Peter Friedman Is Father of Cult Pop Players The Shaggs, Making NYC Premiere in NYMF

News   Peter Friedman Is Father of Cult Pop Players The Shaggs, Making NYC Premiere in NYMF
The award-winning rock musical The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, based on the real life cult rock group, makes its New York premiere Sept. 27-Oct. 2 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

The musical by Joy Gregory (writer-lyricist) and Gunnar Madsen (composer-lyricist) is directed by John Langs and stars Peter Friedman, the Tony Award nominee for Broadway's Ragtime, as a patriarch who prompts his daughters to form a musical group.

Performances play the Beckett Theatre in the Theatre Row complex on West 42nd Street. The staging is a presentation of NYMF, PenneySeal Productions and AWOL Theatre Project, Inc.

"Taking place between 1969 and 1973, The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World is an earnest look at one of the oddest and most unlikely bands to achieve rock cult status," according to production notes. "Forced by a demanding father, the three very awkward sisters of the Wiggin family of Fremont, NH, were prepped to play in a band based on a prophecy laid out by their grandmother. …The Wiggin family patriarch pushed the girls to practice non-stop until he thought they were ready to record an album and perform concerts. They were not. They never were, but they did, and this wholly original musical chronicles their journey while incorporating songs influenced by The Shaggs' canon, as well as a re-imagining of their 'hit single' — 'Philosophy of the World.'"

The cast includes Dana Acheson, Jimmy Bennett, Bill English, Amy Eschman, Friedman, Jamey Hood, Glenn Peters and Tracy Sallows.

"Austin Wiggin, the girls' father, died before he ever saw his dream realized," according to production notes. "Following his death, The Shaggs were no more until the mid-seventies when a Boston radio station played a few cuts from their record. Their only album caught on, spurred by Frank Zappa declaring the band 'better than the Beatles,' celebrated by outsider-music mavens who were taken with the Shaggs' artless style. In 1980 they were Rolling Stone's Comeback Artists of the Year without having recorded anything in over a decade. Old recordings and footage have been turned into subsequent albums and collector's items for their thousands of underground fans, but they remain humble loners in the outskirts of New England." Aaron Gandy is musical director, Jessica Hendricks is choreographer, Gary Smoot is scenic designer, Wade Laboissonniere is costume designer, Aaron J. Mason is lighting designer, Robbin Broad is sound designer, Jennifer Abraham is assistant director, Julie Pittman is assistant sound designer, Nora Brennan Casting is casting director.

Associate producers are Jared Cohen and Kevin Cordova.

Director John Langs received a Backstage West award for The Shaggs. The show then moved to The Lookingglass Theater of Chicago where it was Jeff-nominated.

The Los Angeles production of the show was named Musical of the Year in The 25th Annual LA Weekly Theater Awards, and was nominated for Best Musical Score and Best Production Awards in the 2003 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.

Joy Gregory (writer-lyricist) is a founding member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theater Company where her two most recently produced plays were The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World (Joseph Jefferson-nominated), and Race: How Blacks and Whites Think & Feel About the American Obsession, a co-adaptation with David Schwimmer of the book by Studs Terkel (Joseph Jefferson-nomination for Best Adaptation). She currently writes for the new ABC drama "Windfall," and previously wrote for CBS' "Joan of Arcadia.

Gunnar Madsen (composer-lyricist) was a founder, songwriter and performer with the internationally acclaimed a capella group The Bobs. Their first album led to a Grammy nomination. The Bobs have released five more albums and he's received seven consecutive ASCAP songwriter awards. He has written music for the feature films "Breaking the Rules" and "A Special Providence"; he was the voice of Sammy Davis, Jr. in the Emmy-Award winning HBO film "The Rat Pack."

The in-rep performance schedule for The Shaggs schedule is Sept. 27 at 8 PM, Sept. 28 at 8 PM, Sept. 29 at 8 PM, Sept. 30 at 4:30 PM, Oct. 1 at 8 PM, Oct. 2 at 1 PM and 4:30 PM.

The Beckett Theatre in Theatre Row is at 410 W. 42nd Street. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at or by calling at (212) 352-3101.

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