“Kansas City Choir Boy” is a new musical playing at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. But it’s neither a traditional musical nor play. Instead, it’s more of a concept album about young love performed live on stage.
The show’s creator is Todd Almond, who wrote the songs and is one of the lead performers. The other lead is Courtney Love, who is certainly not known for her theater work.
The former wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Love played with the band Hole and has been in several movies and TV series. She recently originated the role of Athena in “Kansas City Choir Boy” in New York City.
The Frame's John Horn talks with Todd Almond and Courtney Love about the intensity of performing in a small room and why Almond is attracted to unrequited love:
How is performing this musical different than performing on stage with your band?
LOVE: It's a lot different than rock 'n' roll and it's a lot different than movies, and a lot riskier in some ways, because you're not addressing the audience, like Hello Cleveland! How you doing tonight? You're not going on Howard Stern to promote everything. It's crass.
You're going on public radio...
LOVE: I'm going on public radio to promote things and the people are lovely, [but] it's a real risk, and it feels great to take risks.
Do you feel a connection to the audience that's different from the connection you would feel during a concert?
LOVE: Yeah, definitely, because it's like I'm dropping a fourth wall to look at people and take them in. Some nights I dread it because I have to take in so many eyes and they aren't expecting it to happen. So [in] this one song, "All I Ever Wanted," I start examining them examining me. It's very different. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's heavy and it takes a lot out of me some nights.
When I was watching the show, I was reminded of a great Woody Allen line, which is: "The only kind of love that lasts is unrequited love." Is that part of what you were thinking about in writing this fictionalized love story?
ALMOND: I don't know that I thought about things so much, but I think a major part of my life is young love heartbreak. I don't know why. My friend — he's a fashion designer who comes to all my shows — I think it was after he saw this, he gave me a hug and said, "Who did this to you?" [laughs]
So this is onstage therapy?
ALMOND: I don't know! I don't know why. Maybe Woody Allen is right, that there's something about unrequited love...
LOVE: Yeah, that strikes a chord.
ALMOND: It does, and I like this one because it's requited in this way and then ultimately not, because we separate. It's just something that I come back to over and over and over again. I don't know why. Maybe I'm just a perpetual young broken heart. I don't know. You know how people say they're an old soul? I am not an old soul. I've never been on this planet before. So I feel like I'm always a little heartbroken [laughs].
This musical has no book, there's not a traceable narrative. It's songs about history, songs about fantasy, and it's just short of an hour in terms of its running time. Is that how intimate and small you want it to be and remain?
ALMOND: I do. I don't have an answer for why, other than that's just what it wanted to be. I wrote probably 10 more songs for the piece originally, and it didn't make it better, it just made it longer. It stretched out moments that didn't need to be stretched out.
Part of what I was inspired by when I was writing this [wasI was on a train and I looked out of my window — you noticed all these references in the shows to windows — and there was this guy and this girl on the platform and they were making-out, the most intense making-out I've ever seen in public.
I don't know who they were. I didn't know if they were married or having an affair or breaking up. I didn't know anything about them, but I wanted more images of that from their lives and it just became a major ingredient. I don't feel that, now that we're doing the piece and people are coming, [that] I need to add a book and expand it, to make it a story. It just doesn't follow those rules for whatever reason.
"Kansas City Choir Boy" is at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City through November 8.