Contemplating one’s existence through the art of song and dance is no strange idea to theatre. Wasn’t it Sondheim’s Company that asked us what it truly means to Be Alive? Or the heart-wrenching Les Miserables that has its lead begging to know, “Who am I?” Or, of course, in Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked, in which we are all left with the cold truth that, “Being the Wicked Witch of the West is, like, sooo not fair!” It is, however, Donovan Leitch’s new musical, The Dark Root of the Dream, that takes this sensibility to the extreme.
Reprising his role as a deliciously outlandish character (he played a rocker transvestite in Hedwig and the Angry Itch), Leitch will star as Mr. E in The Dark Root of the Dream, which he also co-created. This curiously named protagonist is, as the LA Times describes, a “superstar-provocateur of rock and other media, who happens to be the guilt-ridden fictional son of the novelist Virginia Woolf.” The oddity of Mr. E’s lineage sets up for an absurd case of identity crisis. His mother’s troubling suicide unwittingly forces Mr. E to “delve into deep, dark literary caverns.” These caverns have him convinced that he is the alter ego of everyone from Friedrich Nietzsche to Oscar Wilde to Edgar Allen Poe.
The accompanying music to the production will be from a Gypsy orchestra, which Leitch insists on labeling, “Gypsy Glam.” It sounds kitschy or (at best) campy, but isn’t all musical theatre? To sum up: Philosophers, poets, and a bunch of smelly, ’80s hair metal dudes playing gypsy music. In other words, everything we love in a musical.