Rock Bottom Becomes a New Rock Musical

Jul 3, 2011
Rock Bottom

The Landless Theatre Company presents the original rock musical Rock Bottom A Rock Opus (based on the novel by Michael Shilling) at District of Columbia Arts Center from July 15-August 7. The musical is a collaboration between Michael Shilling, Landless Artistic Director Andrew Lloyd Baughman and award-winning songwriter/musician Talia Segal. The production is directed by Melissa Baughman (Diamond Dead, 2008 Best Musical Pick of the Capital Fringe).

"Rock Bottom A Rock Opus" runs July 15 - August 7 at DCAC, with performances Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 PM.

Rock Bottom is the story of the final day in the life of a rock band as it crashes and burns. The Blood Orphans were supposed to be the next big thing in rock, but today they find themselves washed up in Amsterdam, where bands go to die: a coke-fueled female manager, a sex addict drummer with a dark secret, a disgruntled bass player with a skin condition, a mistreated guitarist, and a born-again Buddhist frontman. It's a darkly comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption.

Seattle based novelist Michael Shilling teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, and has extensive life experience as a rock musician. Rock Bottom was published in 2009 by Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, and has earned rave reviews, including the title "best rock'n'roll novel ever written" by Houston Press.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think Rock Bottom would be musicalized, but now, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense," said Shilling. "The book's characters, cranky as they can be, are just born drama queens... So taking the story to this new medium feels very right."

Landless Artistic Director Andrew Lloyd Baughman discovered the book while perusing a local bookstore for material in 2009. His past rock musical creations include the award-winning DIAMOND DEAD (with Brian Cooper and Emmy-winning composer Richard Hartley) and Washington Post Editor's Pick CARRIE POTTER AT THE NEW MOON PROM (with punk musician-composer Jen Tonon). His musical GLEEAM will debut at this August's NYC International Fringe Festival.

"It's my Quixotic quest to forge the rock musical that actually works," said Baughman. "We've had success with camp, but genuine rock is so personal... it's tough to filter through the voice of musical theatre characters, but the characters in Michael's novel were so honest and compelling. I felt I have known them all in my own band experiences. This material has true rock potential."

While Baughman collaborated with Shilling on writing a script that is faithful to the novel, he enlisted the support of award-winning songwriter-musician Talia Segal to write some of the music. Segal is a New York based musician currently working on her third album. She has been a finalist for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and several others. Her songs have garnered licensing contracts with MTV, Oxygen Network, Indesit, and E! Television.

Segal performs her own music in the production, along with Baughman and a cast of musician-actors who infuse the production with legitimate rock musicianship.

"Nobody 'randomly bursts into song' in Rock Bottom," adds Segal. "All the characters that sing in Rock Bottom are actual "singers", and play their own instruments. It's a show about musicians, performed BY musicians."

Segal's song "Firefly" from Rock Bottom will be included on her upcoming album. A single mp3 will be available for download from Landless in the coming weeks to promote the production.

The production is directed by Andrew's wife and Landless creative partner Melissa Baughman (DIAMOND DEAD, PRESIDENT HARDING IS A ROCK STAR), and stars Vaughn Irving (Imagination Stage's Wind in the Willows and Mulan) and Judith Baicich (Cherry Red Productions). Supporting cast member/musicians include Thomas Jackson, Maia Henkin, Laura L. Fontaine and theatre newcomer Theodore Vossler (Skylines, The Dead Deads).

"Rock Bottom is a pure rock show," said director Melissa Baughman. "It's loaded with dark situations, dark comedy, and dirty rock. Don't come expecting Oklahoma." The production includes nudity, explicit language and intense graphic sexual situations. Not recommended for audiences under 18.

Shilling advises that audiences who attend the first performances of his Rock Opus will experience "the soul of Blake. The sauciness of Byron. The eloquence of Marlowe. And, of course, the hammer of the gods."

Rock Bottom A Rock Opus runs July 15 through August 7, Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 PM. All performances are held at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Admission is $25.