“When I first saw Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog I recognized its potential as a successful stage show. From the dialogue to the songs to the story to the characters it was clear that it would work” says Sirc Michaels, the director of the Las Vegas stage production of the viral hit. He continues, “Let’s not kid ourselves. This show is great, and the source material is hysterically funny, but it also has a built-in fanbase, the sort of fanbase that most shows of any sort would kill to have.”
The source material he is talking about is the 2008 Internet comic-tragic musical written by Joss Whedon (creator of the TV version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), his brothers Zack and Jed, and actress Maurissa Tancharoen. It tells the story of Billy (Dr. Horrible), a would-be super villain and his nemesis, Captain Hammer, a hero who is always one-upping him. Hammer even steals the girl of the evildoer’s dreams. But Horrible will stop at nothing to attain his goal, suffering collateral losses along the way.
“One thing you have to realize is that not just anyone can produce this show. It is licensed out by Whedon and his people personally, so there are limited people who get to stage it, and in fact they have stopped releasing the rights for stage productions which means whoever has staged it up until now might be it for a while,” Michaels said.
“That means you have several responsibilities. One is to the authors of the material. You are the caretaker of this precious material and it is up to you to make sure it reaches the stage in a manner in which it will do their work justice. After that you are responsible to the fans, to make sure you give them what they are looking for. There is nothing — nothing — worse than a cult fan who accuses you of ruining their show. Of course, the flip side of that is there are few accolades you want more than a true fan’s, and we’ve gotten them time and time again from fans that have driven from all corners of the country to see the show. Finally, of course, you have a responsibility to create the story in a way that anyone can get into it, regardless of their previous experience with the show.”
If the night I went to the Onyx Theater to view the show was any indication, this show found the audience it was looking for. The place was so jammed, they had to put chairs in the aisles to service all the customers.
Michaels, having produced The Rocky Horror Show in theaters all over the United States, is a natural for this type of production. He even added a short film that was shown before the actual play.
“It is based on the Dr. Horrible comic books written by Zack Whedon and published by Dark Horse that tells the backstory of Dr. H, Captain Hammer and company. … It is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is vitamin-fortified, fuel efficient, high in protein, flame retardant, and tastes just like chicken. It can leap tall casinos in a single payout, it is ribbed for her pleasure, and it’ll melt in your mouth but not in your hands. It is, in a word, kickass.”
The short was the weakest part of the evening for me. Perhaps hampered by the fact that it was shown as people were being seated, nobody really paid attention and it went on for far too long. The same actors that were so full of life on stage came off as kind of flat on-screen. With the $15 admission price (the show itself is only about 50 minutes), it would have been wise to show the film as the lights dimmed, giving the entire audience a full length production and commanding the viewers’ collective attention.
This was Michael’s first Las Vegas show, but as the new Artistic Director at the Onyx, he’s working on a lot of different projects. He’s planning a number of stage shows for the fall and a feature film this summer called Future Project.
“It deals with a team of superheroes battling an evil party planner with bunny ears who comes from the future to destroy the world. It’s got that right balance of sci-fi fun and human heart to make it a potential hit,” he said.
Jason Harris is a local stand-up comedian.