Dead Tragic: Elegies and laments
The songs in Circa’s latest show will either evoke an emotional response or laughter.
Actor Emma Kinane said songs needed two attributes to make Dead Tragic’s playlist: ‘‘ Someone had to die and it had to be a pop song.’’
The fifth incarnation of Dead Tragic – Songs to Die For opens at Circa Theatre on Saturday, a collection of pop ballads with a common theme – death.
There’s everything from Ode to Billie Joe to Leader of the Pack.
Picking up the songs people may have heard at funerals could have caused offence, but the show never mocks.
‘‘ We sing them beautifully,’’ Kinane said.
‘‘We put total respect to the music, so it sounds like the recordings.’’
Before Dead Tragic, creator Michael Nicholas Williams and Kinane were involved in a play that failed and closed within a few days. Realising he had a cast of able singers with nothing better to do, Williams went back to an earlier idea – songs about death – and devised the show for them.
‘‘People don’t listen to lyrics,’’ Williams said.
When he started researching the songs he found his understanding of the lyrics was as bad as anyone’s, and set out to bring out the meanings to life.
Kinane said the show was like performing videos for songs that predate MTV and music videos.
‘‘It’s all very well to hear Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town – Kenny Rogers is a robust sort of guy – but the reality is it’s a song by a guy in a wheelchair,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s almost like there is a big disconnect between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing.’’
At the time of the first pro- duction, in 1991, the cast were not long out of drama school, yet were singing the popular songs of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
‘‘It was very clearly not our music,’’ Williams said.
‘‘We were these squeaky young people singing music that was obviously not of our time.’’
For the first production, at Centrepoint in Palmerston North, the cast were in serious, funereal black.
When they returned for the fourth production in 2010, it was a ‘‘whizz-bangy’’ production, Kinane said. The cast all played dead cabaret singers.
The latest show features Kinane, Williams, Jon Pheloung, Lyndee- Jane Rutherford and Darren Young.
Respect: Darren Young, left, Emma Kinane and Michael Nicholas Williams will appear in Dead Tragic. Nippy, the HMV dog, looks on.