curl Up and Dye's head beautician Candy. While she would love to one day hear her name put together with the title "Broadway star," she has been surprised by how much (unpaid) effort goes into making a show.
"There's so much time and energy involved. I had no idea theatre was like that. And there's no money along the way, as there is in film. It's a labor of love. You have to want to do theatre," Brown said.
Her labor of love began five and a half years ago when producer Michael Herrmann called her up and said he wanted to make the film version of "Earth Girls Are Easy" into a stage musical. Brown agreed, having always thought the piece could work in the theatre. Thus began an arduous journey of supposed to's. Earth Girls was supposed to open in Australia. Then it was supposed to open in London. Finally, the Lark benefit, which will also be peopled with possible producers for a Broadway or Off-Broadway run, came along.
It was déjà vu for Brown who has been through such a process before. The film "Earth Girls Are Easy" came out four and a half years after it was shot.
"I thought this is the story of the movie. This is a similiar kind of torture," Brown said.
The film is admittedly quirky and now something of a cult classic. In the comedy, down-on-her-luck Valerie (played by Chenoweth on stage) is losing her boyfriend, Dr. Ted (Kudisch), to another woman. After dyeing her hair blond, per the advice of her boss (Brown), she finds three aliens have crash-landed in her swimming pool. They're covered in fur and totally confused by human life, but in sunny Southern California, none of that seems to make any difference. As Valerie slowly teaches Mac, Wiploc and Zeebo about life on earth, Mac begins to fall in love with her.
The musical follows the film story line almost exactly with some new lines and one major additional scene, set in a karoke bar (It's during this that Chenoweth will sing Devo's hit, "Whip It!"). Classic songs of the 80's and very early 90's form the main body of the score, which was Herrmann's idea, but two of Brown's self-penned numbers from her original album "Earth Girls Are Easy" — "Cuz I'm a Blonde" and "Brand New Girl" ("If you want to be a femme fatale /You can't rest on your L'Oreals!") — are also in the score.
Among the numbers are "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, the B-52's "Roam," U2's "Gloria" and other numbers by popular 80's groups including Bon Jovi. "The songs they've put in are all recognizable and they follow the story well," Brown said.
Aside from her business with Earth Girls, Brown has returned to the theatre in a Los Angeles comedy show, restaging episodes of "The Facts of Life." They do three a night, often exploring the show's latent lesbian subtext, with Brown taking Mindy Cohen's role. Much of the cast is played by men.
Brown hopes she will have to give up The Facts of Life for Earth Girls Are Easy. "Making the movie was fun and frustrating — it was a very mixed thing. It would be great for it to have a life beyond that," Brown said.
2002 Tony Award winner John Rando (Urinetown) will host the one night only reading of Earth Girls, directed by Giovanna Sardelli. Regular-priced tickets are available by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100. Benefit tickets at $250 and $500, which include a party with the cast afterwards, are available by calling the Lark at (212) 246-2676. The Village Theatre, currently home to Love, Janis, is located at 158 Bleecker Street.
— By Christine Ehren