Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Argento that Got Away: Profondo Rosso: il Musical

How did Profondo Rosso il Musical fly entirely under my radar? I mean, it’s not as though I would have flown to Italy to see it, but I can’t believe I had no idea it even existed until a few days ago.

Were you to have asked me which Argento film I thought best suited to adaptation into a theatrical musical, I’d say Suspiria. The narrative is stylized and dreamlike the existing score is strong and it’s set at a ballet school, so dance numbers would flow naturally from the narrative. And that art nouveau fever-dream production design is just screaming to be adapted into spectacular stage sets.

I would not have suggested Deep Red, but lo and behold, it was Profondo Rosso il Musical that premiered on January 21, 2008, at the Teatro Civico in Vercelli , a Northern Italian town best known for its lavish annual carnivale. The show went on to play dates in Varese, Sassari, Novara, Castiglione, Savona, Lugano, Venaria and Assisi before winding up in Milan’s Teatro Smeraldo five months later, hard on the heels of Hair.

Argento was credited with the production’s artistic supervision, and longtime collaborators Claudio Simonetti and Sergio Stivaletti provided, respectively, the music and special effects. Profondo Rosso il Musical, was hyped in typically breathless Italian pre-release pieces as a hybrid of France’s legendary Theatre du Grand Guignol and such tongue-in-cheek horror musicals as Little Shoppe of Horrors, The Phantom of the Paradise and, of course, The Rocky Horror Show.

Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of Carrie (1988), easily the closest precedent — a serious work of dramatic musical theater based on an acclaimed horror movie. But of course, it was also a disaster of legendary proportions (you can see a clips — including the climactic horror-at-the-prom scene on youtube — though the video quality is pretty poor, the train-wreck appeal is off the scale.

Profondo Rosso il Musical starred Italian-French actor/singer Michel Altieri — one of those European sensations who never cracked the US market — in Hemmings’ role.
Yes, Altieri, like Detective Altieri in Opera (1987) and diva Carlotta Altieri in Phantom of the Opera (1998), which is one of many reasons I at first assumed that Profondo Rosso il Musical was an elaborate in joke.But no, the guy’s name really is Altieri; he started out in a 1990s Euro-boy band and was supposedly handpicked by Luciano Pavarotti for a secondary role in the 2000 Italian production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent, though that may be pure press puffery. In any event, the exceptionally pretty Mr. Altieri came to Profondo Rosso fresh from a hugely successful run in Italian playwright Tato Russo’s 2002 musical version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. You couldn’t make it up… at least, I couldn’t.

The musical included all the film’s main characters — doomed psychic Helga Ulmann (Claudia Donadoni); ballsy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Silvia Specchio, in the role originated by Daria Nicolodi); Mark’s fragile friend Carlo (Alberto Pistacchia) and his possessive mother (Maria Maddalena Trani); unfortunate writer Amanda Righetti (Alessandra Azimonti) and poor Professor Giordani (Claudio Lobbia), whose big death scene is hijacked by a mechanical doll — along with dancers and a trio of mysterious figures in masks.

To be honest, it sounds like a total disaster, and I haven’t been able to track down anything that suggests otherwise. But oh, what I wouldn’t give to have seen it!


Brian Whisenant said...

THIS is so awesome.

I think I might have to start writing a Suspiria musical now. I will give you credit!

miss flickchick said...

Get working on that Suspiria musical right now! I can't wait to see it...