New Paradise Labs will reprise 27 next spring; download an interview and guitar improvisations by cast member Alec MacLaughlin
Last fall, Philly’s New Paradise Laboratories bridged the worlds of rock and roll icons, improvised music and experimental theater in 27, a surreal production that imagined an after-life after-party of music’s infamous “27 club.” In The Key’s review of the show at the time, we described how the alluring, thought-provoking Live Arts / Fringe production “raised questions about fame, immortality and the pressures of public scrutiny” by checking in with the spirits of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain.
It’s not a straight linear story, it didn’t always make sense, but if you let go and went with it, it moved you. Evidently we weren’t alone in that reaction, since word just tripped down the wire of the theater company’s plans to reprise 27 next spring.
Artistic director Whit MacLaughlin called the production “a watershed moment for New Paradise Laboratories,” adding that “We got to blend amazing live music into a piece that dealt with purgatory in an almost classical Greek way.”
In planning out its spring season, NPL will stage a remount of 27 in the spring – though the venue and dates are being determined. (Last time they called the Rittenhouse Square-area Plays and Players theater home, and the set installation was remarkable and transportive.)
Another highlight of 27 was the production’s omniscient narrator / musical accompanist Alec MacLaughlin – nephew of Whit MacLaughlin – who played a whirlwind solo guitar backdrop that interwove melodies from popular rock songs with stretches of expressive drone, noise and borderline prog playing.
“I felt that Alec … brought a level of grandeur to the piece through the way he reimagined the catalogues of several 27 Club artists,” said Whit. “He can make one guitar ring out with symphonic effect.”
As the production wound down last fall, we invited Alec to WXPN studios to shred for our microphones, and then have a conversation about guitar and its influence on his life, how he approaches writing and playing music, the experience of being in his first theatrical production and how it changed his outlook on creating. Listen to that interview below, and download the three guitar improvisations you hear in the background. After the jump, watch a newly-produced trailer for 27.