2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘The Snuff Musical’ by Derek T. Pickens

Kinky Boots. Bring It On: The Musical. A Christmas Story: The Musical.

What do all these musicals have in common? Well yes, they’re all Tony Award nominated musicals but there’s one other unifying factor. How about a few more shows to help out:

Once. Leap of Faith. Newsies. Sister Act. Catch Me If You Can.

I think you get the picture. Needless to say, the majority of musical selections on Broadway over the past decade have been based on, you guessed it: movies! Since the year 2000 alone, seven of the thirteen Best Musical Tony winners drew on motion pictures as their source material. This idea brings forth a striking question:

Is this art? It is that exact question The Snuff Musical sets out to answer.

The Snuff Musical tells the story of an unhinged theatre composer and his out-of-work director friend who have lost all inspiration due to the current state of musical theatre. So they set out to turn a notorious snuff film into a Broadway musical, but then the shadowy man who made the film shows up to take over – and ruin their lives.

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I was first introduced to The Snuff Musical and its writer, Michael Martin, while I was in grad school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Our department musical director had planned a staged reading of the musical and from the moment I read it I knew that the show had great potential. After I moved to DC I decided that I wanted to get more involved in the theatre community and thought that the best way to do so would be to get in to the Capital Fringe Festival but in order to do so I had to have a show. Immediately The Snuff Musical came to mind, so I contacted Michael and got the ball rolling.

I find The Snuff Musical to be extremely poignant at this point in time, during an era in musical theatre history where the majority of work is based on movies. To be honest, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m always intrigued to see how writers transform a film into a singing and dancing monster of a show, but is that truly art? Should we applaud these artists who take a pre-established work and mold it in to something new? Can we even call them an artist? In The Snuff Musical, our protagonists face and try to answer these questions.

When asked about how he came up with the idea for The Snuff Musical, Michael Martin answered, in his usual dark humor infused way: “A few months ago, I was drowning an actor in the bathtub when Derek called and asked about producing a new show of mine that he’d seen in rough-draft form in the office of Kevin Wallace, a frequent collaborator of mine. My work on The Snuff Musical had begun a few years earlier. I had just finished the score for a show commissioned by a creative partner of the late Wayland Flowers of “Wayland and Madame” fame who wanted a vehicle for all of their old puppet characters.

After that process, I wasn’t interested in writing another comedy musical right away, nor was I at all interested in a another show about show business, having spent years of my life on Houdini, a musical about the great escape artist. But I ended up writing material for a friend’s cabaret act and he requested of me something about how hard it is to be an actor in New York. I sent him a bit that began with the joke “it’s so hard to make it in New York – I know an actress who did a snuff film just to get her union card.” About ten minutes after I emailed him all of the material, I called him and told him he couldn’t have it after all because I thought I could make something bigger out of it. Once I took that germ of an idea and mixed it with a few of my own frustrating experiences, and those of some of theatre and film friends, and set it against the maddening trend of turning frequently unworthy movies into musicals, I had the makings of what would become the show we are now presenting. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dig up the basement again before the police get here.”

And when one of our producers, Jay Lavely, was asked what drew him to the project he said that he “was attracted to The Snuff Musical by its clever book, its dark, yet, general public humor as well as the fact that it ‘plays big’ with a relatively small ensemble cast.”



On Twitter @thesnuffmusical & @musetheatreco

Muse Theatre Co and Jay Lavely present

The Snuff Musical
Music, Lyrics and Book by Michael Martin
90 minutes
at Fort Fringe – Redrum Theatre
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC.

Directed by Derek T. Pickens
Musical Direction by John-Michael d’Haviland

Fri, July 12 at 11pm
Tue, July 16 at 9:45pm
Sat, July 20 at 6:15pm
Thu, July 25 at 8:15pm
Sun, July 28 at 4:45pm


This production is presented as a part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.


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