Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical" to bring laughs to MCL Chicago Comedy Theater in April

                               Photo credit: Jeremy Kanne

By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 

The folks behind such hits as "A Nightmare on Backstreet: A Boy Band Horror Parody," "Maul Santa: The Musical," "Babysitter Massacre ’78: The Musical" and "Bates: An '80s Psycho Musical Parody" are back with "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical."
 

The show will be the last one for We ARE Productions in Chicago. "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical" will be presented from April 7 to 29 at MCL Chicago Comedy Theater, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.
 

Tickets are $20, available at MCL Chicago Comedy Theater's website, www.mclchicago.com.
 

I had the chance to talk to writer/producer Ricky W. Glore and director Kit Rivers about the show:
 


Q - Great talking to you again. So how did you come up with the idea to do "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical?" Were you a fan of the original movie?
 

Ricky: Last year while we were rehearsing our show "Fleetwood Macbeth," I started to brainstorm on what our next big musical would be. At the same time, my family started talking about what we might do for my dad’s 60th birthday, the next year, in 2017.


With just that, a light bulb went off in my head, and I thought that he would like nothing more than to see a live version of his favorite movie, on the 40th anniversary of the original movie.
 

I started writing the script and selecting which classic songs would go in it. I would constantly laugh to myself when thinking about doing a stage musical of a movie that is 90 percent car chases.

In the end, I chose songs primarily from the first two film’s soundtracks, "Smokey and the Bandit" 1 and 2  (a lot of Jerry Reed), a few from the country soundtrack to the film "Any Which Way You Can" (starring Clint Eastwood), and a few other country classic standards.
 


I grew up listening to the soundtracks and watching the "Bandit" films. The craziest thing, is that we’ve been able to keep this show as a secret to my dad, and he won’t know about it until he comes and sees it on April 8.

This show is a labor of love to him.
 

Q - For people who come out to the show, what should they expect? What would you like for people to come away with from the show?
 

Kit: To have fun! Right now we are flooded with so much negative news that I think it is the perfect time for a show that just wants to tell a fun story and share good music with its audience. 
 

Ultimately "Smokey and the Bandit" is about friendship, and loyalty and of course beer, and I think everyone can support those things.
 

Ricky: It’s gonna be a great time. We have a live four piece country band lead and arranged by Robert Campbell, choreography by Laura Marsh, vocals arranged by Dan Riley, and vocal direction by Katie Foster. MCL Chicago is a BYOB theater, so don’t forget your cooler of Coors, and a foot that’s ready to tap.
 

Q - How have rehearsals being going? What do you think of this cast and what do you think they bring to the production?
 

Kit: The rehearsal process has been fun! A lot of us involved with the show are friends in real life too, so our rehearsal room, while productive, still involves a good amount of jokes, bits, and the occasional broken chair.
 

It’s interesting because it is one of the rare times where a director of a show wasn’t actually a part of the casting process. So you can imagine my relief when it turned out they were actually all really talented and fit their parts great!
 

I joke, but truly it is a very versatile cast and I think with all the comedians involved it will make for a very funny show.  
 

Ricky: This cast is awesome. Some of the most talented performers in Chicago.
 

Q - I understand that this is weAREproductions' last show in the Chicago area. Do you think this is a fitting way to end your run here? Ricky: Our shows have always put entertainment for the audience first. What I mean when I say that, is, from the writing, to casting, to rehearsing and producing, our whole main goal is to thoroughly entertain the audience that is gonna come and see it.
 

I couldn’t think of a more fun show, than a stage musical version of "Smokey and the Bandit," to go out on.
 


This show doesn’t invite any pretense. The actors aren’t doing impressions of the famous cast of the film, they are embodying the spirit and the energy that encapsulated those characters.
 

Sure, the actor playing “The Bandit,” has a mustache…but we couldn’t get rid of that, now could we? ;)
 

These characters, the world and the songs, are so much fun. I can’t wait to share this show with everyone who just wants to come in, pop open a beer, and have a good time.

Q - Why the move to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area? What's next for you and for We ARE Productions?
Ricky: I grew up in the NKY/Cincy area, and in the past few years, their independent arts scene has really blown up. I wanna be part of that, and bring our unique sensibility of theatre, to that playground. 


We ARE Productions is currently in talks with a couple different spaces in NKY/Cincy, and should be bringing our special brand, by at least early 2018, if not sooner.
 

We are looking to continue on bringing shows like "A Nightmare on Backstreet," "Fleetwood Macbeth," "Babysitter Massacre ’78: The Musical" and "Maul Santa," to that area, and mounting them again, while also creating new shows in the same vein. Eventually, we want to start connecting with local schools for some outreach programs, to get kids thinking, being creative and imaginative, with theater.



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