Thursday, July 2, 2009

Scissor Sisters Cut Loose with "Tales of the City"

Frank Rizzo
on July 2, 2009

Jason Sellards (aka "Jake Shears") and John Garden of Scissor Sisters are writing the music for a new musical based on Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" books.

The show is being developed at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, its National Music Theater Conference.readings of the show will be held Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday at 8 p.m. and next Saturday (July 11) at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22.

I talked with the two -- as well as director Jason Moore and librettist Jeff Whitty -- for an article that runs in Friday's Courant.

In my conversation with the band members (above, photo by Patrick Raycraft), the two talked about the project at length. For Scissor Sisters/Tales of the City fans a few more details about the project:

"Jeff sent me an e-mail not being specific what the show was," says Sellards.

"I always wanted to do a musical," says Sellards. "I've always been a big fan of them and it was always something I thought I would end up doing some day. So I wrote back and said, 'Yeah, it sounds really cool.'

Their first song they wrote for the show was "Me Plus One," a song in the second act. A more thematic song in the show is one called "Atlantis," about Mrs. Madrigal's belief that San Francisco is a re-incarnated version of Atlantis. "I think that song really sums up the connections between everyone in the city," says Sellard.

'They also talked about going to San Franciso when the band was on a break, meeting Maupin and soaking up the vibe of the city.

"The music [of the era -- the books are mostly set in the '70s] is automatically part of our musical vocabulary so it's automatically going to be there,' says Sellards. "Even though the era is very important, it takes a back seat to these characters."

"It's about the struggle they have in the time they are living,' says Garden. "It just happens to be the '70s."

"The characters are so strong it makes it so much easier to write songs for them," says Sellards.

Both composers have some familiarity with musicals. Garden played a Nazi youth who sings "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" in a student production of "Cabaret," and Sellards was Little John in "West Side Story" and Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls" when he was in high school.

"That's where I figured out I could sing,' Sellards says. "It was the first time anyone came up to me and told me I was a singer."

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