Pop Goes the Family: Real Sibling Music Act Inspires Musical The Shaggs, Opening June 7

News   Pop Goes the Family: Real Sibling Music Act Inspires Musical The Shaggs, Opening June 7
One of the more bizarre and influential chapters in American pop music history comes to light June 7 with the Off-Broadway opening of the musical The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World. Annie Golden, Steve Routman, Emily Walton, Peter Friedman, Kevin Cahoon, Jamey Hood, Cory Michael Smith and Sarah Sokolovic star at Playwrights Horizons.

Jamey Hood and Peter Friedman
Jamey Hood and Peter Friedman Photo by Joan Marcus

Inspired by true events, the musical tells the story of an ambitious father (played by Ragtime Tony Award nominee Friedman) who promotes his untalented daughters as a singing group in the 1970s. The co-production between Playwrights Horizons and New York Theatre Workshop plays PH's Mainstage Theater, where it began previews May 12.

The Shaggs — with book by Joy Gregory; music by Gunnar Madsen; lyrics by Gregory and Madsen; and story by Gregory, Madsen and John Langs — is set in Fremont, NH, in the late 1960s, when a working-class dad (Friedman) "has a vision of rock 'n' roll destiny for his three talentless daughters" (Hood, Sokolovic and Walton). According to PH notes, "[He's] convinced they're his family's one-way ticket out of hardship and obscurity. But the girls have ideas of their own — and as their father's ambition turns to obsession, the price of familial obligation becomes all too clear."

Read the Playbill.com feature about the challenges faced by the writers of the new show.

Co-creator John Langs directs. The limited engagement will play through July 3.

The production features choreography by Ken Roht, scenic design by Mimi Lien, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Geoff Korf and sound design by Darron L West. Orchestrations are by Gunnar Madsen and musical direction is by Aaron Gandy. Production stage manager is Lori Lundquist. Tony Award nominee and Obie Award winner Peter Friedman appeared as Tateh in Ragtime and starred in PH's Circle Mirror Transformation, After the Revolution and The Heidi Chronicles. Kevin Cahoon's credits include Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Roundabout's The Foreigner, for which he was Lortel Award-nominated. Annie Golden was featured in PH's Assassins and People Be Heard, and in Broadway's Xanadu and The Full Monty; she was Jeannie in the film "Hair." Steve Routman's resume includes Broadway's Broadway and Off-Broadway's The Fantasticks and Shmulnik's Waltz. Emily Walton was in PH's Saved and Broadway's August: Osage County.

Sarah Sokolovic and company
photo by Joan Marcus

Joy Gregory (book, lyrics and story) is a Los Angeles-based playwright, director and television writer and producer. She's a founding member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theater Company, where her two most recently produced works were The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World and Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession, a co-adaptation with David Schwimmer of the book by Studs Terkel (Jefferson nomination, Best Adaptation).

Gunnar Madsen (music, lyrics and story) is a composer, writer, actor, singer and director. He's written for the Minnesota Opera, Lincoln Center, Universal Pictures and NPR. He founded the internationally acclaimed a cappella group The Bobs and for ten years was a driving creative force in their success. His family CDs, "Old Mr. Mackle Hackle," "Ants in My Pants!" and "I'm Growing" have won virtually every major award for children's music. He provided the singing voice for the portrayal of Sammy Davis, Jr. in the film "The Rat Pack," and his music is featured throughout the second season of HBO's "Sex and the City." He and his music are in the Vince Vaughan/Jennifer Aniston film "The Break Up."

Langs (direction and story) received a Backstage West Garland Award for his direction of The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, which moved on to a Joseph Jefferson-nominated production at the Lookingglass Theatre Company of Chicago.

The performance schedule for The Shaggs is Tuesdays at 7 PM, Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2:30 PM & 8 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM. Single tickets, at $75, may be purchased online via TicketCentral.com, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8 PM daily), or in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth & Tenth Avenues).

For more information about the not-for-profit co-producers, visit www.playwrightshorizons.org or www.nytw.org.

Sarah Sokolovic, Emily Walton and Jamey Hood
Sarah Sokolovic, Emily Walton and Jamey Hood Photo by Joan Marcus
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