A Philadelphia theater company will premiere a new comedy about an aging rock star who releases a comeback album. To do the show, “I Will Not Go Gently,” 1812 Productions recorded and released an actual rock album.
Not just a rock album, but a greatest hits package spanning the 30-year career of the fictitious British musician Sierra Mist.
“My musical inspiration for her is Liz Phair, Joan Jett, and some ‘Truth or Dare’ Madonna pretension,” said Jennifer Childs, artistic director of 1812 Productions and the writer of “I Will Not Go Gently.”
“As a character, she is my inner diva. She doesn’t understand why the world doesn’t work like it did in the ’80s.”
While Sierra Mist is fictional, she comes out of Childs’ personal life. Now in her late 40s, Childs has been thinking a lot about the transition to becoming a woman “of a certain age.”
“I’ve been using the phrase ‘liminal’ a lot,” said Childs. “It’s like bring on a trapeze — the moment you let go of one trapeze and haven’t grabbed the next one. That’s what I’m feeling right now.”
Childs wrote the lyrics to a folksy number from Sierra Mist’s early career, her rebellious punk album, her pop breakout, and her adult contemporary decline. Midway through inventing the story of this character, Childs and her sound designer, Chris Colucci, realized that in order for these songs to work on stage, they had to actually record an album. Like, for real.
Guitarist and music director Christopher Colucci. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
“Everything is straight,” said Colucci, a longtime theater sound designer in Philadelphia. “I’m hoping it has the integrity of someone really in a band and really making this music, and doesn’t know how ridiculous it is.”
Colucci lined up musicians from area bands, including the bass player from the Martha Graham Cracker band and the drummer from the clown-funk ensemble Red 40. In a South Philadelphia recording studio, they banged out eight songs in 10 hours. Colucci had just one week to do the mix, something he wishes he could have had more time with.
“I’m surely missing a glockenspiel, but that’s the challenge of the show. I want to remix the whole thing and keep working on it. But … yeah,” he shrugged. The show must go on.
The result will be available as an iTunes download and available as a CD — complete with album art and liner notes — at Plays and Players Theater in Rittenhouse Square, where the play will be performed.
Colucci has been so focused on making a rock album, he hadn’t imagined how it will work onstage. A few weeks before curtain, he switched hats from record producer and theatrical sound designer.
“It’s a bit of a shock to realize this record is associated with a play I’m going to see,” he said.