Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Billy (Charles Johnson) is just like you. You have a J.D., an M.D. or a PhD in Political Science; Billy has a PhD in Horribleness. You hunger for a position with those powerful K Street lobbyists or that white-shoe law firm; Billy longs to join the Evil League of Evil. You have someone who you admire at the pinnacle of your profession; Billy has Bad Horse (briefly, Clay Comer wearing the head of a horse). Like you, Billy desires to take over the world. Also, you pant after that hot person at the Laundromat (Stefanie Garcia); so does Billy. You have a moronic wingman; Billy has the sweat-spewing Moist (Matt Baughman). You have an arch-nemesis, who gets all the things you want, and so does Billy. His is named Captain Hammer (Comer). Finally, you have a nom de plume (check out the comments section in this website, or any other). So does Billy: Dr. Horrible.

And so, armed with ambition and optimism, and his freeze ray, and his death ray, Billy strides out into the crepuscular night, determined to defeat his muscular arch-nemesis (who occasionally will throw cars at him, and also give him painful wedgies), win the affections of his Lady (he is working up the nerve to speak to her) and earn his position with the Evil League of Evil. It is much the same way with you, Young American Striver, which is why you faithfully followed the YouTube sensation, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, written by Buffy the Fearless Vampire Slayer author Joss Whedon and a bunch of his relatives, and featuring Neil Patrick Harris, who used to be Doogie Howser. And that’s why you’ll be seeing Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog by Landless Theatre.

(l-r) Charles Johnson as Dr. Horrible and Clay Comer as Captain Hammer

The script which Landless follows is relentlessly faithful to the 2008 YouTube version (see below), leavened with a musical “commentary” written, more or less, in the style of an after-show talk-back, if all the participants had dropped acid just before starting.

The chorus – Hannah Jane Ginsberg, Anna Jackson, and Richard Westerkamp, all of whom double as Bad Horse’s minions – takes center stage, and they are fabulous. Director Andrew Baughman shows up and does a fantastic rap (done by Zack Whedon himself in the YouTube version), accompanied by little brother Matt (when Matt Baughman hears Whedon’s co-producers were two of his brothers and a sister-in-law, he stalks off muttering about nepotism.) Music Director Mickey D. DaGuiso steps away from his piano and leads a show-stopping number about how tough it is for an Asian to get a decent part on television. (DaGuiso’s performance at Landless on opening night made it impossible for him to personally receive his WATCH Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.)

The music is beautiful but difficult, and this is not the best-sung Landless song I’ve ever seen. You might be surprised to hear how underpowered Garcia’s vocals seem, considering the star turn she did as the femme fatale in Landless’ High Fidelity. However, after watching the YouTube videos I conclude that she may have been trying to match Felecia Day, who plays the same character there that Garcia plays here. If so, I submit that this is a director’s mistake; Garcia has a better voice than Day, and I would have been glad to hear it.

Of course, many in the audience were in fine voice (this is a sing-along, remember), with pitch-perfect memories of the YouTube experience. Regrettably, they were not credited in the program so I cannot give you their names.

On the other hand, Karissa Swanigan’s choreography was…well, it was amazing. Listen, folks, it’s time to add Swanigan to the list when we talk about the Tsikurishvillis, the Hines, the Brunings and the other great choreographers who work in the DC area. What Swanigan accomplishes in the teeny, tiny DCAC space is particularly astonishing considering that she had an eleven-actor cast (not counting Director Baughman) on stage. The dancers nonetheless look free and uninhibited, as though they aren’t aware that with one false move their foot would be in the mouth of some surprised first-row Whedonphile. But, of course, there were no false moves. There never are when Swanigan choreographs.

So, all you ambitious boys and girls, all you who long to join the Evil League of Evil and simultaneously win the heart of that cute individual at the Laundromat, I recommend that you come to Landless to see how your life will end up – or, if you already know, show up and sing along.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog runs thru March 27, 2011 at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St NW, Washington, DC.
Details here.
Buy tickets.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

By Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Zack Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
Directed by Andrew Lloyd Baughman
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
Reviewed by Tim Treanor

Recommended
1 hr, 10 minutes  without intermission

Note to Dr. Horrible fans around the country:

According to Landless Theatre, the Whedons announced Monday they will no longer be licensing this show. So this could be your only chance to see it live and sing along.

