'Chaturbate: The Musical!' Breaks a Leg on Opening Night
LOS ANGELES — On the corner of Santa Monica and Lillian Way in Hollywood, Calif. a myriad of colorful personalities eagerly waited on Saturday night for the Sacred Fools Theater doors to open so they could feast their eyes and ears on Dan Margules' “Chaturbate: The Musical!”
The production follows wide-eyed Broadway hopeful, Laura London, who has a dirty little secret: to make ends meet in the Big Apple, London takes it all off on Chaturbate.com. When Mr. Handcock — the producer of the family friendly musical she’s auditioning for — discovers her online sexcapades, her unwholesome double life threatens to end her stage career forever.
As part of the 12 scenes written for New Musicals Inc.’s “Hollywood Fringe Festival,” the 20-minute, one-act musical reduced the quaint, jam-packed black box theatre to absolute hysterics.
Author Margules, along with lyricist Chris Edgar and musician David Jayden Anthony, mixed raunch and wit fluidly, bringing a positive camming experience to the stage.
Tamara Philbrick, who plays the lead character, does a tremendous job at playing both a doe-eyed ingenue and a secret online vixen. Mackayla Hill and Miatta Ade Lebile, playing the residential mean girls Summit and Nasasha respectively, act as the perfect antagonists to encourage Laura to achieve her Broadway dreams, while simultaneously defending her Chaturbate roots.
Despite the use of minimal props, the piece manages to create a seamless separation between a Chaturbate chatroom and a Broadway audition room. To create the cyberspace distinction, actors Theodore Georgios Crosby, Matt JJ Miller, Chandler Reed and Richard Van Slyke sit behind Philbrick on small podiums, selfie sticks in hands and only the cellphone’s flash to illuminate their faces.
All in all, Margules' “Chaturbate: The Musical!” manages to keep the viewer enthralled, entertained and on their toes through the entire show. The lyrics are smart, sexy and offer a whimsical look at the camming industry with songs such as “Living the Dream” and “Tokens of My Love.”
When asked about how the idea blossomed, Margules said he drew inspiration from a real life cam model, whose dream was to use camming as a way to finance her lifelong dream of moving to NYC and becoming a writer for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
“For a long time I’d been trying to find a story that could be set in the world of porn but avoid the ‘Boogie Nights’ trope of sex work always leading to tragedy,” Margules explained. “When I first heard about camming, it seemed to be the one branch of adult entertainment where the performers have complete autonomy and control over their careers, where almost anyone could use the social media tools available to them to follow the entrepreneurial path of a Jenna Jameson. And they don’t seem the least bit ashamed of what they do. In fact, you might hear more complaints from someone working some minimum wage job.
“I’d read about girls camming their way through college, paying off their student loans, being able to buy their first house before they could legally drink,” Margules added. “In all storytelling, you’re always looking for a protagonist with a goal. In musicals in particular, though, you want some specific, tangible goal that the lead actor or actress can sing about in a ‘want’ song and that you can see if she got it at the end of the show. Along those lines, I made my character a cam girl trying to make it on Broadway to make it fit the musical format better. It just so happened I had that eureka moment at the same time that New Musicals Inc. had invited me to participate in their Fringe project, so I teamed up with a great lyricist and composer and we decided to put together this short version of the show to test out the concept. So far, it’s been a blast.”
JJ Miller, who played Mr. Handcock, offered a deeper look into his character, who anonymously indulges in London’s Chaturbate shows, while actively denying her a role in his production because of her online nudity.
“Preparing for my role was very interesting because Mr. Handcock is the only character you see in the chatroom and in real life,” he said. “We were trying to make the two sides of this character feel different, showing the man hiding behind a username and the version of himself he tries to show the world when he's not online.
“This idea became enhanced because he's basically the troll of the chat as well, which I always assume would act differently without the anonymity of a username,” he continued. “While the two will — in some instances — blend into one another, most of the time there is a clear division in vocal, physical and emotional characteristics between them.”
As for whether or not the cast sees a future in camming ... well, it seems unlikely.
“The show was really fun,” she enthused. “I really didn’t know anything about web camming to begin with, but the experience was enlightening. Honestly, I’ve been living in L.A. for so long, I’ve learned that it’s such a crazy town … I don’t judge!”
The production is directed by Denis McCourt, with music directed by Kevin Mathie. The stage manager is Morgan Aiken.
Showtimes for “Chaturbate: The Musical!” are as follows: Wednesday, June 14, at 11 p.m.; Thursday, June 15, at 6 p.m.; Sunday, June 18, at 4:30 p.m.; and Friday, June 23, at 11 p.m.
The Hollywood Fringe Festival will continue at the Sacred Fools Theater at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. 90038. Tickets for “Chaturbate: The Musical!” can be purchased here.