Friday, June 20, 2008

Lincoln: The Musical

I'm a little behind in my Lincoln in popular culture news. My favorite Lincoln blog shuttered in March, and I haven't found a superb one yet (though I also haven't had much time to look). But words cannot express my utter shock when I read the following headline this week:

Celebrating Lincoln's Bicentennial, Musical Abe Will Premiere in Illinois in 2009

To prove I'm not making this up, here's a link to the story, courtesy of

But if words failed me when I read this theater story, my shock was complete after I foolishly conducted a simple Google search.

Here's result #1:

And if you go to the site, you'll discover that it features the current draft of the script and sheet music to several of the songs, plus some links to audio demo files of the songs performed by the composer.

If you'd like, I'll save you the trouble -- it's absolutely AWFUL. And I don't just mean that it is historically inaccurate (so were the Pulitzer-Prize winning Abraham Lincoln in Illinois and the much-beloved John Ford film Young Mr. Lincoln at points). It's bad theater. The music is awful, poor lyrics coupled with fairly horrendous music -- and often about truly bizarre things.

Perhaps Act II is better, I didn't make it that far. If you want to know how bad it is, I simply suggest you open the script to Act I, Scene 4 and listen to the song "Corn" which is supposed to be a rousing ensemble bar song. The sheet music contains the priceless notation "a bit majestic," which of course describes the feeling of all of the great musical bar songs. And never mind the fact that the Rutledge Tavern, which our intrepid playwright and composer have branded a saloon, was more a restaurant than bar.

There is a possibility that in the hands of a specific director, who played the entire thing as farce, that it might be tolerable -- otherwise it's just best ignored.