Monday, June 23, 2014

The Heart of Science Fiction

Contributed by Dan Wolpow

Quick, what’s your favorite science fiction musical? If you answered "The Rocky Horror Show,” “Little Shop of Horrors...does that count?” or “I can’t think of any,” then you’ve pretty much covered all available options. When we think about science fiction, various genre trappings usually come to mind: outer space, extraterrestrials, futuristic technology, alternate dimensions, time travel, etc. What do all of these elements have in common? They usually require special effects that are typically best left to the budgets of major motion pictures or the economically-unchallenged imagination when they appear in literature.

But if we examine more closely, we soon realize that the most popular and beloved science fiction generally uses the genre as a jumping-off point to examine character relationships and interesting themes. The film Back to the Future, to cite a favorite example, would technically be classified as a science fiction comedy, but the sci-fi (a time-travelling car) exists only as a vehicle (sorry) to propel the fascinating and hilarious notion of a teenager playing Cyrano to his own parents when they themselves were teenagers. Most of the Star Trek universe is set in a highly advanced 23rd century, but its enduring popularity is owed to a love of Kirk and Spock (or Picard and Riker, if you so choose) and their interactions with one another.

My musical Cloned! takes a similar approach. Cloned! is the story of a young, self-absorbed particle physicist named Wally Waterman, who is trying to create the world’s first functioning human teleporter. He accidentally (and unwittingly) clones himself, thus unleashing two identical Wallies into the New York City of the early 1990s. The show contains a fair amount of technobabble and features a flashy-looking telecloning machine, but we are decidedly more interested in the comedic consequences of insta-cloning than we are in the scientific plausibility behind it. With the presence of teleportation/cloning and the examination of themes of identity and individuality, the show is undoubtedly sci-fi, but it’s in service of creating unforgettable characters and musical numbers that you hum on your way out of the theater.

In this way it is possible to bring grand sci-fi ideas to the stage in the form of a musical. It’s my hope that Cloned! will join the pantheon of great science fiction stories that are as entertaining to watch as they are inherently thought provoking.


Dan Wolpow is a graduate of Cornell University and past participant in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He contributed several songs to Keepers: A Broadway Benefit which was performed in November 2010 at Studio 54 and also appeared in the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival. Dan’s music has also been heard in association with the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers’ Group and his short musical, A Lunchtime Story, has been performed at Wayne State University. With composer Adam Spiegel, he wrote music and lyrics for The Spiegel & Wolpow Musical Comedy Hour (& A Half)! at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and this show, which was previously read at the York Theatre in February 2013, and again as part of NYMF’s Developmental Reading Series in July 2013. He is a foodie, film enthusiast and avid video gamer. He currently resides in Brooklyn Heights.

CLONED! plays July 7 - 15 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center.  For full performance schedule and to buy tickets, click here:

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