KPBS AIRDATE: JUNE 2, 2000
MUSIC: the Doors: “Light My Fire”}
Jim Morrison. The Doors. Quintessence of the ’60s. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll. Death, resurrection, utopia.
The band broke up when Morrison, the darkly romantic poet, died in 1971, at age 27. But the Doors’ recordings still go platinum every year. And now, their high drama has come to the stage — at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
“Celebration of the Lizard,” an epic Morrison poem, is the title and inspiration of the world premiere musical, which features 33 songs by The Doors. The band’s name came from the drug-hazed Aldous Huxley book, “The Doors of Perception.” Conceived by Joel Lipman, with consultation from Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the show is true to the band’s music and esthetic.
It’s all there: a decadent L.A., an L.A. woman, and a brooding outcast who dreams of a better place. ‘Breaking on through to the other side’ means achieving cosmic consciousness, seeking your own personal paradise, going inside to find Far Arden.
The vision is chilling but familiar; the costumes are terrific: all tattered black and white in the burned-out, fascist city; red and blue in the desert haunt of the fugitives who’ve created yet another dissolute, degenerate community; and all futuristic lamé glam in the tongue-flicking kingdom of the Lizard Woman. What’s lacking in this post-apocalyptic wasteland is a leader, someone who can bring the spiritual energy back, who can light the fire again.
Enter a self-proclaimed former killer, liar and thief, a Stranger in this strange land. He meets the Queen of the Road, who leads him to the Lizard Woman and back to El Capitan, the guy who started it all in America and who ends it here, too.
It’s all very… mystical… and sometimes pretty convoluted. Like many a new musical, the book needs a good deal of re-tooling and clarifying. Some of the great songs are less motivated than others. Some of O-Lan Jones’ arrangements are magnificent. Some of Gina Angelique’s choreography oozes sexuality. Coupled with Sam Woodhouse’s muscular direction, some of her moves are so athletic and acrobatic they look downright dangerous. Some of the casting and some of the singing are superb. The sum of it all is sometimes electrifying.
At the center, Jeff Meek is irresistible. With his tight leather pants, bare chest and fulminating sensuality, he is Morrison incarnate. He even nails the sultry singing at times. As his seeker-sidekick, Karole Foreman is seductive, belting in a bluesy voice and a bare-breasted bandolier of bullets. Other standout performances are put in by Baruti, Alysa Lobo and, in a minor role, Melody Butiu. The band is both hot and very cool; it effectively re-opens The Doors.
All told, it’s an often-energizing nostalgia trip that needs a good fix. The show starts out loud and garish and indecipherable; the sound was a problem all night at the opening, rendering dialogue and lyrics unintelligible. Though the first act drags, it ends in a dazzling display with “Light My Fire.” All the plotlines coalesce in the second act, which declaims a ham-fisted message about protecting the earth and regaining a spiritual core.
‘When the Music’s Over,’ you’re left with a few great songs and a show that, buried beneath the rubble, actually has something to say. With considerable toning down and beefing up, given the good vibes that went into it, this new musical might just ‘Break on Through.’
[MUSIC: Doors: “Break on Through”]
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.