Where Musicals Can Dare to Be Different
By CHLOE VELTMAN
Published: April 9, 2010
The new musical “Scalpel!” at the Brava! Center for the Arts has a gender-bending cast dressed in candy-colored women’s business suits, singing about the joys of liposuction against a backdrop of free-floating body parts. The combination of bunraku puppetry techniques and drag performance makes for an unlikely and unforgettable experience.
At the Berkeley Repertory Theater, “Girlfriend,” a new musical opening on Wednesday and based on the pop musician Matthew Sweet’s 1991 album of the same title, plays with our expectations about gender and sexuality by recounting a romance between two young men, accompanied live by a four-piece, all-woman rock band.
The Bay Area has established itself as a breeding ground for musicals that go on to find audiences elsewhere, but many of these shows also buck traditional notions of what constitutes a winning work for the stage. In the world of musicals, where producers tend to favor mass appeal over experimentation, the passion for — and success at — developing quirky work in the Bay Area is leading many people to re-evaluate their opinions of musicals, attracting new audiences to the genre.