World Leader Pretend Thanksgiving Musical II
November 22, 2006
"Are you ready?" Narrator Bryan Spitzfaden asked the crowd anonymously from the side of the stage moments after the house lights went down. The anxious audience that waited through an unexpected opening set from the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio yelled in affirmation. But, nobody was really ready or prepared for how good the 2nd Annual World Leader Pretend Thanksgiving Musical was Wednesday night at Tipitina's.
I knew to suspend expectations and drop my guard from moment one. As Star Wars music lit up the room with familiarity, a scrim with the musical's back story projected on it was lifted onto the second floor.
The story picked up where last year's musical left off. Pocahontas(Theresa Andersson) and John Smith(Andy Wagner) are married, and their father(Fred LeBlanc) is hanging around(this won't be the best remembered summary of the story, for sure. Excuse that). Actually, the story isn't that important to the musical at all. What makes the musical work is its wackiness, humor, and worship of modern rock, which surely made it go down easier with the younger crowd. Here's the story in a sentence: Smith and Pocahontas go to Mars to open a gravy shop, but they are apprehended by alien cats and Dr. Otto Von Finkelstein(James Hall), who will do anything to get Smith's recipe.
Examples of the wackiness? Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" was turned into a lament by Finkelstein about "Gravy," and GnR's "Welcome to the Jungle" became "Welcome to The Alien Cat Graveyard." There were also spot-on spectacular covers from World Leader Pretend of "Warpigs," "Promiscuous," and "Paranoid Android."
I can't believe how much work went into the musical. WLP drummer Arthur Mintz said preparation took four weeks, and I believe it. Some props were only used for a second, and the musical was a multimedia affair, so I imagine it took a while to work out possible transitional snags. Saints Special Teams Guru Steve Gleason appeared in a taped reminder to turn off cell phones before the show started, and WWL's Lee Zurik also appeared in a taped portion that included Jessica Spitzfaden as a reporter on Mars.
For a low budget musical, it moved with speed and the muscle memory that only comes from much repetition.
After the musical Hall said it felt wrong to walk onstage to boos, but once he took a second to realize why he was being booed, he said the response made it easier for him to get into character. Though Chris Rose was a formidable, lecherous second-hand man to Hall's Finkelstein, Hall still stole the show with his voice and his immersion into character. The man just has those evil moves down. Hall might also be a method actor. He was seen six hours before showtime in costume.
And how could I forget to mention Bryan Spitzfaden's short but awesome Freddie Mercury impression and the way he played two characters at once with his split costume personality, like last year?
Next year this musical deserves to be on a bigger stage.