Imagine what it would be like if one of the greatest bands of all time and one of the greatest books (and movies) of all time were combined together and produced a play? Well, imagine no more. You can see this mash-up first-hand at the production of "The Beatles Present 'The Lord of the Rings: The Musical.' "
The play's co-writer and co-director, Kyle Wilson, said he was browsing on Wikipedia when he came across the entry that in the late 1960s, the Beatles were supposed to do a movie musical version of J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," directed by Stanley Kubrick, but it never came to be.
"We were like, 'The Beatles AND 'The Lord of the Rings?' Those are the two greatest things ever. We got to do it," Wilson said.
PHOTO By TOM STRONG
From left, Carl Lundstedt as George Harrison, Jimmy Nicholas as John Lennon, Brian Muller as Paul McCartney, Antonio Marziale as Ringo Starr and Josh Buckwald as Yoko Ono (on the floor) are seen in “The Beatles present ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Musical.’ ”
In the play, after the musical project falls by the wayside, Paul rallies his bandmates into doing the movie themselves. Over the course of an hour, the Fab Four - Paul, George, John and Ringo - act out the entire "The Lord of the Rings" saga, complete with hobbits, wizards and fights. Meanwhile, Yoko Ono plots to break up the band and take John for herself.
Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 17 and 18 in the auditorium at the Klump Academic Center on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus.
Wilson, 20, of South Williamsport, co-wrote and co-directed the play with Samuel French, 20, of St. Petersburg, Fla. Both men are studying directing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
French said he finds writing "painful," but enjoyed the experience collaborating with his classmate, Wilson, to write and direct the play.
"It's sort of a mix between inspiration and resignation," French said. "Writing with Kyle helped motivate me because we could hold each other accountable."
The August performance will not be the first viewing of the play - Wilson said it has been performed once before at a festival called "Playground," held by the Carnegie Melon School of Drama each year.
"We've already done the show - since then, we've done some rewrites," Wilson said. "It was great to put it up in that safe, school environment - people really enjoyed it. But there are always problems and things could always be better. So, we've tweaked and polished it and what we really want to do is see if we've made it better."
But before the show comes to Williamsport, they will perform the show in Martha's Vineyard for a two-week run, that Wilson said is another great rehearsal opportunity.
"We'll get two weeks to put it up in front of an audience so that when we get back here (Williamsport), the actors are super comfortable with it and we know more specifically where the laughs are and stuff like that, which makes for a tighter, higher-quality show," Wilson said.
Brian Muller, 21, of New York City, plays Paul McCartney and said Wilson and French pitched the play idea to him and another cast member in the school library.
"We actually didn't audition, but I had worked with Sam before in acting class and enjoyed many heated discussions with him and Kyle about serious topics ranging from the brilliance of the Twilight books to the benefits of eating fried chicken, which naturally qualifies me for the role," Muller said.
Muller likes how absurd the premise of the play is and loves the freedom the actors have to improvise and work with the audience.
"In the performance we did at school, a cast member actually jumped into an audience member's lap because he was so terrified by something happening on stage," Muller said. "That's the type of spontaneous thing that makes this show so unique and so much fun. I also love how painfully clever it is."
Carl Lundstedt, 20, of Libertyville, Ill., who plays George Harrison, said he has been a fan of "The Lord of the Rings" since he read the books in middle school and enjoys playing his character in this comical rendition.
"Whenever you're trying to recreate an actual person, there is always a bit of pressure there," Lundstedt said. "But the real joy of this part is getting to play a character that is trying to help his bandmates make a good rendition of LOTR, and thinks he is doing a better job than he actually is."
Other actors in the show include Jimmy Nicholas, 20, of Illinois, playing John Lennon; Antonio Marziale, 20, of Boston, Mass., playing Ringo Starr; and Josh Buckwald, 20, of New York, playing Yoko Ono.
Wilson said recent Montoursville Area High School student, Ryan Looke, is the stage manager and Rob Steele, executive director of the Community Arts Center is producing the play.
"He (Steele) has been remarkably supportive of young theatrical talent throughout the years, particularly myself, and we all want to thank him very much for letting us bring this to the community."
Wilson was a regular in the theater scene while in high school, and also was given opportunities to write and direct original material with the Williamsport Community Theatre League, as well as direct plays in high school.
"I also had the great opportunity to direct a play called "The Pillowman" last year from an awesome troupe in Williamsport called The Actors Group, led by a former mentor of mine, Tom Ryersbach and his wife," Wilson said.
Wilson has been making up stories since he was very young but said he credits a play he wrote titled "Of Love and Mac 'n' Cheese" in 9th grade as one of his defining moments. The play was to be done as an all-student production at the CTL, but the director dropped it and Ryersbach asked Wilson to direct it himself.
"I loved it! the first night, when people bit by bit started laughing at the show, it was the coolest thing," Wilson said. "Going to school now, I've met people who are interested in all different sorts of theater, and I'm sure they all had some sort of epic experience like that, but for me, hearing an audience laugh at something I wrote, was just the most gratifying thing."
Wilson is now collaborating on another musical at the moment and also plans to partner with French again to write another show for the same actors in the Rings show - a potential Civil War epic musical.
Tickets for the show are $8 and $5 for those with Penn College IDs. Tickets are available at the door or by calling the CAC Box Office at 326-2424 or toll free at 800-432-9382.
To view a promo of the show, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ePW3cHDxfc.