Magazine article American Theatre

Killer Tuners: (Or, There Will Be Blood)

Magazine article American Theatre

Killer Tuners: (Or, There Will Be Blood)

Article excerpt

NEW YORK CITY, LA JOLLA, CALIF., & ST. LOUIS, MO.: Blame it on Sweeney Todd, if you will: A spurt of new musicals is singing bloody murder. These latter-day moritaten for notorious killers memorialize the romantic (Bonnie and Clyde), the apocalyptic (the Manson family) and the inscrutable (Lizzie Borden, the Starkweather/Fugate murders).

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The first cut was definitely not the deepest: New York's International Fringe Festival in August gave us Willy Nilly, a taste-challenged parody of Helter Skelter from the cracked brain of neo-vaudevillean Travis Stewart (a.k.a. Trav S.D.) and indie company Piper McKenzie. "I have the stage name Trav S.D. for a reason--I just can't tell something without finding the humor in it," confesses Stewart, who also starred as the Vincent Bugliosi-styled D.A. on the trail of a hippie cult led by "Willy Nilson," the show's Manson stand-in. The show's brazen hodgepodge of the Living Theatre, Alice in Wonderland and "Laugh-In" got a mixed response from audiences and critics, but the laughs weren't on Manson or his victims, Stewart insists. "There's obviously no humor in slashing an innocent, pregnant actress. The humor is in the way the media and the narrator exploit the story."

Meanwhile, Lizzie Borden (at New York's Living Theatre through Oct. 17) offers a sympathetic "rock roadshow" telling of the legendary Victorian murder case, more famous for the nursery rhyme that presumes Borden's guilt ("Lizzie Borden took an axe/Gave her mother 40 whacks") than for the fact that the poor girl was acquitted with the case unsolved. …

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