Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise was never as successful as that other rock n roll musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Nor is it as well-known as De Palma’s later movies, like the recently celebrated Scarface. But its surreal production design coupled with its Paul Williams score has earned the 1974 film a cult following. This spring, Weasel War Dance has been performing sold-out live shows at Secret Loft; your next chances to see it are tonight, April 30, and Monday, May 14.
Last month, we caught a performance at Secret Loft, which moved to Union Square from its original home in Bushwick last year. It was an intimate experience: An age-diverse audience sat in folding seats that took up the dance floor, leaving little room for the 13 cast members and four-person band.
The show’s director, Elann Danziger, describes Phantom’s main characters as “deeply flawed human beings that represent the worst parts of being an artist who longs for attention.” Protagonist Winslow Leach (Barrett Leddy), is a songwriter who pens ballads for his love interest Phoenix (Brianne Wylie), who is robbed of them and then disfigured by villainous record producer Swan (Jamison Daniels).
Phantom producer Lindsey Freeman, a huge De Palma fan, says she first saw the movie in 2014 and “immediately fell in love with its brashness, its fast-paced nature of older absurdist comedies and its sheer hilarity.” Pointing to composer Williams, the film’s original lead, she said “there’s a reason why this film has a cult following,” and added that she’s “honestly surprised it isn’t done in this fashion more than it is.”
Danziger writes in his program note that “as a student of the Rocky Horror school, where camp is king, presentation is colorful, and music is bombastic, I wanted nothing less out of this production, and luckily, that is exactly what I got.”