DATE: AUGUST 25, 2022
FROM: MARCEE RONDAN
“STARING INTO NOTHING,”
THE NEW MUSICAL/ROCK OPERA,
SET TO DEBUT FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7
AT THE EL PORTAL THEATRE
IN THE NOHO AREA OF LOS ANGELES
NEW PRODUCTION FROM SONGWRITING PARTNERS
STEVE ROGERS AND KURT BARABAS
After releasing two albums under the name of “Staring Into Nothing,” the collaborative songwriting partnership between Kurt Barabas and Steve Rogers has evolved into a live stage production featuring all new music.
L-R: Kurt Barabas and Steve Rogers
Photo credit: Kimberly Adamis
“Staring Into Nothing,” the new musical/rock opera, explores the impact of mass media, social media and the digital information age on the quality of our lives. It asks and attempts to answer the age-old philosopher’s question: “What Is Good And What Is Not?”
Set to debut Friday, October 7 at the El Portal Theatre in the NoHo area of Los Angeles, the full-scale production will launch with three shows: Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, October 9 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are available via the theatre’s website at $55 beginning Thursday, September 1.
The show is directed by Broadway performer, director, choreographer Jeffrey Polk with acclaimed musician Denny Fongheiser serving as producer, musical director, drums, and percussion. Additional details about the cast and production will be revealed in the coming weeks. Listen to a sample of the music here.
The idea of writing a musical/rock opera that explores the philosophical concept of “Quality” began with one of Steve’s favorite books: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It is subtitled “An Inquiry Into Values,” and explores the relationship between people, technology and quality. Written in 1974, it could not have contemplated the technology we live with today, but the principles are the same.
Steve wanted to explore these same relationships in the modern world and mentions that during the writing, “other books started to influence and enhance my thinking about ‘What is Good and What is Not’ in a world of cell phones, tablets, email and the 24-hour news cycle; particularly Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Technopoly by Neil Postman.
For the soundtrack recording, Steve and Kurt wanted to record more organically than they had in the past. This meant going into the big room at East-West Studios in Hollywood and recording the backing tracks live. To do this, Kurt (on bass) and Steve (on vocals and piano) needed to fill out the band. For this, they brought in Bruce Watson to handle guitars of all types and Denny Fongheiser on drums and percussion. Bruce–the lead guitarist with Foreigner–showed up for the sessions with an army of guitars and amps and a boatload of enthusiasm. Denny has spent many years as the drummer for Heart and many other artists including Roger Waters, John Paul Jones, Bruce Cockburn, Al Stewart, Peter Frampton, and Tracy Chapman. Denny was also the drummer on the theme song for the hit TV show “Friends.” When it came time to add background vocals, Fongheiser says, “When I was first thinking about how to do this record, I heard Kipp and Mark Lennon from the band Venice. They are a known fixture in the LA music and studio scene and come from a long pedigree of family musicians, producers and singers. During my first in person meeting with Steve and Kurt (who is a big fan of the band), I mentioned possibly using them. They were available and they delivered big!”
L-R: Denny Fongheiser, Steve Rogers and Brendan Dekora, engineer
Photo credit: Kimberly Adamis
Denny also served as the producer of the soundtrack recording. Recording the backing tracks live at the same studio where Frank Sinatra and Nirvana once recorded was thrilling. Rogers notes, “Our previous recordings were done one track and instrument at a time, but our dream was to go back to the future and record live, the way it used to be done.” The live backing tracks and guitar overdubs were recorded over 13 days at East-West. For the composers, to have 100 minutes of music go from nothing to virtually complete in such a short time was the dream come true and the only way they will ever record again!
This project was always written as a musical narrative. Upon completion of the songs, the only question was should it be delivered as a film or a theatrical performance. After seeing “Hamilton,” Steve decided he definitely wanted to perform these songs with additional dialog and multiple actors live on stage and the rock opera was born.