How the Feverish Imaginations of Jonathan Larson, Rusty Magee and Friends Birthed the Musical "Sacred Cows"

By Jonathon Collis
02 Mar 2013

Jonathan Larson
Jonathan Larson

"Sacred Cows: A New Beginning," an obscure 1990s trial-balloon musical by Bob Golden, Paul Scott Goodman, Jonathan Larson, Rusty Magee and Jeremy Roberts, has surfaced on iTunes, offering a window on the writers' fervent years. Playbill takes an exclusive look — and gets an exclusive audio excerpt.

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Musical theatre careers are punctuated with collaborations that are as intense and robust as any love affair, filled with heat and promise, yet often resulting in a project that hits a dead end: schedules begin to clash, the producer doesn't "get it," money falls through, and so on. The writers move on to other shows and other collaborators, hoping for a hit. The project's pile of scripts, demos and notes gets locked in a trunk, a memento of what might have been. The magic mulls beneath the mothballs, waiting to be found again by historians, fans, or the collaborators themselves. "Remember that show we did…?"

In late 1992, five young composers on the cusp of breaking through — Bob Golden, Paul Scott Goodman, Jonathan Larson, Rusty Magee and Jeremy Roberts — gathered under a banner and created an irreverent look at the Creation Myth (they billed it as "A New Beginning") as the pilot for a weekly cable TV series pitched as "Sacred Cows."

Lost for 20 years, the project has resurfaced. The original "Sacred Cows" demo recording, featuring performances by the composers — including the late Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Larson — was released on iTunes on Feb. 28. The story behind the making of the irreverent tale of how Adame, Yves and a three-headed snake oil salesman wound up in Eden is one of starving artists, commercial disappointment and unbridled creativity.



Looking back at the show's origins, its surviving creators spoke about coming together as a team, trying to sell a wacky religion-mocking musical to MTV in the days before "South Park," and their excitement about revisiting an early work.

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It began with Paul Scott Goodman (who would later write Bright Lights Big City and Rooms). A regular at the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, Goodman began an offshoot project, Multi Media Musicals, to develop musicals for TV and film. Assembling an up-and-coming "dream team," Goodman first turned to a fellow composer and neighbor who'd cast him in a workshop at the Public Theater: Jonathan Larson.

At the time, Larson was routinely doing self-produced runs of his rock monologue tick, tick...BOOM! and recently finished his first full draft of Rent. Hoping to get further work in TV, having provided incidental music for "Sesame Street," but unable to get his vocal songs onto the show, Larson jumped at the chance.

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