Related:

Not a Whedon-head yet?  Catch up with the rest of the audience by watching the 6 part series here, starting with Act 1, Part 1.

Other review:

Don . WeLoveDC

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for posting this; it’s really heartening.  I have tix for the 18th and there was this part of me just worrying that it couldn’t possibly live up to the original, that it would put a bad taste in my mouth if it failed…etc.  One little point, though:  I don’t think of Dr. H as a “Youtube” original; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched it all the way through on Youtube (especially now that I have the DVD).  It originally was “shown” on the Dr. horrible website, in 3 parts which were “released” in sequence over a week, I believe, a few summers ago.  It then went to itunes, Hulu, then to DVD, and of course crops up on Youtube now, along with everything else.

  2. Background: I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have Dr. Horrible on blu-ray… I have not watched the commentary (though I hear it’s all sung).  I went to see this show as an enabler for my friend who is most definitely a Whedonphile.  We went on March 6th and braved the monsoon – it was worth every penny!

    Speaking of “Penny,” I agree with the Review.  Her voice was weak and I could barely hear her at times.  This was alarming as the Landless Theatre’s size reminds me of watching the SuperBowl at a friend’s house (About 30x30ft with 50 seats?  OK, maybe a super rich friend’s house – LOL).  Given this intimate setting, I do give props to Landless for utilizing the audience as, well, a prop… (Potential Spoiler: Just think of Act III.)  Furthermore, given limited dimensions, I give Landless high marks for creative use of props and limited stage real estate.  I think it works well with the subject matter that is Dr. Horrible which is intrinsically campy.

    However, Felicia Day’s Penny is meek and unassuming so I also agree that Garcia was trying to imitate the source material.  However, isn’t part of art, trying to “emulate” rather than “imitate?”  IMO, Garcia should have “acted” meek but “sang strong” (Note: This was my first time at Landless so I only have one sampling of Garcia’s voice.). 

    Overall, Garcia, along with Johnson and Comer, were casted well, both in their acting and lookwise.  Moist’s costume was done well – I wonder if they sprayed him with water or if he just used a lot of vaseline or hair gel to get the glistening effect?  (Potential Spoiler: I liked the Moving Guy the most – it’s one thing to speak with a lisp, but he sang with a lisp!  Impressive!)

    Again, I haven’t seen the musical commentary on the Dr. Horrible blu-ray.  (Potential Spoiler: The Landless adaptation is not a verbatim re-enactment of the Whedons’ source material – it includes two commentarys that are like intermissions.)  The first commentary by Landless was extremely well done and entertaining!  The 2nd one (not sure what was adapted) felt “forced.”  Nevertheless, you do learn some interesting facts during the commentary though!

    Lastly, given the projection screen on stage, it would have been very cool to have words to the songs displayed – truly would have made it an interactive sing-a-long experience!

  3. Whedonphile says:

    I loved Garcia’s Penny. She didn’t channel Felicia so much as remain true to the style of Joss’ music, which is admittedly better suited for a video recording than acoustic stage performance. I could hear her, but you did have to listen. As Q said, the casting was great all around. Now I have a crush on Garcia AND Felicia! The commentary was all verbatim from the original with some small deviations to suit this cast. I might have picked a slightly different selection of songs. Missed Ninja Ropes! Glad Asian and Rap made the cut.

  4. Karissa Swanigan says:

    Tim-I just wanted to say thanks so much for your very kind words about my work on the show. I had a lot of fun with this one! I love choreographing at the DCAC actually and always have a great time working with Landless as well.  Thanks again!! I haven’t made it out to see the show yet so its great to know they are making me look good. ;)
    Karissa

  5. I saw the show tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the commentaries.

  6. Fantastic show.  I was there opening night to see Steve Custer, the understudy for Doctor Horrible, go on and he deserves a solid nod for his work  as well.  
    Quite honestly, I hated the filmed version.  But I loved seeing it onstage.  A great, fun live show experience.  Well done everybody.

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