Composer-playwright John Cerrone is collaborating with lyricist Hal Hackady on a new Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired science fiction musical comedy, Barsoom!, getting an industry-invited New York City reading Nov. 19.
The musical, billed as something between Indiana Jones and Mel Brooks, is drawn from a 1917 novel, "A Princess of Mars," featuring the famed sci-fi character John Carter. Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan and other memorable pulp fiction characters. The sci-fi romantic musical will include 3-D animation technology as scenic backdrops, and holographic images as mid-stage elements (a floating head, an approaching spaceship and more). Some of the technology will be unveiled at the reading.
The cast of the reading includes Will Chase (Miss Saigon, The Full Monty), Jacquelyn Piro (Les Miserables) and Deven May (Off Broadway's Bat Boy). Musical director is Eugene Gwozdz.
"I've been a science fiction fan my whole life, and the John Carter series was one of those things I would read with a flashlight underneath the sheets when my parents told me to go to bed," Cerrone told Playbill On Line. "This was something I always wanted to make into a musical, but the rights were not available until 1992, when it became public domain."
The Barsoom of the title is the planet John Carter is transported to, Cerrone said. "I've extensively adapted the novel," he explained. "I made a decision that it would be a little too one dimensional if we did this high flying Indiana Jones, romantic story, so I did a lot of character work. There's a great sense of humor to his project. It isn't so much a spoof of science fiction. We're not making fun of it. It's a high-adventure story that's been turned into a comedy." The flavor of the score is epic pop, like Miss Saigon, Cerrone said, adding that it's a traditional book musical — not through-sung. Although Cerrone is directing the reading, he is not expected to be the director of a full staging. He sees the show as having a large cast. The reading features nine performers, doubling in roles.
The show is the brainchild of Cerrone, a television and video writer producer who wrote music and lyrics for the stage musicals Sister, Can You Spare a Dime? and The Last Princess, both seen in readings. Lyricist Hackady is known for his frisky verse in songs in Broadway's Goodtime Charley, Minnie's Boys and Snoopy!!! He is also working on the musical, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Also performing in the reading are Leslie Goddard, Michael Graves, Vinnie Costa, Darrel Blackburn, Jim Ferris, Gerrianne Raphael.
Dimensional Media Associates, one of the country's major developers of holographic animation, is a creative collaborator on Barsoom! Production management on the project is being handled by Don Frantz/Town Square Productions.
For information about the Nov. 19 Barsoom! reading, industry people may call (212) 688-6017.
— By Kenneth Jones