Gil Scott-Heron, a non-violent but radical black activist, coined the phrase “The revolution will not be televised” in the early 1970s, and it entered into the public sphere. He was partially right, in that revolutions happen when people participate, not when they stand on the sidelines and hope. But sometimes they are televised, and in at least one example of highly questionable judgment, they are enacted on stage.
Specifically, 2008’s Dance Dance Revolution: The Musical.
It isn’t the only stage musical based on a video game; a few of them have already been produced in Japan. Those musicals take the story from a video game and translate it to stage, often with new twists to keep the narrative interesting for the fans who are expected to make up the majority of the audience.
Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was limited in that regard, unfortunately, because it’s a game about stepping on arrow pads in time to music.
The creators were not casual about their choice of topic. The show was created by Les Freres Corbusier, a group of friends whose focus is avante-garde plays. They’d had some prior critical success.
Playbill described the NYC opening for its readers:
Les Freres transforms the Ohio Theater into a fully immersive, bombed-out discothèque as it fuses unmerciful Japanese rave music with deeply regrettable sophomoric comedy in the futuristic dance spectacular, Dance Dance Revolution. Riffing on fizzy dance musicals like ‘Flashdance’ and death sport movies such as ‘Rollerball,’ Dance Dance Revolution is set in an Orwellian society where dance is illegal. A group of local street toughs harbor no hope of overthrowing the fascistic no-fun government — until a mysterious dance prophet named Moonbeam Funk arrives.
It was a dubious enterprise, but due to the combination of Les Freres Corbusier’s reputation and the popularity of the video game, all showings of the short two week run were sold out before the curtain went up for the first time.
The audience was treated to, as expected, some original music and many existing DDR songs. What they were certainly not expecting was that all of the DDR tunes were from the DDR Disney game. This dark cross between 1984 and Footloose was set against the driving techno beat versions of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, It’s a Small World and the Mickey Mouse March.
If the creators wanted to ensure no video evidence remained of their work, involuntarily recruiting the Disney copyright lawyers proved that there was at least something brilliant about the production.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite Disney song?