Thoughts on: A True Blood musical?

According to Michael Riedel of the New York Post, a new musical is being developed based on the hit HBO television series True Blood. Created by Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under), the television series was a surprise hit for the network, coming out around the same time that books like Twilight were sweeping the nation, offering decidedly more adult-oriented fare in the same market.

What is so surprising about the television series is that, for its first two seasons, it is actually an impressively executed exercise in high camp. Completely knowing of its general ridiculousness, the series mixes ridiculously overblown drama, a deranged sense of humor, graphic sexual content, and a disgusting amount of blood into a bizarre cocktail that just really really works for what it is. At a certain point (about three episodes in to the third season), the show loses sight of itself and then quickly goes downhill. As soon as the show became unable to mix its elements perfectly, it completely crashed and burned until it ended up nearly unwatchable. Knowing how easily the third season and beyond screwed up its own material makes the first two seasons all the more impressive.

Now, an impressive source material does not necessarily mean a good musical, as such mediocre musical fare like Shrek The Musical, Catch Me if You Can, or Bonnie and Cylde, all based on superior source material, will tell you. The show is notable for its plot density, which will prove highly difficult to adapt into a 150 minute evening (including intermission) and features an extreme level of gore that may be technically challenging to portray live onstage. The score will be composed by Nathan Barr, who wrote the show’s surprisingly strong original music, which is a good sign, and the book will be written by Elizabeth Scott, a young-adult author who has written 12 books since 2008. She may not have any experience writing for the stage, which is worrying, but at least she knows how to work quickly. Pam McKinnon, who has a mixed track record that includes a superb revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but also the Amélie musical at Berkeley Rep (which falls perfectly into the category of mediocre musicals based on great movies) as  well as a disastrous production of China Doll on Broadway, will direct.

So far this seems like a big wild card. It could easily be a total disaster, or it could end up as a surprising mixture that hits just the right notes and ends up a masterpiece of its own genre. Either way, audiences in the front rows might need ponchos for the amount of blood that will be spilled on them.

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