Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Musical Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood as he appeared in a theatrical program for The Blackguard Returns in 1949.

A yellowing photo from Ed's acting days.
When you think about Ed Wood's work, it's likely that film comes to mind, and possibly even his paperbacks and short stories. Theater? Not so much.

But, in fact, Ed caught that bug early. As an usher at the Bardavon Theatre, he saw movies and fell in love. But the Bardavon was also a live performance venue. Although the dates are unknown—it seems likely it was the late 1930s or early '40s—Ed also joined a band, singing and playing drums. And he learned to play a number of string instruments and started his own singing quartet, Eddie Wood's Little Splinters (as detailed in the 2015 book Dreaming in Angora: The Life and Films of Ed Wood by Pablo Bendix III). Even more nebulous, he also had a band named The Sunshine Mountaineers. You'll also find the occasional reference to Ed being part of the Drama Club in High School. 

Perhaps written during the war or just after, Ed penned a comedy for the stage titled The Casual Company—now presumably lost, but he also novelized it and that survives, reprinted serially in four issues of Cult Movies magazine back in 1994. Although The Casual Company played very briefly to negative reviews in Hollywood in 1948—recall the opening scene of Tim Burton's Ed Wood—it played dozens of times on military bases after the war. Ed tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to get it off the ground in Poughkeepsie in 1946.

After the failed production of The Casual Company in Hollywood, Ed landed a role acting in the stage play The Blackguard Returns in 1949. If you are reading this before November 17, 2016, a variety of items related to this production are on auction, estimated at $4,000 +. (Thanks to Woodologist and uber-memorabilia collector Dennis Phelps—who exhaustively chronicled the work of Wood make-up artist Harry Thomas—for letting us obsessive Wood fans know about this auction in a private Wood forum.)

In the years since Ed's passing, as his cult fame grew, a variety of theatrical productions have come along, some based upon his work, and some on the man and his life. What promises to be one of the very best of these is Ed Wood The Musical.

We covered it here briefly last week, and earlier, definitively by this blog's creator, Joe Blevins. Containing a whopping 21 songs by totaling 74 minutes—all incredible, with the ominous number "Glen or Glenda" my personal favorite—by composer Rick Tell, Ed Wood The Musical brilliantly interweaves these songs through high and lowlights from Ed's life, which any serious Woodologist will certainly view as very knowing. Travel back to Ed's upbringing in Poughkeepsie. Visit his final years in North Hollywood, with Days of Wine and Roses-like scenes played out in squalid apartments, between Ed and Kathy Wood, his second wife, remaining with Ed for over two decades until his sad demise. I could go on, but that will spoil the fun of seeing Ed Wood The Musical on stage for the first time. 

Ed Wood The Musical in its Myspace days. Note the inclusion of "Dale Evans" on this track list.

With Rick Tell nurturing this project for over a decade now, the 21 songs are its heart and soul. Rick has graciously given us the gift of releasing all of them. You can even find an old Myspace page (remember that?) initiated in 2008, with a number of tracks. The musical then briefly went under the title Ed Wood's Monsters of Hollywood (with a book co-written by Rick), and then apparently another iteration titled Dreamer. At the time, the track "Dale Evans 'Queen of the West'" was a part of Monsters of Hollywood, highly reminiscent of the song "Dreamer" in the current set of songs for Ed Wood The Musical.

Rick Tell's ultimate goal is to see Ed celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As awesome as that will be when it becomes a reality, the time is nigh to make Ed Wood The Musical a reality. Depending on when you read this, the current crowdfunding campaign to stage The Musical is slated to end on November 17, 2016. If you are reading this prior to that date, what are you waiting for? Get over to Indiegogo and donate now!

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