Buffy, three times "with feeling"
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" finished its television run four years ago, but it still has a dedicated fan base.
Creator Joss Whedon worked a song and dance routine into the sixth season with the entirely musical episode "Once More With Feeling," and fans have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Buffy enthusiast Clinton McClung found that episode particularly infectious -- he says he would watch the episode at least once a week and found himself singing the songs around his house -- and created "The Buffy Musical" in 2004. The program is heading out on tour beginning with three midnight showings in Milwaukee during Memorial Day weekend at the Times Cinema.
"At the time, I was also the programmer at a groovy movie-house, the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston, where we had a thriving midnight movie series," he says. "I decided to screen the episode instead of the original 'Buffy' movie in our midnight series because I loved it so much, and also because the fans of the show don't really like the movie, so I thought this may be more successful."
He wasn't sure how the audience would react to a television program versus a movie, so he came up with something to give it "extra oomph."
"(I) encouraged people to sing along, and even had some local theater actors come on stage and do some skits," McClung says. "I thought maybe a few 'Buffy' fans would come out and it would be like a little party or something, but to our surprise 600 rabid fans showed up to that first show. It's just kept evolving from there."
While Milwaukee has Sensual Daydreams acting out "Rocky Horror," McClung has his own cast working in unison to "Once More with Feeling." He notes that the first live "Buffy" cast made its debut at the IFC Center in New York, where "Rocky Horror" originated. Although the live cast won't be able to make it to all the touring shows, McClung says it shouldn't make a difference; it's the audience that really makes the experience.
"There is the singing and callbacks (like yelling "Shut up Dawn"), but there are also things the audience does along with the show: Popping streamers to represent a 'climax,' tooting kazoos to keep characters in key, waving finger puppets in the air, even throwing underwear at a key moment," he says. "There is great room for improvisation and audience spontaneity, all based on what the fans in the audience feel like doing. For instance, the audience shirt dance started because someone in the audience showed up at our show with dry cleaning and just started dancing in the aisles. So, I added that to the 'official' part of the show."
Initially, McClung believed that viewers would have to be "Buffy" fans in order to enjoy "The Buffy Musical," but thanks to dedicated Buffy followers dragging along their friends, the fan base has grown exponentially.
"It isn't just watching the show, it's this great communal feeling in the auditorium, that for this brief time we are all best friends celebrating the joy and heartbreak of the characters on screen. Something about that is very infectious and inspiring."
With those feelings in mind, McClung hopes that "The Buffy Musical" will find enough popularity from the tour so that he can keep coming back and other casts can be created.
"I created this show not just to celebrate Buffy, but the celebrate the communal experience of going to the movies. DVDs are great, but there's nothing like laughing along, shouting along, kazooing along and, of course, singing along with 500 or so other people. It's totally life affirming and wonderful," he says. "I've been doing this show for a couple of years now, and I am still completely buzzed after every show. And with the audience being such a key element, it's never the same show twice."
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