If I didn’t have a calendar in front of me I’d swear it was April Fools’ Day, because I just read about a new musical coming to off-Broadway which is based on the true story of the late sixties’ all female rock band, The Shaggs. For those unfamiliar with this pop cultural phenomenon, the band was composed of sisters Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin (vocals/lead guitar), Betty Wiggin (vocals/rhythm guitar), Helen Wiggin (drums), and later Rachel Wiggin (bass). The Shaggs were formed by Dot, Betty, and Helen in 1968 on the insistence of their father, Austin Wiggin, who believed that his mother foresaw the band’s rise to stardom. The Shaggs’ only studio album, Philosophy of the World, was released in 1969 and failed to garner attention, though the band continued to exist as a locally popular live act. The Shaggs disbanded in 1975 after their father’s death. Today, the band is primarily notable for their perceived ineptitude at playing conventional rock music; the band was described in one Rolling Stone article as “…sounding like lobotomized Trapp Family singers.” In some circles, however, The Shaggs are seen as a groundbreaking outsider music group, receiving praise from mainstream artists such as Kurt Cobain and also from Frank Zappa after he called the Shaggs “better than the Beatles.”
As art imitates life, the play tells the story of a working-class dad’s a vision of rock-n-roll destiny for his three talentless daughters, convinced that they are his family’s one-way ticket out of hardship and obscurity. Shaggs: Philosophy of the World is directed by John Langs, coproduced by New York Theatre Workshop and South Ark Stage. The book is by Joy Gregory, music by Gunnar Madsen, and lyrics by Gregory and Madsen. Personally, I can’t wait to see it.
For two evenings in April, curious Shaggs’ fans can sneak a peek of the new musical, prior to its May 2011 debut at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. On Sunday and Monday, April 17and 18, excerpts will be performed at the Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street) at 7:30 PM. Irwin Chusid will also moderate a discussion with members of the production’s creative team. It should be a good time. Tickets for this event are $30 General Public, $25 Guggenheim members and $10 for Students under 25 with valid ID. Click through to This Link to purchase.