From 24 June, for five performances, Curveball Creative will offer online audiences the chance to witness the Australian premiere of the 2017 hit Off-Broadway musical Who’s your Baghdaddy (or how I started the Iraq War).
Presented as a support group for people who started the Iraq War, the musical is described as “dark, boisterous and irreverent”, focussing on a number of mid-level spies and their actions that contributed to the outbreak of war.
The online premiere will be directed by Neil Gooding and star a cast of eight, which includes Blake Erickson (Shrek), Phillip Lowe (Georgy Girl), Laura Murphy (Muriel’s Wedding), Matthew Predny (Kinky Boots), Adam Rennie (The Rocky Horror Show), Katrina Retallick (Come From Away), Justin Smith (Billy Elliot) and Troy Sussman (Aladdin).
In recent years, Adam Rennie has been based in New York City, but has travelled back to the Pacific region a number of times, performing in both Australia and New Zealand. Last year, he played the title role in the New Zealand premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and was last seen on stage in Australia as Dr Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Show.
“I’ve been touring around with a bunch of jazz shows, performing all over America,” Rennie tells Theatre People. “I think I’ve been to something like 38 or 39 of the states in America … America is an amazing and crazy place to be, and New York is, obviously, unlike anywhere else.”
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Rennie was due to return to New Zealand to perform in another show. At the time when international borders were closed, Rennie was back at home in Sydney visiting family.
“For the first few weeks, I was laying pretty low and trying not to zoom out too much and think about the bigger questions of what my life is going to look like and what happens when we don’t have an industry,” says Rennie.
“I was very lucky that this show came along and I was able to work on something that’s so different. At this time, it’s such an interesting landscape of theatre. We get to make it all up together. It’s great to be able to turn up and, with a great room of people, try to figure out how to entertain and share stories while the world looks like it does right now.”
Who’s your Baghdaddy (or how I started the Iraq War) is a satirical musical comedy with music and book by Marshall Paillet, lyrics and book by A.D. Penedo. The show is set in an “A.A.-style” support group meeting for people who believe (or don’t want to believe) that their actions led to the start of the Iraq War. It follows the recruitment and eventual disgrace of an Iraqi defector, codenamed ‘Curveball’, and the use and misuse of his testimony by the CIA, State Department and George W. Bush’s administration.
Rennie fell in love with the piece when he read the script, but he had no idea how it could work as an online musical via Zoom.
“The more that Neil spoke about it and talked about his vision for the show, I bought more and more into it and I’m really excited to see what we create,” he says.
Rennie also shares some further insight into how it will work.
“They’re hiring out a house, and the eight of us are all setting up in individual rooms of the house, with our own cameras, our own desk setups, and all of our audio. All the feeds then go to one central computer and then it’s streamed out from there. That way, we’re able to get around all the lag issues,” he explains.
“Once we get into the house … we’re all completely socially distanced the entire time. It’s going to be a very interesting way to rehearse … We’re all in the same space but no one else is in our individual rooms, but we’re all coming together and singing harmonies and doing choreography and everything you would expect to have happen in a big musical.”
But Rennie says it’s all coming together well.
“What’s been interesting is how … everybody doing their work in their own space is still coming together in a way that feels really cohesive,” he says.
The goal is to create a true live theatre experience.
“None of it is going to be recorded,” Rennie says. “We’re all performing live; we just don’t happen to be in the same location as our audience.”
Rennie is excited to play a part in reinventing the live theatre experience for these unprecedented times.
“When this went down, everybody had to scramble to figure out how we can still share stories and how people stuck at home can still come together and enjoy theatre,” he says.
“I think we’re walking along a road where we get the best of both worlds – we get to use the technology but because we are live, what we’re finding so far, anyway, is that you still get the excitement of a live theatre experience.
“There’s something great about being able to take [live theatre] and put it in a medium that works for this moment, and to create something that works specifically at this point in this time and in this way of telling stories. It’s not a poor man’s version of live theatre; it’s its own style of storytelling.”
WHO’S YOUR BAGHDADDY (OR HOW I STARTED THE IRAQ WAR)
Dates and times: Wednesday 24 – Sunday 28 June 2020 @ 7.30pm