By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Bowmen stepped down as book-writer, as did a sequence of writers who followed, leaving Waronker and Caffey to come up with a book to match their own music. And that’s when the slow process of unifying the story with the music began. Research led the team to discover how misunderstood their subject had been. They saw clips of Lovelace being interviewed by Phil Donahue on his television show, and they were incensed by both Donahue’s attitude and the hostility of the audience toward her.
“She was eight months’ pregnant,” says Waronker, “in a flannel shirt, maternitywear, and she was talking and what came from that moment, oh, my God, this woman, we watched this woman stand her ground. Phil was asking her, ‘What in your past led you to make such mistakes?’ Phil was like, ‘C’mon, you enjoyed it.’ And the audience was giving her a really hard time. The woman was kidnapped and tortured daily, yet nobody viewed this as a Patty Hearst situation.”
And that’s when it dawned on them to match the story with music that’s operatic in tone. The world was treating Linda Lovelace glibly, and Waronker and Caffey were determined to redress the stereotype of the porn star.
“She wanted to live in a clean house,” adds Caffey. “There’s a photograph of her and her second son, Dominic. Her first child was taken away from her. She’s in the moment with her child and the happiest person in the world. She went through this crap and came through with a long-term marriage of 20 years. When we started the project, 99 percent of people would say, ‘Oh, you’re doing a musical about the porn star,’ and it started to offend us. She was the first person to bring domestic abuse out in the open. There are so many levels to it, and to her. At the heart of it we related to her. Following our instincts, we would write this haunting music, and once we got our hands on it, and started matching the lyrics and the music, it started to work.”
This process is by no means over. “My take on this is to be patient. We have something very special,” Caffey says, praising the talents of the show’s leading lady, Katrina Lenk, and director Ken Sawyer. So far, the critics have agreed, and so have the L.A. audiences.
One production that opened in 2008, and is still running at Santa Monica’s City Garage, is an adaptation of Molière’s The Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman) by Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe, who share this year’s L.A. Weekly Queen of the Angels Award for their body of work at that theater over decades. (Jeff Atik has been nominated for his comedy performance in the title role of that production.) The company, which has been doing politically indignant and stylistically assaultive works by the likes of Heiner Müller, Eugene Ionesco, Caryl Churchill and Sam Shepard, produced the Molière partly as a lark, but it turned into a sleeper hit so popular that they can’t really close it down, despite trying to open a new season of plays.
The five-act comedy, first presented in 1670 Paris before the court of Louis XIV, was originally conceived as a five-act ballet. And it’s presented as such at City Garage, with a mockingly pompous style and two ballerinas. Beneath its humor is a snarling anger at the hypocrisy of conformists. A court composer of Molière’s time, Jean-Baptiste Lully, was brought in to provide the music — not unlike the way Waronker and Caffey were brought in to a different project, in a different hemisphere and a different epoch, but for much the same reason. How do you bring a dark story to life through music and dance? Once you figure that out, how do you bring in a big enough audience to support it? These are age-old questions being asked once again in L.A. To discover the answer, buy a ticket.
NOMINATIONS FOR MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
West Coast Ensemble at El Centro Theatre
Hudson Backstage Theatre
Theatre @ Boston Court
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Open Fist Theatre Company
Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara
Sacred Fools Theatre/Matrix Theatre
Lovelace: A Rock Opera