Whether you’ve read the book If You See Roadkill, Think Opera, or just heard the story of chasing down the 200 year old music of A Roadkill Opera, you might reasonably wonder what is meant when I say the story it tells of the hour before opening night of the Roadkill On A Stick Frozen Foods Theatre Company is “true-ish.” It is a fair question.
There are songs in the 2013 studio recording of A Roadkill Opera that have titles pulled directly from sketches in the 1988 show “Roadkill Live!!!
In the 1988 comedy sketch, In A Clearing is a conversation held by a bear (played by Holly), a moose (played by Eddie), and a bison (played by Stephan) that answers the eternal question “If animals were people, would they still bother us?” The 2013 song In A Clearing is a duet between Holly and Eddie about how or whether to change the sketch.
The 2013 song Cod Piece Dining is a trio where Stephan joins the conversation with Holly and Eddie to decide the running order. It is a wise show business strategy to put your strongest comedy sketch (or, in musicals, your strongest musical number) just before intermission. That sends people into the break planning to come back afterwards. As it was described in the 1988 program: “Intermission: 15 minutes. Please buy lots of drinks. Now.” That was the Wyoming experience in 1988.
The 2013 Cod Piece Dining song references several contending sketches, which were described in the 1988 program thusly:
Adrenaline Adventures: Just when you thought it was safe to leave the bivy sack…
Beaverzilla: If Gary Larson wrote TV sitcoms…
My Breakfast With Booboo: Delves into the dark side of river runners. Not for the squeamish.
Cod Piece Dining Room: Has absolutely no connection with any eatery in Jackson, much less this building, ’cause if it did we’d get kicked out of here real fast.
We’re going to leave out any further description of the 1988 comedy sketch My Breakfast With Booboo just to be on the safe side…however, there is something true-ish in the lyrics in the 2013 recording of the Cod Piece Dining song, which documents the discussion as to whether to keep My Breakfast With Booboo in the show because “it really is so crude.” We really did have that conversation, and it did stay in the show, but contrary to the song’s construction, Stephan is the one who kept it in the 1988 show over the objections of everyone else. Booboo was cut from the 1992 Roadkill’s Greatest Hits show, but that is another story.
Other true-ish aspects of the 2013 studio recording of A Roadkill Opera drawn from the real experiences of the 1988 improvisational sketch comedy revue:
Holly really wanted to move up from news to disc jockey at the radio station (which she did–check out KMTN–The Mountain), as related in the 2013 song Impress Them.
Stephan and Debby bought their first new car together in 1988, a Geo Metro, and discussed the relative merits of the different Geo models, a discussion reflected in the 2013 song Geo.
Holly really got nauseous from stage fright in 1988, as related in the 2013 song Butterflies.
The Greenback Lounge of the Wort Hotel, where the 1988 Roadkill Live!!! revue was staged, really was torn down after our show, more or less as related in the 2013 song Torn Down. The acts discussed in the song had all played or would have likely played the Greenback Lounge in the near future.
Every 1988 show ended with a standing ovation (except the night after opening night, when we played to an empty house) due to the shrewd decision to end every show with the national anthem, as reflected in the 2013 song Glory. Even the night the house was empty, the show went on, and we really did save a table for Harrison Ford at every show, as is also related in Glory.
Hard to believe that a year ago, in January 2013, the studio recording of A Roadkill Opera was only a plan. The initial plan was to jump into the studio for an afternoon and knock out a demo. That changed completely once we got in the studio with recording engineer Jeff Gruber.
At Jeff’s suggestion, we laid down the instrumental tracks in the main studio, and the vocals on a guide or “scratch” track in the control room. This would allow the vocals to be isolated and allow for each singer to record their best performance.
Everyone who would participate in the released recording was there the first day, with the lone exception of the cello soloist.
It would take multiple sessions from January to June 2013 to get all the tracks mixed and vocals laid in. Ultimately, Jeffrey Dokken (music director and conductor), Jeff Gruber (recording engineer) and Stephan Alexander Parker (librettist) received producing credit for the studio album of A Roadkill Opera.
It was a proud day on July 4, 2013, when the CD was released–Independence Day! Lashof Violins in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was the first brick and mortar store to carry the CD. Lashof also carries the sheet music for string instruments, as well as Parker’s book released on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2013, If You See Roadkill, Think Opera.
Pop-up sales venues for A Roadkill Opera were seen in Chicago; New Jersey; Frederick, Maryland; and Alexandria, Virginia.