Beat Bugs go live


Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Stage - By Joe Mey­ers Net­flix / Con­trib­uted art jmey­ers@ hearst­medi­act. com; Twit­ter: @ joesview

The hit Net­flix an­i­mated se­ries “Beat Bugs” is be­ing turned into a stage show and Con­necti­cut au­di­ences will be the first to see it.

Bert Bernardi, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Pan­tochino Pro­duc­tions at the Mil­ford Cen­ter for the Arts, snagged the rights to the de­vel­op­men­tal pro­duc­tion be­fore “Beat Bugs: A Mu­si­cal Ad­ven­ture” gets pro­duced in the­aters around the coun­try next year.

“I re­ally wanted to open the com­pany up to more than one voice,” Bernardi says of try­ing to get away from writ­ing and di­rect­ing all of the orig­i­nal shows pro­duced by Pan­tochino.

When he heard a stage ver­sion of “Beat Bugs” was in the works, he thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s per­fect for fam­i­lies and kids, how can I get this?”

Bernardi looked into who owned the stage prop­erty, emailed them, and was sur­prised and de­lighted to learn that the writ­ers of the show, David Ab­binanti and Sean Cer­cone, were well aware of Pan­tochino’s suc­cess in re­cent years.

Halfway through their first con­ver­sa­tion, the two writ­ers agreed that Bernardi could put on the first test run of the new show, which is tak­ing place Oct. 12 to 28.

For those who are un­fa­mil­iar with the Net­flix se­ries, it com­bines the ad­ven­tures of five young bug friends in a sur­bur­ban back­yard with the mu­sic of The Bea­tles. Launched in 2016, the show was an im­me­di­ate in­ter­na­tional hit, bring­ing kids and their par- ents to­gether through the power of the leg­endary rock group’s song­book.

Asked some ques­tions about the show, Ab­binanti and Cer­cone an­swered them to­gether:

Is the plot based on a par­tic­u­lar episode, or is it a new story us­ing the show’s char­ac­ters?

It’s a new and orig­i­nal story but many of the sit­u­a­tions and places men­tioned are from var­i­ous episodes of “Beat Bugs.” We combed through all 52 episodes and two movie spe­cials and iden­ti­fied sce­nar­ios, char­ac­ters and spe­cific lines that could be adapted and amal­ga­mated into this new story. This en­sured the the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence was au­then­tic and true to the char­ac­ter­i­za­tions from the beloved an­i­mated show.

It must be chal­leng­ing to adapt an an­i­mated se­ries to the stage. What were some of the ob­sta­cles you faced in be­ing true to the source ma­te­rial but de­liv­er­ing a stand- alone theater ex­pe­ri­ence?

The Beat Bugs char­ac­ters were spe­cific and very well- writ­ten for the an­i­mated show. Once we came up with the struc­ture and plot of the mu­si­cal, craft­ing scenes be­came fairly easy. We spent a lot of time metic­u­lously an­a­lyz­ing ev­ery episode and do­ing the pre- pro­duc­tion re­search work nec­es­sary, so we did not find our­selves strug­gling to fig­ure out who should say a line, or who would have this idea or that idea. Many times, it would be ob­vi­ous to us that Wal­ter would say this and Kumi would do that and Buzz would say this… It’s a tes­ta­ment to Josh Wakely and all of the cre­ators of the Net­flix an­i­mated se­ries. They cer­tainly made our job eas­ier.

Was it tough to zero in on The Bea­tles tunes that are used in the show?

We were like kids in a candy store. We kept say­ing to each other, “Oh, we have to use this song! Wait, and this one … we can’t NOT use this one!” The hard­est part was not be­ing able to use ev­ery song from the en­tire se­ries and dis­till­ing it down into an hour- long, live the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The scari­est, yet most fun part of the creative ex­pe­ri­ence was cre­at­ing the mu­si­cal ar­range­ments of the songs. These songs are ab­so­lute rock and roll per­fec­tion but we also needed to make these songs work the­atri­cally. We were very re­spect­ful, sen­si­tive and cog­nizant of the iconic na­ture of these songs and the au­di­ence’s ex­pec­ta­tion of how they sound, there­fore each creative de­ci­sion was made de­lib­er­ately to meet and ex­ceed the au­di­ence’s ex­pec­ta­tion when they ex­pe­ri­ence the show. We just hope we did them jus­tice with creative choices that suit the ac­tion on- stage.

To what do you at­tribute the all- ages ap­peal of Bea­tles songs for more than a half cen­tury? I can’t imag­ine a sim­i­lar TV show/ stage pro­duc­tion for chil­dren be­ing built around The Who or The Rolling Stones.

The Bea­tles were al­ways ex­per­i­ment­ing and push­ing the lim­its of what a pop songs can be. It’s prob­a­bly why, over fifty years later, their mu­sic still sounds in­ter­est­ing and fresh. They also wrote songs pur­pose­fully to ap­peal to kids, like “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine.” And those melodies! A great melody is time­less and The Bea­tles had no short­age of those in their vast cat­a­log.

Why did you choose to part­ner with Pan­tochino for this de­vel­op­men­tal pro­duc­tion?

Pan­tochino is very well- re­garded for their abil­ity to pro­duce high qual­ity pro­duc­tions, and with their prox­im­ity to the city, it al­lowed us an op­por­tu­nity to have on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the creative process and see how the show plays in front of the first pay­ing au­di­ences.

Where does the show go from here?

There are sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties in the works for “Beat Bugs” — Off- Broad­way, North Amer­i­can Tour and pos­si­ble Lon­don pro­duc­tions. But that all starts here with Pan­tochino and we couldn’t be more ex­cited to share this ex­cit­ing new creation with their au­di­ences!

The Net­flix an­i­mated se­ries “Beat Bugs” is be­ing turned into a stage show that is get­ting its first pro­duc­tion in Mil­ford.

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