Posted on Wed, Jul. 23, 2009
Spencer Brown’s fascination with the 1979 movie ”˜The Rose’ leads to a stage production
By ROBERT TRUSSELL
The Kansas City Star
(Photo: Dusti Cunningham)
The word that kept popping up was “obsessed.”
“The Rose,” the 1979 movie starring Bette Midler as a Janis Joplin-like rock star on the road to destruction, at some point seized the imagination of 25-year-old actor Spencer Brown. And yes, he said, it was fair to call it an obsession.
So we asked him to explain himself.
“Five years ago I finally had the good fortune of watching the movie,” Brown said. “When I was in high school I was into a lot of the ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll. I think I have all of Janis Joplin’s albums. Then I saw ”˜The Rose,’ which is not Janis Joplin’s story but parallels it.”
So Brown, a musical theater guy, began to think about what a stage version of the movie might be like. We’ve seen plenty of musicals based on movies in recent years, but “The Rose” would be something different because of its darkness.
“This was not your happy-go-lucky musical and did not end with everyone feeling good,” Brown said. “The story is a tragedy, but it’s got all this great music. So I focused on developing the movie for the stage and watched it repeatedly.”
This weekend Brown’s dream becomes reality when “The Rose: The 30th Anniversary Rock Musical” opens at 9 p.m. Friday at La Esquina, the Urban Culture Project performance space at 1000 W. 25th St. Brown, of course, steps into the Midler role in drag.
Ron Megee, who cast Brown in some of his Late Night Theatre productions and appeared with him in “La Cage aux Folles” at the Unicorn, is directing. Chadwick Brooks, another Late Night veteran, is “curating” (as opposed to producing) the show under the auspices of the Charlotte Street Foundation.
Cody Wyoming is leading a live band, and the supporting cast includes David Wayne Reed, Kipp Simmons, Dana Nicholson, Corrie Van Ausdal, Kimberely Queen and Emma Taylor.
Megee is bringing typically audacious flourishes to the production, including a set made up entirely of beer cases and hundreds of liquor bottles. But he said this won’t be like a wacky Late Night show. Rather than going for camp, he’s going for melodrama.
“It’s not your standard parody,” Brown said. “There’s a couple of songs we’ve added that are not in the film. There are a few scenes and dialogue that are not in the film. And there are things in the film that are not in the stage version. It’s very melodramatic. There’s some light fare, too ”¦ it’s fun, but the dark side is always there.”
“The Rose: The 30th Anniversary Rock Musical” opens at 9 p.m. Friday at La Esquina, 1000 W. 25th St. Additional performances are scheduled on Saturday, Monday and July 31; and Aug. 1, 3, 7, 8 and 10. Tickets cost $15. Order tickets online at www.brownpapertickets .com/event/71885.