“Lizard Boy”: Musicalizing Comics Like American Mythology

For decades, comics have lived in children’s imaginations, shaping their ideas of heroism, adventure and community. In these small panels exist some of our larger models, designed with spectacular detail. These heroes have made it to the big screen, but what if we could bring them on stage?

This is exactly what Justin Huertas set out to do in 2011 with his original musical, “Lizard Boy”, now performed in person at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley for the company’s 51st anniversary.

The production centers on Trevor (played by Huertas), a recluse living in Seattle who feels defined by his lizard skin, obtained through a childhood encounter with a magical dragon. It only comes out once a year for Monsterfest, a party where people dress up as magical creatures – Trevor can blend in with confidence. One year, Trevor meets Cary (William A. Williams), a Seattle newbie, on Grindr. As Trevor navigates his new relationship with Cary, he meets Siren (Kirsten “Kiki” deLohr Helland), who tells him a prophecy: the dragons will end the world the next day, and he must help her stop them.

Not only Lizard boy features an extremely talented three-person cast, but it also skillfully incorporates musical instruments into its blocking. Huertas, Williams, and deLohr Helland play guitar, piano, cello, ukulele, kazoo, shaker, and various percussion instruments, even using some as weapons. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, director Brandon Ivie said their skillful instrumental use “adds to that sense of fun Justin has in his writing and allows the series to truly embrace the imagination that has entered into. the story”.

Siren (deLohr Helland) tries to convince Trevor (Huertas) to join her. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne)

There aren’t many shows in the American musical theater repertoire that are based on comic book structure and storytelling. Productions such as “Spiderman: Turn off the Dark” have been discontinued due to artist injuries and high-risk stunts attempted on stage. “Lizard Boy” finds its connection to comics outside of these anatomical planes – thanks to his meticulous character development.

“Comics and comic book characters and stories lend themselves remarkably well to musical theater, because basically, [telling stories through comics] concerns people in search of identity and hope. Much of it is family and [characters] find who they are. They have a lot to sing about, ”Ivie reflected in our discussion. He aptly described the comics as “American mythology,” encompassing their timelessness and universal appeal.

From the audience’s perspective, Ivie’s simplicity of directing and minimal theatrical effects put the emphasis on the actors themselves. Each performer was blown away by his vocal versatility and ability to sing while dancing and playing a myriad of instruments. Ivie wanted to emphasize the character journey because it is more rewarding than the temporary theatrical spectacle that movies and television often focus on in superhero storytelling.

From left to right: deLohr Helland, Huertas, Williams sing with a set of musical instruments. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne)

Personally, this show has hit home. Growing up in Seattle myself, I immediately recognized projections of famous Seattle landmarks such as the Space Needle, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and even the Dick’s Drive-In sign. Over the phone, Ivie and I joked about how he sent Dick’s Drive-In packaging to TheatreWorks for props. Also, I grew up attending the same theater (Village Theater) where Huertas and Ivie first met years ago when they were in school.

Lizard Boy “is an endearing, grounded story for the masses; incorporating elements of the traditional comic book structure and musical theater style performance, this production is the perfect in-person theatrical experience after a year and a half of isolation. of the theatrical community.

“Lizard Boy” is available to watch in person between October 6 and October 31, or to stream on demand from October 19 to November 7. For more information, please visit the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley website.

About Karren Campbell

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