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Bruce Hornsby: Musical(ly) Inclined

Blog kindly contributed by @juliegr (Julie Gray-Roller)

New York City rehearsals completed, the cast and crew have moved to Norfolk, Virginia in preparation for opening night.  “SCKBSTD“, the new Bruce Hornsby musical, will take the stage at The Wells Theatre beginning Tuesday, January 18.  The world premiere production features music and lyrics by Williamsburg native and Grammy award winner Bruce Hornsby, lyrics by Chip deMatteo and book by Clay McLeod Chapman. The show is based on an original story by Bruce Hornsby. The production’s official opening is January 21 and will run through February 6, 2011.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn Johnson, Director of Marketing at The Wells Theatre, who says ticket sales have been brisk and the atmosphere at The Wells is happy but chaotic as they prepare for next week’s premiere.  The singers and dancers continue to hone their performances as final touches are put to the set.  The producers confirm that “Walls are going up, trees are going in, rolling doors and windows are being built, and mechanical tracks are being fine-tuned.”

While the details of the storyline have been kept secret in advance of the premiere, a recent press release explains that SCKBSTD is the story of a close-knit small town that is rocked with rumor and paranoia when a stranger moves in and cruises the streets in his Dodge.

“SCKBSTD  is a very relatable story about a family — a couple running a business together, sandwiched between caring for their children and an aging parent.  Then a stranger comes to town and the resulting fears and rumors turn their daily lives upside down.  Most rock musicals are about teenage angst.  This is a rock musical about middle-age angst. There are light-hearted, funny moments, touching moments… ultimately it’s a story of redemption and love,” says co-producer Mike Rafael.

Last Saturday night a preview of the songs of SCKBSTD was offered at The Wells.  Daily Press columnist Sam McDonald attended the concert as Bruce Hornsby performed solo to the sold out theatre.  McDonald reports that the songs range from “New Orleans boogie, achingly tender ballads, Frank Zappa-like rock, off-kilter jazz, and even polka.”

McDonald provides an example of the tongue-in-cheek humor embedded in some of the show’s tunes.  “… of the tunes played for the first time in public Saturday was “Where’s the Bat.” In the lyrics to that song, a suburban housewife confesses she’s so frustrated with her husband that she’s ready to bludgeon him with a Louisville Slugger.

“Hot damn, where is it? Where’s the bat, when I need it?” Hornsby sang, getting into character. The crowd loved it.”

The songwriter himself acknowledges that the music is unlike anything he’s previously written.  “I’ve enjoyed pushing the boundaries with the music. There’s a broad range of styles here, musically and vocally… it took a lot of colors to paint this story,’ said Hornsby.  ‘The whole reason for being here is in creating something that moves people, something soulful that makes a connection.”

Bruce Hornsby is known for his willingness to innovate and to incorporate a variety of sounds and styles into his music.  During his long and successful career he has ventured from rock into jazz, classical, bluegrass and even electronica.  I’m looking forward to witnessing this new phase in his career.

Only a few days remain until the official opening of “SCKBSTD” in Virginia.  I’ll be there, and then I’ll be here with all the details on the play, the music, the actors and the crowd.  Stay tuned!


Photographs reposted with permission:

Excerpt from Sam McDonald’s concert review reposted with permission:

Many thanks to Marilyn Johnson of The Wells Theatre; purchase tickets for “SCKBSTD” here:

Follow SCKBSTD on Facebook here:

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. That was really well written. I enjoyed reading it.

    Ever since Mama Mia took over Broadway, new shows have been opening based on the music of a single artist or group: Billy Joel’s “Moving Out,” Greenday’s…what’s it called? I don’t feel like googling it. “American Idiot”? I’ve always thought Taylor should do a show based on the music of Ray Charles.

    Anyway, can’t wait to hear how you like this new show, Julie!

    January 16, 2011
  2. Thanks, Julie! I’ve been following the development of this play online for the last year, and can’t wait to hear all about the debut! I know that several of the songs come from Bruce’s most recent album, “Levitate”, but I think additional songs were written just for the play. Looking forward to your review!

    January 16, 2011
  3. hicksfan7 #

    very interesting THN – anybody have any link to a place to catch a bit of the music to listen to? Always liked Bruce……ESPECIALLY of course – The Way It Is – older song but actually relevant even today. And of course, Mandolin Rain…oh my.

    January 17, 2011
  4. tishtx #

    Thanks for the link to the album on Amazon. It will be interesting to see if musical theater audience accepts this new kind of musical.

    January 18, 2011
  5. I have a silly question. How do they pronounce the name of this musical?

    January 19, 2011
    • sickbastard. That’s right, say it. Say it three times in a row. You’ll get used to it; rolls off the tongue, really. Can be used in various social situations followed by, “Oh yes, that’s the new play I’m seeing next week.”

      January 19, 2011
  6. Ooooohhh!! lol. I was seeing, “sick busted” which doesn’t make any sense. ‘Yours’ is better.

    January 19, 2011
  7. juliegr #

    SCKBSTD or “Sick Bastard” – Bruce Hornsby and his co-lyricist Chip DeMatteo are responsible for all the music in the play. Bruce treated a delighted audience to a special concert at which he played all the music from the play on January 8. Opening night on January 18 was sold out and the cast received a standing ovation and the local music critic wrote a fair review.

    I was pleased to attend the play January 22 and was thoroughly entertained. Catch SCKBSTD when it moves to Broadway if you can. Hopefully the music will be recorded for purchase in the future.

    January 25, 2011

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