Wild Things makes these artists sing

Flying Fox and the Hunter/Gatherers (and friends) take a beloved children’s book and make it a rock-opera

“...And for my next number: Billie Jean.” Jesse Krause (above) of local orchestral funk group Flying Fox and the Hunter/Gatherers, is awaiting the debut of his latest opus, a musical adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. James Wall

Following on the success of last year’s Songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesse Krause and Darren Grunau of local orchestral funk six-piece Flying Fox and the Hunter/Gatherers are at it again.

This time they have adapted Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Where the Wild Things Are into a brand-new rock opera.

The Wild Things, premiering this Friday, Feb. 26 at the Park Theatre, will also be featured at this year’s Fringe Festival.

The story follows the young hero Max as he sails from his bedroom to the island of the Wild Things.

This is not the first time Sendak’s story has been set to music or adapted, let alone recently, as mere months ago film director Spike Jonze released his personal take on it as well.

“I thought it was stunning visually. I thought the costumes were fucking sweet,” said Grunau over a beer at Carlos and Murphy’s last week.

Writing a rock opera was a natural step for Krause and Grunau.

The two are members of local party darlings Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers, whose music has been taking on an increasingly theatrical bent recently.

Couple that with Jesus Christ Superstar last year and the trajectory starts to become clear.

“It takes a lot of work, but it’s a more interesting niche. We don’t want to be playing in bars for the rest of our lives … There’s also the power of creating a narrative rather than a bunch of disconnected songs,” explained Grunau.

Sitting in on their first rehearsal, it must be said that the masks and costumes the band has created, mostly with their bare hands, are unique and wonderful.

They are nothing like the ones in the big-budget film adaptation, but they’re memorable all the same.

The apparent minimalist approach to set design adds to the whimsy of the rock-opera.

They do not distract from the action but lend credibility to the story.

If the sets were more like the ones used by some ‘professional’ companies, all of the child-like magic Sendak creates between the lines of his book would be lost.

Additionally, the music Krause, Grunau and their merry band has created here is unabashedly fun, rollicking and often, like a true rock-opera, brilliantly epic.

The actors, musicians and stage hands work as a collective, bouncing ideas off each other while each section (of musicians, actors, etc.) maintains semi-autonomy.

The Wild Things is, in all senses of the word, what theatre was meant to be: an event you have to see to believe.

For those who do not yet have tickets, beware: Friday’s performance is already sold-out.

But that just means you’ll have to wait until this summer’s Fringe Festival to see what all the fuss is about.

Published in Volume 64, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 25, 2010)

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