Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Placebo Effect

Placebo: A New Musical, music and lyrics by Danny Abosch and book by Joshua Borths, had me feeling its effects all day, and I say this in the best way possible.

It's been a while since I've been so fascinated by a show's concept, and despite the fact that a musical of this title could easily be a one trick pony, I was surprised at the many facets of human relationships that one little pill could reveal. With a strong, more traditional book, the show follows two brothers as they fool their town into thinking that they've created a miracle drug in an attempt to continue their deceased father's legacy and make themselves and their town a fortune.

But within this story are a lot of complex and interesting threads: a relationship between two very different siblings, an earnest love story, a struggle as sons try to emerge from their father's shadow, a town founded on lies, amongst many other things. These details really lend themselves to some skilled, thoughtful songs, many of which explore the idea of a placebo for all its nuances -- how false and morally questionably it is by nature, how its consequences hinge on belief and faith, how exposing it for what it is can leave you disillusioned, and whether or not any of those intricacies even matter if the outcome is positive. It's a pretty arresting metaphor for life, and this musical explores this for its ambition and darker realities.

Below, I'm posting some videos of a few of my favorite songs from Placebo's production at the University of Michigan, but if you have some time, I highly suggest going straight to the show's site and downloading the album (or order it off iTunes or order a CD).

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