A rock opera can be a powerful tool. Load your message up with power chords and soaring vocals and you've go a pretty persuasive argument no matter what it is you’re saying. A confusing mash-up of pop culture and new age spirituality like The Who’s Tommy becomes something genuinely inspiring as does Andrew Lloyd Weber's straight forward biblical rocker, Jesus Christ Superstar. If Leni Riefenstahl had added some heavy guitars and drums to Triumph of the Will, it’s quite possible we would all be eating a lot more schnitzel.
Lovelace is a new rock opera composed by Charlotte Caffey of Go-Gos fame and fellow musician Anna Woneker of That Dog, penned by Playwright Jeffrey Bowman and directed by Ken Sawyer. The subject matter is intriguing enough. Linda Lovelace, real name Linda Boreman, starred in the 1972 groundbreaking feature length porn film Deep Throat. If you weren't around back then, or just haven't studied up on your social or porn history, it's not an exaggeration to say Deep Throat’s theatrical release helped to alter modern culture for better or worse, depending on your views of pornography. Lovelace benefits from some inspired performances. Katrina Lenk as Linda Lovelace has an infectious charm and rousing voice, and Jimmy Swan as her husband turned pimp conveys a stunning amount of arena rock charisma. The music is a non stop onslaught of intensely well crafted hook infused rock anthems.
For me, the problem with Lovelace was not in the performances or staging, but the message. The writers take Lovelace/Boreman’s revisionist and much debated accounting of the events at face value, presenting them as historical fact – which they are not. It’s hard to know if this is due to sexual politics (a dislike for porn?) or merely wanting their story’s heroine to be a straight forward martyr/victim. In any case, it results in no small degree of misinformation for the audience. Not mentioned is co star Harry Reem’s persecution by the Nixon White House for his performance in the Deep Throat and, more importantly, Lovelace/Boreman’s collaboration with his prosecution. Boreman also later testified against pornography for Ronald Reagan’s Meese Commission and became a cause célèbre amongst anti porn crusaders. By not mentioning these facts or, in the very least acknowledging the widespread criticism to Boreman’s accounting of events, the production, perhaps by default, delivers a very specific and impassioned message, and it is one Rick Warren and his ilk would likely approve of.
Lovelace runs til March 1st at the Hayworth Theater
Watch clip of Lovelace here.