Kevin Zak, one of the most talented and funny guys around, is on a roll. After the acclaimed run of Clinton: The Musical, he’s created two new shows that he’s bringing to Feinstein’s/54 Below in January. We caught up with him to talk Clinton, Kermit and Angela Lansbury.
The run of Clinton the Musical ended in the summer, but the show lives on in the cast recording. What is it like to be a part of something so timely?
During the run of Clinton, I sometimes forgot we were portraying real people and American history. The way we told this particular story was so slapstick and sometimes cartoonish, you’d forget one of the main characters is currently running for President! I think the show, although closed, is still yet to be at its most timely moment. I think the cast recording will definitely resurface if Hillary gets the democratic nomination.
Where did the idea of bringing The Muppets Christmas Carol to life on stage originate?
The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite of the Muppet films and, in my opinion, the best incarnation of the Dickens classic. I’ve been itching to create my own work, and I figured putting a concert together with familiar material (taking some small liberties) is the perfect stepping stone into achieving that.
How will your concert of the beloved movie differ from what audiences are used to seeing Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang do in the film?
Well–the biggest difference is that we’re all people. The all-star cast is full of clowns, Judy Gold, John Treacy Egan, Allison Guinn among others–so it’s a bit more adult in the humor department. We’re hinting at the classic Muppet voices and doing our own takes on bits from the film.
What is it about the Muppets that you think still resonates so much with audiences?
That’s a good question. I think it’s been their ability to evolve and stay current with new and younger generations. The new mockumentary-type Muppets TV show is a great avenue to keep the Henson legacy current.
The other show you’re a part of, Bloody Bloody Angela Lansbury, takes on another iconic piece of pop culture, Murder, She Wrote. How did your love of the show blossom into a production for the stage?
I am very excited about Bloody Bloody Angela Lansbury. I had the idea over a year ago and took it to my friend Josh Lamon. He jumped on board immediately, and in the last four months, we spent time working on the book. Josh enlisted the talents of composer Keith Varney and he’s come up with some hysterical numbers for our characters. It’s a parody of the television show, but it comes from a deep love and appreciation for the series. It’s incredible that a woman in her sixties held the number one time slot for 12 years on primetime television. Over 800 murders took place on that show, and most of them in a fictional town called, Cabot Cove, Maine, which apparently was the number one murder capital of the country! It has comedy, mystery, and starred a Broadway legend. How could it not be a musical?
What can audiences expect from these shows?
100% comedy and nostalgia.
You’re doing both shows at Feistein’s/54 Below. Why a concert venue rather than a formal theater?
Feinstein’s/54 Below is a wonderfully accommodating venue that receives a lot of great press. The programming director, Jenn Tepper, is always encouraging and supportive of people trying to make their way both in this city and in show business. People come to have a great time!
Apart from these shows, what’s coming up for you?
Oh who knows. Each week in show business is different. Life changes from minute to minute.