I have been enjoying a new trend in entertainment lately. With creative presentations ranging from Hecklevision at Hollywood Theatre, where the audience texts on-screen comedy punchlines to B-films – to Steve Coker’s brilliant musical comedic interpretations of cult flicks, Portland audiences are being treated to comedy that always hits the funny bone. With his past successes, Flash Ah-Ahhhh!, Xana-RedU, Electric Dreams, Adventures of Dex Dixon and Varsity Cheerleaders, Steve Coker’s StageWorks Ink production company continues to expose audiences to what he calls “the fringe on fringe theater” with his new production, “Three Amigos”
For anyone who hasn’t seen the 1986 Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short cult classic, this is a chance to experience proven comedy live! With a screenplay written by Randy Newman and Lorne Michaels, the original flick offers a heartwarming story based on a hilarious misunderstanding that goes too far. The film inspired me personally – I have a wooden statue named “El Guapo” and I know all the words to “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” Steve Coker adds his own brand of evocative humor to the already solid story, creating a presentation that is customized for a live audience. Coker’s comedic musical interpretation of the fabulously quaint Three Amigos opens Thursday 3/31, and runs TH, F, S through April . Tickets are available online.
Here is a conversation with Steve Coker, who was kind enough to give us some insight into how he selects and produces these comedic gems.
What inspired you to produce a live performance of The Three Amigos?
In 2013 I accidentally started a theatre company while putting together a “reading” of one of my screenplays, “Varsity Cheerleader Werewolves from Outer Space” a comedy set in the 80s and playing on the comedic tropes of that time period. When the audience responded so enthusiastically, I knew we had an opportunity to present some of my favorite guilty pleasures… cult and iconic films of the 80’s presented as musical theatre. The first one was “Flash Ah-Ahhh!!” and the concept succeeded so well that the die was set and we started to look for movies that had the potential to do as well as “Flash.” Brian Koch, one of the actors in Flash, and I had a conversation about “Three Amigos” and realized that the silly nature of the script was perfect for a live production. After producing “Electric Dreams” and “Xana-Redu” I was looking for something a little different musically… “Three Amigos” gave us the opportunity to do a hilarious script and depart from our usual electronica and rock sound tracks and do a singing cowboy musical.
Will this be another fantastic musical comedy like “Flash…aaaahhh”?
Yes, musical comedy is really what I am interested in presenting now. It will be a departure from the Queen music of “Flash” as we are doing a lot of older country and western music in this production. Since it takes place in Mexico and in the time period that Hollywood was making all those singing cowboy movies it seemed more appropriate that we have a soundtrack that includes Gene Autry, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and, of course, the several songs written by Chevy Chase and Randy Newman that already exist in the film version.
Are you writing the script, music, choreographing, etc? Who is collaborating on this artistic endeavor?
I am adapting the script, directing the show and choosing the music, but the script really is just the jumping off point as we always play around and look for comedic opportunities during the rehearsal process. Usually what we end up with is very different than where we start. As for Choreography, this time we are using a local dance company called TriptheDark. Corinn Dewaard and Stephanie Seaman are the team that is making us line-dance and kick-ball-change through the show. They were the creative team that made “Xana-Redu” such a stunning dance show last September. Marychris Mass is our costumer… and I have brought on James Liptak as our Musical Director… Jim is Portland’s best kept secret where musical direction is concerned. He led us successfully through the amazing ELO and ONJ music of “Xana-Redu.” Rounding out the team of musicians are my long-time music collaborator, KJ McElrath and “Flash Ah-Ahhh!!” band leader, Zach Holden, on guitar.
Our cast includes: Sean Ryan Lamb, myself and Kylie Jenifer Rose as The Amigos…
And featuring; Maria DeLorenzo, Krystal Fields, Tim Giugni, Landy Hite, Dug Martell, Brian Koch, Christie Quinn and Bill Holznagel (who also builds our puppets)
Who or what is the “El Guapo” in your life?
For me, my El Guapo, is the fact that I have so much creative energy, drive, and ambition that I’d like to be creating 24-7… but the reality is, we have to make a living, so I also have to have a day job. Not complaining, but Id rater be producing my shows.
This story, through laughter and silliness, actually has an inspiring and encouraging message. Are you in it just for the laughs, or is there meaning in this production for you?
Honestly, I don’t look too far into the meanings in these shows. They are really made for pure entertainment value. I actually have when companies try to insert some sort of heavy-handed message into their shows… I’ve been emotionally hijacked several times the past season and it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Now of course there is always some sort of redemptive message ina script/story… for “Flash” it was a message that together we can accomplish peace. For “Xana-Redu” it was that dreams can come true if you believe… and for “Three Amigos” I suppose it is that you can overcome adversity with perseverance and a sense of community… but honestly, I never play for those moments, they just exist under the surface. And in fact, I never play for a laugh either… we always play every situation straight… If we do our job right and tell the truth in each performance, those things will take care of themselves.
The cast looks to be having fun – have there been any remarkable memorable moments so far?
It’s still pretty early into the process, but I can tell you that when we were rehearsing music the other day, I had a moment of clarity… As we were working through the harmonies on the song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” there was a moment when our voices blended so well, that I knew the show was going to work! I had a similar experience with “Flash” so I am encouraged by that.
For more information on Steve Coker and StageWorks Ink, please visit the website. The comedy just keeps coming!