The Desert Peach in Concert 2018
25 years after it first premiered, Donna Barr's "The Desert Peach" musical will be revised and remounted in concert format.
The Desert Peach started as a comic book created by Donna Barr, chronicling the adventures of the eponymous protagonist, Erwin "The Desert Fox" Rommel's fictitious homosexual younger brother, Oberst Manfred Pfirsich Marie Rommel (1900–1990), nicknamed the "Desert Peach." Barr has said that she was inspired to create the character while working in the file office of the University of Washington, which was being painted a "horrible half-pink, half-tan color." Searching for a color name, she stumbled upon "desert peach," and was immediately inspired by the pun upon "The Desert Fox," the name given to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during World War II. According to his biographers, Erwin Rommel had a youngest brother, named Manfred, who died in infancy—Barr said she only developed a personality whom the universe had prematurely discarded.
The Desert Peach commanded the 469th Halftrack, Gravedigging and Support Unit of the Afrika Korps: a catch-all for misfits, mavericks, and otherwise peculiar soldiers who, for whatever reason, were not suitable for service in the German Army but nonetheless were enlisted. In the words of their medical officer (a psychiatrist assigned to the 469th because his specialty was considered a "Jewish science"), it was a unit composed "entirely of stray puppies." The 469th was based on an escarpment by the sea. Pfirsich was of the opinion that a commander should not merely lead his troops but protect them, and arranged with local Allied commanders that there would be no fighting in that area (although newcomers did not always accept this modus vivendi).
Donna Barr and T. Brian Wagner met each other at one of her infamous house parties (where she was costumed as Pfirsich). The soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Picture Show was playing, and when the song, "Toucha, toucha, touch me" began playing, Donna and T. Brian improvised a skit that had all the partygoers laughing uncontrollably. Plans were made to recreate the hilarity at an upcoming science-fiction convention, and resulting skits quickly became fan favorites (and the Peach Pitts were born). At some point, someone suggested that a musical be made, and we decided to take them seriously (because we deserved to).
We brought a talented composer, Michael Seyfrit, onto the team, and within a year we had a fully realized musical, complete with book, lyrics and score, based loosely on the first issue of the comic book. We sent it out to every theatre company we could, but no one dared to produce this quirky offbeat musical. Undaunted we decided to produce it ourselves.
The Desert Peach was our first attempt at a musical, and despite the fact that we didn't have a clue what we were doing, we still managed to pull off a professional production that amazingly enough, actually broke even. The feedback we got from the audience was fantastic; they had a ball. Even the actors have fond memories of the production and are proud to have been a part of it.
However, we, the creators, being the picky egomaniacs that we are, always saw it as a glorified "workshop production," and planned on refining it after the initial run. Unfortunately, the death of the composer, Michael Seyfrit, shortly afterwards put a damper on that plan, and the show entered the annals of theatrical history. Over the past couple of decades, we have heard from fans who missed the original production, and wanted to know if we ever planned to remount it. Finally, we have decided to give in to those demands, and now with the help of an awesome orchestrator, Keith van Kirk of Underscore Music, we can finally make what we feel are needed changes to fix the minor flaws in the show. Also, because technology has drastically improved, we can present the show with a fully orchestrated score (well, synthesized at least), giving it the lush sound we always wanted.
The Seattle remount is just the beginning of our plan. If all goes well, this will be the seed that will grow into a touring production that may reach all the way to Broadway and beyond. We all feel that this will be a fitting tribute to Michael's amazing music and a chance to honor his legacy in a manner he would be proud of, thus fulfilling Michael's desire to see the full production come to fruition.
The Desert Peach (in Concert)
Music by Michael Seyfrit
Book & Lyrics by Donna Barr & T. Brian Wagner
Orchestrations by Keith van Kirk
Additional Lyrics by Angela Rhoads
Risks and challenges
"Friends don't let friends produce musicals."
That's what our cast lovingly told us when we first did this 25 years ago, and we obviously didn't heed their advice. We clearly survived, and now, mostly recovered, we're willing to do this again. Our sanity and health will be on the line as we scramble to make this happen once more. We are confident we have learned from our past mistakes, and we look forward to making completely new ones this time around.
The original fully staged production cost approximately $30,000 to do, and would not have been possible without the time and effort gratefully donated by everyone involved. This time around we want to pay everybody working on the show. We ran the numbers and figured out that it will take a minimum of $15,000 to make this version happen. We're saving costs by presenting this in a concert format, but we still need to pay for the performance space rental, the cast, the crew, the audio recording engineer, etc.
Last time we just asked our friends to loan us the money to make it happen. This time, through the technological miracle known as crowdfunding, we can reach a much larger audience. In return for your support, we can not only give you cool merchandise that would normally only be available at the show itself, but also let you become part of theatrical history. Without our fans, the Desert Peach would not have been possible and most likely would have remained a silly little joke hanging on Donna's artist studio wall. Pfirsich is one of Donna's most enduring creations, and even though he's now old enough to drink (in the U.S.), his original musical message from two decades ago remains pertinent to our society. Join him (and us) as we throw a party big enough to end any type of war.
Once our project is fully funded, we will immediately move forward with the typical process that is required to make a show happen (auditions, rehearsals, etc.) and hiring the people that it possible (actors, rehearsal pianist, stage manager, costumer, marketing, merchandising, etc.). If all goes according to plan, we'll be opening the show in August 2018 at a suitable Seattle venue for a 4-week run. We will, of course, keep all of our backers informed of the show's development via regular progress reports through behind-the-scenes videos and the like.
We tried doing a Kickstarter fundraiser 4 years ago, but failed to get full backing. However, in light of the recent political climate and because there's been renewed interest in the project, we're willing to give it another go.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)