The creators of Kudzu are currently considering which way the comic strip-based musical will grow next. A successful production at Washington DC's Ford's Theatre ended June 23, but no decision has yet been made as to where to bring the show next.
Kudzu is based on Doug Marlette's syndicated comic strip about the coming-of-age antics of Kudzu Dubose. The show's book, music and lyrics are by Jack Herrick, Marlette and Bland Simpson, based on Pulizer Prize-winner Marlette's satirical comic about a young man who resides in the mythical town of Bypass, NC, and dreams of becoming a writer. The musical features the bluegrass group The Red Clay Ramblers, who appeared on Broadway in Fool Moon.
The plot revolves around the efforts of Kudzu and his friends to halt the greedy schemes of Big Bubba, the town's mill mogul.
Kudzu has been in development for several years and has been given readings in New York and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In June 1997, the musical received a fully staged workshop at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, as part of the new musical program at Goodspeed Opera House.
Reached July 17, Marlette told Playbill On-Line, "We had a ball at the Ford's Theatre. Just general delight in the cast and the whole experience. We'd like to bring the show to New York, but there's nothing concrete." Among those apparently interested in the show are Off-Broadway's New Victory Theatre (which is geared towards family audiences) and producers who want to bring the show back down South -- Marlette's home turf. "When we did Kudzu down South to standing ovations and full houses, the producers figured, well, that was just our home base. But when we came to Washington, it was really satisfying to see the show connecting to people from Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island... One woman waited for me after the show and said, `I'm here with twenty 13-year-old boys from Providence. They're very smart, rock 'n' roll types; I don't know if you know how rare it is to keep these guys' attention, but they loved it.'"
Still, there are bits Marlette and Herrick hope to "work on and fix." Adds Marlette, "Musical theatre has gotta be the toughest form... My hat is off to any one who makes it past the gatekeepers and gets to anywhere. It's a tough, grueling and difficult task. So we feel terrific at how it's turned out so far. "
Asked if there'd be an original cast recording of Kudzu in the offing, Marlette said, "We haven't done a CD... We'd need a producer on board first, because that's one of the rights most attractive to producers, but we certainly hope to go that route at some point. Strangely enough, we've also got a lot of film people talking to us... Kudzu is turning out to be like the plant itself; it grows but you can't really predict its path."
-- By David Lefkowitz