Special Feature - SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS - It's a Brolin Family Affair
We've heard of "POP UP" shops ... New York is used to that. But this may be the first "POP UP" show we've ever encountered here at Broadwayworld. On September 4th and 5th a SWAMP PRINCESS and a SPACE COWBOY happily landed on the lower East side on the stage of the WILD PROJECT. The Wild Project is new to us and is a fantastic space and welcome addition to the neighborhood. They are a Production Company and venue for Contemporary Theatre, film and visual art, located at 195 East 3rd Street and worth a visit, if SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS is any indication of the kind of fresh new work they will be presenting.
SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS is the conceptual brainchild of composers Megan Lui and Justin Johnson with producer and artist director Molly Brolin. Fascinating in concept and totally irreverant, magical and enjoyable, it boasts a totally unique and original score by Johnson and Lui. The use of the small stage was ingeniously designed by Sasha Flimlin and Erin Turner and gave the illusion of endless depth. The projections featured throughout were supremely executed by Javier Cruz.
Johnson, Lui and the Company of Marissa Mickelberg, Grace Lowman, Danielle Sullivan and Maia Friedman are totally committed to the strange and wonderful piece and that is where kudos must be given to director Eden Brolin. It's rare to see such cohesive work on such unique material.
Smile Swamp Princess tells the tale of the Swamp Princess and her Space Cowboy, with their love unfolding through magical rock ballads and up-tempo, colorful love songs. Immediately inspired by Karen O's Stop the Virgens and heavily influenced by glam rock and the concept of androgyny, Megan and Justin Johnson wanted to create a rock opera all their own that captured their musical influences in their storytelling: "The concept of Justin's character - a space cowboy - is kind of our homage to David Bowie, who for me is a major influence in the concept of a theatrical rock show."
With the Swamp Princess and Space Cowboy challenged to remain glamorous and to smile even when all signs point to the relationship running amuck, Smile Swamp Princess ends up presenting a story that glimmers with hope and a soundtrack that shines with wisdom. As Molly, the art director of the production, describes: "Smile Swamp Princess, the characters and the story itself, although silly and colorful and fun at first glance, is really an insight into the post-adolescent struggle into adulthood." The rock opera album genuinely reflects its creators' sentiments about growing up and finding yourself in the midst of swampy circumstances.
Director Brolin clearly had her eye on the prize and for such a young director, the details were (happily) noticeable.
Justin Johnson is his own creation and lives his music as SPACE COWBOY, as does Megan Lui as the SWAMP PRINCESS.
This piece has been in development for some time and this was their first presentation (60 minutes). On stage, the band - in addition to Justin Johnson on keyboards are Ben Larroquette on guitar, Jorn Bielfeldt on drums, and Cody Robbins on bass. Their feel and understanding of the music were clear to see in their approach as they played the score together.
Opening Night was SOLD-OUT. And, based on word-of-mouth, the 2nd (and last) show sold out by noon. Keep an eye out for SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS.
For more information on Smile Swamp Princess, visit www.smileswampprincess.com
A Muddy Boots Production, 2013. Photos by Gillian Arndt and Kassy Balli