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Toronto Rising Star: How Composer Karl Saint Lucy Created a New Type of Movie Musical Experience for R-Rated ‘Dicks’

“As far as I was concerned, it was like, ‘I’m just doing this dumb show with my friends,’” remembers composer Karl Saintt Lucy of Fucking Identical Twins, the one-act off-Broadway musical that ran in 2015. Over a half decade later that, that “dumb show” is now one of the more anticipated openings at TIFF. Retitled Dicks: The Musical, the A24 movie is an R-rated dirtbag version of The Parent Trap where two megalomaniacs (Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson) discover they are twins and try to get their parents — played by Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally — back together.

Graduating from NYU’s Tisch Schools of Theater with a MFA in Musical Theatre Writing, St Lucy, who uses they/them pronouns, first met Sharp and Jackson, the stars and co-writers of Dicks, at Story Pirates, a theater program of largely aspiring comedians that travel around to elementary schools putting on improv shows. Along with Sharp and Jackson, Story Pirates alumni include Emmy nominees Bowen Yang and former SNL headwriter Anna Drezen. “For a performer, it requires a performer that’s very flexible and very willing to say yes to the dumbest ideas that kids throw at you, which are actually brilliant,” says Saint Lucy, who acted as a live piano accompanist. “As a pianist for them, you’re following all the gestures. It’s almost like being a silent movie organist.”

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Sharp and Jackson approached Saint Lucy about composing music for their stage show Fucking Identical Twins, then at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade theater. “We were doing elementary school shows, I had no idea what U.C.B. was or who these guys were, and as far as I was concerned, it had no developmental prospects,” they remember, bluntly. He signed on, anyways.

For the film version, Saint Lucy was paired with Grammy and BAFTA-winning film composer Marius de Vries. Together they composed Dicks’ 12 musical numbers (the staged version had only six) and added an orchestral score in full movie-musical fashion.

“I’ve always thought of this musical as being a sendup of musicals,” says Saint Lucy, who has long worked as a musical director and accompanist at storied NYC outposts like Playwrights Horizons, where he worked as a rehearsal accompanist for the future Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Strange Loop. They turned to shows like Little Shops of Horrors, the Full Monte, and the entire Sondheim catalog for inspiration. One of the film’s climactic song is a play on Les Misérables’ “One Day More”, which has the film’s four stars singing over one another as they traverse the New York City sewer system.

A particularly difficult song to break was “Out Alpha the Alpha” performed by Megan thee Stallion, in her feature acting debut. Prior to the rap superstar joining the production, the track was planned as a full cabaret number. Lucy says de Vries “repurposed a bunch of the melodic materials and harmonic materials that I had developed for that, and turned them into a beat” that was able to be rapped over.

With Dicks, Saint Lucy hopes that audiences have a different type of contemporary movie musical experience. “We’ve gotten to a moment in time where there’s a lot of preconceived notions about what a musical is, what a movie musical can be.” With Dicks, the composer wants to show that “you can do music in a movie musical that treats an audience like they’re adults who understand how music functions.”

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