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Will Madness go unwatched in the U.S.?

June 01, 2003|Richard Cromelin

ABBA and Madness don't have a lot in common. With 20 U.S. chart singles to their credit, the former is an international name in '70s pop. Madness had three chart records two decades ago and is mainly a faint memory in this country.

But if the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" could create a whole new round of ABBA mania, maybe "Our House" can do something similar for Madness.

The show, built around nearly 20 songs by the colorful North London band, opened in the West End last October and in February picked up an Olivier Award for best new musical. Playwright Tim Firth's tale of a teenage boy torn between good and evil is archetypal, but the details might not weather the trip across the Atlantic.

"Our concern is that it's quite a British show," says Mark Chapman, a director of the show's producing organization, Tiger Aspect Productions. "It's all based in part of London and so on.... However, against the odds, there has been interest and people are talking about it coming over."

Madness arrived playing Jamaican ska in the late '70s, then evolved into a more eclectic pop band before reaching the U.S. Top 10 with "Our House" in 1983. It broke up in 1986 but reunited and reestablished itself in England in the '90s. Singer Graham "Suggs" McPherson has been appearing in the show as the protagonist's father.

If that all seems too Anglocentric, the "Our House" team is prepared to make adjustments to help establish it on foreign shores. "Tim, the writer, is up for that," Chapman says. "He's very pragmatic."

-- Richard Cromelin

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