Taboo was also the Broadway debut for its composer-lyricist and co star, George O'Dowd (aka Boy George). The musical began previews at the Plymouth Theatre Oct. 28, 2003, and officially opened Nov. 13, 2003. It will have played 16 previews and 100 performances.
Although the production was the subject of much controversy, including rumors of clashes among cast, creative team and producer, O'Donnell said in a statement, "Taboo was by far the most fulfilling experience of my career. Many lessons were learned, and so it goes. For this experience I am profoundly grateful and have no regrets."
O'Donnell, who had been smitten by the show when she saw it at the intimate London theatre, the Venue, stood by the Broadway production, funneling additional funds into the show after several reviews that were mixed to negative. The musical, however, never seemed to catch fire with the public, although it did have a core group of loyal followers.
The cast — featuring Boy George, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Jeffrey Carlson, Raúl Esparza, Donnie R. Keshawarz, Liz McCartney, Euan Morton and Cary Shields — did preserve the show's score Feb. 2. No release date has yet to be announced, however, for the CD. The Boy George score includes "Freak/Ode to Attention Seekers," "Stranger in This World," "Safe in the City," "Dress to Kill," "Genocide Peroxide," "I'll Have You All," "Sexual Confusion," "Pretty Lies," "Guttersnipe," "Love Is a Question Mark," "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," "Church of the Poison Mind/Karma Chameleon," "Everything Taboo," "Talk Amongst Yourselves," "The Fame Game," "I See Through You," "Ich Bin Kunst," "Petrified," "Out of Fashion," "Il Adore" and "Come On In From the Outside."
With a new book by Charles Busch, Taboo concerns the lives of two larger-than-life personalities involved in the eighties London club scene: the Kent-born singer Boy George, who rose to fame and international acclaim via the pop group Culture Club; and performance artist Leigh Bowery, who became known for his outlandish costumes and make-up before an early death from AIDS. Their stories are told against the background of the London club Taboo, which featured an array of self-proclaimed "freaks." Taboo was produced by Rosie O'Donnell and Adam Kenwright in association with Daniel MacDonald, Lori E. Seid and Michael Fuchs.
Euan Morton, who received an Olivier Award nomination for his portrayal of Boy George in the London production of Taboo, repeated his role on Broadway, and George O'Dowd (aka Boy George) portrayed the late Leigh Bowery. Raúl Esparza and Liz McCartney served as the musical's narrators, playing, respectively Philip Salon and Big Sue.
The cast also included Sarah Uriarte Berry as Nicola, who falls for and eventually marries Leigh Bowery; Cary Shields as Marcus, the sexually confused photographer who enters Boy George's life; and Jeffrey Carlson as Marilyn, the drugged-out drag artist with an attitude. Donnie R. Keshawarz was the standby for the characters Philip Sallon and Leigh Bowery.
The company comprised Jennifer Cody, Dioni Michelle Collins, Brooke Elliott, Lisa Gajda, Bob Gaynor, Curtis Holbrook, Lori Holmes, Jennifer Mrozik, Nathan Peck, Alexander Quiroga, Asa Somers, Denise Summerford, Jody Reynard, James Tabeek and Gregory Treco.
Christopher Renshaw directedTaboo, which began life at London’s Venue in January 2002. That production played its final performance there April 26. Mark Dendy choreographed the Broadway mounting, with Big River director Jeff Calhoun serving as choreographic consultant. Calhoun was brought in after the show began rehearsals. The remainder of the creative team included John McDaniel (musical supervision), Tim Goodchild (scenic design), Mike Nicholls and Bobby Pearce (costume design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Jonathan Deans (sound design) and make-up and hair design (Christine Bateman).
Charles Busch, the acclaimed playwright-performer who scored a success with the Tony-nominated The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, rewrote the book for the Broadway production based on Mark Davies' original script. In an interview for Playbill On-Line, Busch explained, "It really is a brand-new book. In London the protagonist was a fictional character named Billy, and Boy George, the character, was sort of a supporting character, and I thought [that] the one I'm interested in is Boy George, and I'd like to see his story front and center. So that's the really big change I did. I cut Billy and Billy's mother."
Producer O'Donnell summed up the message of the musical, which she encountered in London and decided to bring to New York. "You have to be taught to hate and fear," O'Donnell said, "and this show is about accepting others and yourself and how we're all the same. I think every great musical sort of has that message. That's what the show is, and it is, innately, a love story."
The Plymouth Theatre box office is located in Manhattan at 236 West 45th Street. For more information about the musical, visit www.tabooonbroadway.com.