Sunday, June 21, 2009

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Tomorrow I'm embarking on a really exciting two week journey in New London, CT. I'll be a part of The O'Neill musical theatre conference there.

I'll be working on a new musical based on the popular novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The book was published in 1967. It takes place in Australia, at an all girl’s boarding school. On St. Valentines Day, the girls travel for a picnic to a place called Hanging Rock. Although they have been warned not to climb up the dangerous rock, four of the schoolgirls do so. While one of the girls, Edith, returns in hysterics, unable to remember what happened, the other three seem to have vanished. Their teacher, who attended the picnic with them, disappears as well.

I will be playing the character of Michael, a young British man who is visiting Australia. Michael sees the girls at the picnic grounds and is later disturbed by their disappearances. He is particularly drawn to Miranda, the prettiest and most mysterious girl in the bunch.

The novel was turned into a film under the same title in 1975. It was Australia's first international hit. The movie is shot beautifully, unwinding into a slow moving yet haunting story. With both the novel and the film, people were drawn to the mystery of the disappearances (one that remains unanswered). The story is also written in a way that (although entirely fictional) suggests it may be true, sparking a fascination with the tale in the same way Blair Witch Project and similar stories did.

The music for this project is gorgeous. It captures the essence of the story perfectly. It's utterly beautiful, yet somewhat disturbing underneath. The composer, Daniel Zaitchik, may be very new to the scene, but don't judge him too quickly. I haven't heard music that has excited me this much in a while. It is a far cry from the bland pop-rock scores that get commercial backing in New York City (Key word being bland here. Clearly, I love a good pop/rock score.) The music is mostly sung in soprano voices. It reminds me of a cross between Ahrens & Flaherty and Adam Guettel.

But don't take my word for it. You can listen to it here:

My character sings in both "The Attic" and "Whisked Away."

I originally thought that my character was Australian. So, I ran out and bought Australian dialect tapes and had been working on it all week. I was horrible at it. It's a difficult accent, especially if you've been exposed to the British accent at length. It all gets very confusing.

It wasn't until I got the script this week and was sounding out the sentence, "Well, I've only been in Australia for a few weeks now." that I thought.... Oh...Shit...

It's probably better I'm sticking with a British accent...for everyone's sake.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited. I also get to be there while Jake Shears, of Scissor Sisters, mounts his new musical. I am a HUGE fan of his. I'm going to go nuts if I get the chance to meet him.

You can buy tickets to the event here