Taking a closer look at Madison theater
Jan 28, 2014
10:06 AM
Stage Write

Taking "Hostage Song"

Taking "Hostage Song"

PHOTO BY JASON ATKINS

Mikhael Farah and Katie Davis in a boy-meets-girl musical... with blindfolds.

The two leads spend the entire show in a cramped room, blindfolded, their hands tied.

But if you ask Catie O’Donnell, who’ll direct Music Theater of Madison’s staging of Kyle Jarrow and Clay McLeod Chapman’s rock musical “Hostage Song,” beginning Wednesday night at The Frequency, she’ll tell you it’s really all about love.

“It’s technically a boy meets girl story,” O’Donnell says. “It’s about two people who develop a relationship and come to love each other in the most unlikely of places.”

More specifically, “Hostage Song’ tells the tuneful tale of a journalist (played by Katie Davis) and a contractor (played by Mikhael Farah) who become the unfortunate victims of a kidnapping. While the outside world speculates on their fate through news reports and press conferences, the two lose themselves—and in the process, find each other—in memories of their past. The show’s played to positive reviews in New York and Chicago, and MTM’s staging is Wisconsin’s first.

MTM’s been looking to rock a show in the Frequency for some time now, and O’Donnell was hooked by what she calls “Hostage Song’s” “poetic, elegant, but realistic” script and score. Staging the show hasn’t been without its challenges. Working with actors who have limited sight was one issue; so was dealing with sightline challenges created by the Frequency’s small stage—the smallest MTM has ever used for a production. The audience will stand, just like they were at a concert, for the entirety of the show’s eighty minutes.

And they’ll hear a mix of raw rock and roll and taut drama. The show’s ballads, O’Donnell says, are more Guns N' Roses than “Some Enchanted Evening.” The music itself, meanwhile, accounts for less than half the show. “You could do all the music from the show and not know it was a musical.”

O’Donnell is acutely aware of the musical’s dark subject matter, and, as a result, she’s tried to amplify the humor and touching moments in the script during rehearsals. Even though the show’s only slated for a four-night run, she’s hoping to expand on the audience MTM has built up with well-received shows like last year’s “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

“This is interesting and topical stuff,” she says. “We want the audience to say, ‘I didn’t think theater could be like this.’”

"Hostage Song" runs January 29–February1, and, because of its location, is restricted to audience members over the age of eighteen. For information on how to order tickets, click here.

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About This Blog

Once upon a time—okay, it was the mid-'80s—a boy saw a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the annual summer Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a spark was ignited. Decades later, that spark’s only grown stronger, burning brightly every time the lights go up and the actors begin to tread the stage.

I’ve spent a long time—okay, more than 15 years—watching and writing about Madison’s theater scene. Now, more than ever, it’s clear our bustling burgh is packed with vibrant theater companies doing important, cutting-edge work, whether it’s original and daring content, stunning musicals or thought-provoking stagings of modern and classic plays. Stage Write is a place where we’ll talk about those plays and the people who make them happen, maybe look behind the curtain a little and gain some new perspective on how and why it all comes together. Theater has the power to transform, to educate, to show us who we are and where we’re going in a way no other medium can. Hey, look: The curtain’s rising.

– Aaron R. Conklin
Follow Aaron on Twitter @arconklin

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