Is the Shoggoth curse lifted?
A daring and entirely insane group of talented Swedes recently succeeded in staging the unstageable musical, in their own excellent Swedish translation, En shoggoth på taket. The show was the highlight of Miskatonicon, a weekend of Lovecraftian goodness in Stockholm, attended by fans from throughout Europe and across the world. Three robust performances of the show played to packed houses and received lengthy standing ovations.
Led by director/producer Jenny Heldestad, the inventive cast and crew solved some of the show's unsolvable technical problems quite impressively. The gigantic Cthulhu foot which came down and smashed Herbert and Prudence was outstanding, as were the very clever and beautifully sculpted Deep One masks by Anders Muammar. Even some of the simpler effects, like the opening of the Miskatonic Library and the ancient tomb, were very satisfying. The delightful cast of twenty-one players added lots of great little touches to a very strong foundation. Led by the strong performance of Ola Nilsson as Henry Armitage, other standouts included Maria Wikström as Prudence, Magnus Åberg as Herbert West, Elin Jakobsson as Lavinia Whately, and Tobias Wrigstad as Old Man Marsh. Martin Lysén and Niclas Stockenstrand provided excellent comic relief as Carter and Warren, and Malin Toverud was the most adorable ghoul ever seen on stage.
The musical numbers were generally quite well staged, with the excellent accompaniment of the Cthulhu Klezmer band: Qaryn Hallberg (contrabass), Magnus Perlerius (piano), Aron Ambrosiani (trumpet), and Olof Somell (clarinet). The "Shoggoth Prayer" number was both beautiful and deeply disturbing, while the zombie chair-dancing in "To Life" was hilarious. The audience could not help but clap all the way through "If I Were a Deep One," and the final number, "Miskatonic," was actually rather moving.
Teater Tentakel did an excellent job with limited resources, and might just have broken the Shoggoth curse. Here's hoping that their triumph will inspire other theatre companies around the world to produce the unproduceable, and bring an even higher level of technical and artistic sophistication to the show.Teater
The Doom that Came to A Shoggoth on the Roof
There are some things that man was not meant to adapt to musical theatre, and A Shoggoth on the Roof has long been regarded as a musical that cannot and must not be produced. The original 1979 attempt to stage it ended in mysterious failure. A daring Chicago theatre company, Defiant Theatre, was prepared to take on the cursed show and stage the world premiere in Chicago this October. A theater space was rented and work had begun on the production. However, under threat of legal action by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the composer and lyricist of the beloved classic Fiddler on the Roof, Defiant has regretfully decided it must cancel the production. Shoggoth is, once again, silenced.
A Shoggoth on the Roof is a parody, and parody is a fair use well protected under US copyright law. Although neither HPLHS nor Defiant Theatre are (or would have been) in the wrong, neither organization has the financial strength to withstand an onslaught from the great old ones Bock and Harnick and their legal servitors. Insanity rules yet again.
The show has a life of its own, and we cannot predict what may happen next. The Shoggoth may yet climb to the rooftop again. Meanwhile, for the many people who told us they were eagerly anticipating a trip to Chicago to see the show this year, we suggest go to Portland, OR and attend the HP Lovecraft Film Festival instead.
The HPLHS has created a professionally-produced CD featuring all eleven numbers from A Shoggoth on the Roof, performed by a small hoarde of professional singers and crazed thespians. Hear MP3 samples of tracks like Shoggoth Prayer or Tentacles. The album will remain available for the time being, but quantities will be limited. Get yours while you still can!
The book and lyrics of A Shoggoth on the Roof were written some time during the early 1970s, by a person whose name we are not permitted to reveal. A former member of the HPLHS, this unnamable person was later institutionalized, and an agreement with his family prevents us from giving his identity. However, the HPLHS has at last acquired the rights to publish the script.
The Stage Production
In 1979 the Other Gods Theatre, a troupe of Los Angeles thespians, began production of the all-dancing, all-singing theatre extravaganza: A Shoggoth on the Roof. It is not known how or where they acquired their copy of the script, although evidence suggests it differed from the version in the possession of the HPLHS.
In 1999, long-time Lovecraftian writers/producers Sean Branney and Andrew Leman managed to obtain a forgotten press release and the only known copy of this footage from A Shoggoth on the Roof. With these clues, they set out on a relentless mission: to learn who would actually attempt to stage a Lovecraftian musical, and what happened when they did. The result is A Shoggoth on the Roof: the Documentary.
A Shoggoth on the Roof: the Documentary premiered at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR and Salem, MA in October 2000, and was later screened at the NecronomiCon, 5th Edition, in Providence, Rhode Island August 17-19, 2001.
All materials © 2000 Branney/Leman