"Spread The Nudes" will bring vulgarity and humor to the musical stage
Last year, Milwaukee native Jared Stepp began Giant Spider Productions as means to help finance the 48-Hour Film Festival, which he produces.
Although he has a background in television production and film, Stepp immersed himself into the Milwaukee comedy scene through ComedySportz, Milwaukee Comedy and The Underground Collaborative.
He's met a slew of great people and funny comedians who've helped lead him the way towards doing shows, which, in turn, led him to explore theater work.
Later, in October, Giant Spider and The Underground Collaborative hosted their first stage production: "Evil Dead: The Musical," which left audiences and horror fiends covered in artificial blood.
Before the chainsaws and the blood splatter of "Evil Dead: The Musical," however, Stepp's first live show was directing "The Burden of Being," an original puppet musical that premiered at the Alchemist Theatre last year.
His next show, the amusingly-titled "Spread The Nudes," a production that's in partnership with Milwaukee Comedy and The Underground Collaborative. This time, the musical is written by Chris Holoyda, who Stepp met while working on "Evil Dead."
The show, which will be at the Arcade Theatre in the Underground Collaborative, 161. W. Wisconsin Ave., on Feb. 6, 7, 13 and 14, centers on the rise and fall of a Christian rock band Spread the News – unfortunately known as "Spread the Nudes" to most – and their trials and tribulations. It's been described as a "rude and crude."
"He approached me and he had been working on a musical for awhile; something along the lines of 'Book of Mormon' or 'South Park,' that kind of tone … that kind of humor that's not necessarily offensive to be offensive, but something that's smart and controversial," Stepp said.
It didn't take long for him to agree to direct "Spread The Nudes" under Giant Spider and give guidance to work out the script and "put some meat to its bones."
"I said, 'Yeah, I'll take a look at the script and see where you're at,'" Stepp said. "Coming from a background of improv, you just don't say no to things," Stepp said. "I like to approach things with an open mind and see where things are."
The script, as Stepp said, contains a lot of colorful characters and the story itself is "sort of a slice of life" on the road with a band in full-frame. This experience of being a part of a band on the road is a lifestyle that Holoyda was familiar with when writing the script.
"Chris comes from this huge punk background," Stepp revealed. "He's been in a bunch of bands, so he's had all this experience of touring on the road in a small, kind of unsuccessful band and being passionate about music. He integrated that into a commentary on Christianity and faith. Like the 'Book of Mormon' focused on how naïve people can be about religion and how people can be naïve about doing what God tells them to do."
With a show called "Spread The Nudes," one may expect a high level of vulgarity, and, well, nude people but that's far from the truth ... the nude part at least. So, with no nudity, what's the deal with the title?
"In the script, people hear it wrong or they say it wrong," Stepp said. "People think it's 'Spread The Nudes,' but it's 'Spread The News.' Part of the show, too, is that people think that it's 'Spread The Nudes' so they think they're this different kind of band."
Although there won't actually be any nudes whatsoever, you should still expect a bit of vulgarity, innuendos, and, gulp, Christian rock music.
"It's not going to be John Walters' level of vulgarity, so maybe it's an 8 on the vulgar scale," Stepp said with a chuckle. "It was toned down a bit. Mostly trying to add some character to things and getting to the heart of why something would be perceived offense and trying to take a different route but trying to say the same thing."
When asked if he's worried if the content of the show, which largely pokes fun at religion, will offend those who are sensitive in the audience.
"I'm not too worried," Stepp said. "A lot of time we spent in rehearsals, trying to make this authentic, trying to make it real, trying to justify the content. I can't worry too much about an audience because you don't really get down to a truth if you're worried about people will get upset at what you say or worried about what people would do."
After all, a large part of the reason why Stepp agreed to direct the show is to take on the unique challenge, one that even made him a bit hesitant at first.
"When I first read the script, my initial thought was, 'No way. This is too offensive.' And then I was like, 'You know what? Why not?' I can't worry about how someone is going to perceive me and I like the challenge. I like to get to the heart of it, put it up on its feet and give it a voice. You can't deny that this is a specific perspective that has a voice and you can't censor that."
Stepp is happy that the cast and crew, which is largely made up of folks from the Milwaukee area, aren't afraid to be a part of the show and are open and want to take on the challenge alongside with him as they attempt to make sure the show can be the best, and funniest, it can be.
"The hardest part about comedy is trying to find the tone and try to give it stakes and make it grounded because that's where the best comedy comes from is from the truth, just so it's not off-the-cuff humor or disregarded humor, but it comes from a real place," Stepp said. "That's something that where comedy is gold."
You can purchase tickets for "Spread The Nudes" here.
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