Black Death the Musical runs for just three performances this upcoming weekend, October 28th thru the 30th, at Sabes Jewish Community Center in Saint Louis Park. Presented by Apostasia Productions, this new show is written by Susan Woehrle (who was interviewed by fellow Twin Cities Theater Blogger Artfully Engaging), and directed by Paul von Stoetzel. I was able to speak to Paul on Wednesday before their final dress rehearsal about the creation of the show.
It was originally conceived as an idea for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and it still contains that gritty, fun and wacky feel that so many Fringe shows embody. Much of this "wacky" feel doesn't just come from the fact that characters are singing about the plague, but from the mix of potential dangers. Not only is the Black Death killing a large percentage of the population, some are being brought back in the form of demon filled zombies/Frankenstein's monsters. The musical's plot takes on these real and fictional challenges of the time through interweaving stories of a Plague Doctor, the Pope, an alchemist and nuns.
Musically it is inspired by the music of the 14th/15th centuries, so think minor key monastic chants, but it also mixes in influences of 90s punk and Tom Waits. The result is a very even style of singing backed up with keyboard, drums, guitar and bass This mix of styles works surprisingly well. All of the actors get a chance to show off their vocal chops. Rodolfo Nieto gave a standout performance as the Alchemist and the Pope, he performed his characters with near perfect timing for a very successful comic effect. Overall the mix of many different musical themes and plots points worked together well for a fun night at the theater.
My only real complaint is there seemed to be some sound balancing issues that made it hard to understand the lyrics being sung and I found my attention wandering. But it was a dress rehearsal, and I have confidence that the problem will be able to be resolved before this weekend.
For more information check out Black Death: The Musical's Facebook page here.