There will likely be togas and food fights and strange initiation rites, but the stage adaptation of "Animal House," with music by Barenaked Ladies , will not be a rote recasting of the hit 1978 film.
"We got a call from the producers of the show, and they said, 'We like the band, we like what you do and we want to take this film and bring it to Broadway in a way that nobody's expecting," BNL's Ed Robertson tells Billboard.com. "As much goodwill nostalgia as people have for the movie, it's pretty thin. It's a bunch of physical comedy by John Belushi and some good sketch comedy. I think what's really fun with this is we're going to go way beyond that set-up. It's going to be the characters from 'Animal House' and the sentiment of 'Animal House,' but it's going to go places you never expected... really sort of pushing all the kinds of cliches of musical theater and tapping into the sort of recklessness of 'Animal House' and trying to marry the two together."
Robertson says a draft for the first act of the musical -- which is being directed by Casey Nicholaw for Universal Pictures Stage Productions -- has been submitted and that "everyone is blown away," though there will be inevitable changes and re-writes. "When you do it out loud in front of people you can see where it could get better," Robertson notes. The team is "just starting to talk through the second act," and while a June 2013 opening in Boston was initially proposed Robertson says nobody wants to bring "Animal House" to the stage prematurely.
"It's a very long process, like writing two records' worth of music that's constantly being tweaked and changed and revised," he explains. "We're not used to it at all. You get, 'We love this song, we love this melody -- but can it be from a different character's point of view and about a different thing?' 'I suppose so. Let me get back to you in a couple of days...' It's very different from the way we usually work."
BNL has plenty of other things it's working on, too. After releasing the rarities compilation "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before!" in May, the Canadian quartet is prepping for the July 6 start of the Last Summer On Earth Tour with onetime H.O.R.D.E. tour partners Blues Traveler as well as Big Head Todd & the Monsters and Cracker. The group is also planning a run of symphony shows in Canada with arrangements by original keyboardist Andy Creeggan (brother of BNL bassist Jim Creeggan) and continues to work on a box set.
Meanwhile, Robertson adds, "We've been writing a ton of music and are really happy with where it's going." BNL has been recording in Toronto with producer Gavin Brown and has one song called "Boomerang" in the can that it may release as a stand-alone track in the near future.
"I think we've really kind of pulled back from even the notion of having to record (an album) anymore," Robertson says. "It's been a nice release from that pressure valve, to think that, 'Well, we don't need to get 12 to 14 songs plus bonus tracks done right now, 'cause I don't now how much that model exists anymore -- unless you're Justin Bieber or somebody who can sell 375,000 albums in the first week. For a band like us that has a great audience and a great live following, maybe it makes sense to record a song or two and put them out and then do another song or two and put them out. We'll see how it goes, but that sounds very appealing to me."
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