Thing-Fish Live: Highlights

In 2003 Stagecraft Entertainment managed to stage an authorized (!) adaptation of Thing-Fish. Here’s, quote: “a very roughly edited selection of scenes of the unforthcoming DVD release”:

Takes me back to the weekend of my 35th birthday, when Tommi presented us with a full screening of this performance! Good times…

19 Responses to “Thing-Fish Live: Highlights”

  1. P-Rip says:

    I dunno….white folks should not imitate black dialect. It just doesn’t work. This whole production seems way too white. The performances seem wooden and so does the singing. To me, the only redeeming thing about the whole Thing Fish concept was the blackness. It really helped sell the humor and the music. Plus, it created a larger contrast between Harry and Rhonda and the mammy nuns.

  2. Paul Sempschi says:

    It was quite an ambitious production, and a lot of the painful silliness was inborn within the material. A wonderful job, I’d love to see this, a shame YCDTOdvdA…

  3. Reuben F. Tourettes says:

    Had they replaced the musicians with ones that are actually capable of playing Frank’s music correctly in lieu of the low-budget amateurs they have desecrating it here, not to mention a more cogent Thingfish, I think that performance could have been sublime (the Broadway word they use to rhyme in a song about love!)
    I thought Harry and Rhonda were particularly good. Especially in the orgiastic merriment that was and is Briefcase Boogie. Everyone should wake up to that. It would save a lot of expenses on Prozac.

  4. OhTay says:

    What a bastardization of an immensely thoughtful and well-worded piece of americana. I agree with P-Rip, its way too white. And Im white. This, for lack of a better word, sucks. But here’s what I think is the reason it is so ‘white’: Ike Willis. Ike was Thing-Fish, and he will always be. The family HATES Ike, since he has done what Frank asked him to do, play the music. So they sanctioned this hideous raping of a great work to help dilute his contribution. Oh well, it’s not going to come out on DVD apparently, thank gawid! It’s too bad that it even made it to the stage with this sorry excuse of a rendishnun.
    Ah, the torchum never stops!
    de to’chum
    Go on ‘Dullah, play dat lil gitah one mo ‘gin!
    I smells TRUBBAH!

  5. urbangraffito says:

    That was just…BAD. Why are all authorized Zappa productions so reminiscent of “high school” drama? Again, everything is done “el cheapo”. Those paper mache Thing-Fish heads appear as though they were made by a kindergarden class on acid. Will anyone ever do true dramatic justice to “Joe’s Garage” and “Thing-Fish”? Even the highlight of the clips, the “Briefcase Boogie” was diluted by “fake tits”, “fake cunt”, “fake bun” and “fake ass”. My own imagination had that piece far more X-rated (as was FZ’s intent, I believe). What is this need to water down FZ to a PG rating anyway? Can you imagine what 200 Motels would look like if the ZFT authorized it’s public performance.

    The horror, the horror…

  6. Thinman says:

    Anyone who is REALLY staging those things these days completely misunderstood FZ. He had been creating imaginary stage plays. He was making an alienation of the clichées of cheap stage plays.

    Making a real stageplay out of this is totally stupid IMO. I found those clips from Joe’s Garage and Thing-Fish horrible. I wouldn’t bother to watch one these again.

    Th.

  7. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    Anyone who is REALLY staging those things these days completely misunderstood FZ. He had been creating imaginary stage plays. He was making an alienation of the clichées of cheap stage plays.

    Making a real stageplay out of this is totally stupid IMO. I found those clips from Joe’s Garage and Thing-Fish horrible. I wouldn’t bother to watch one these again.

    Th.

    I think it is possible to produce “Joe’s Garage”, “Thing-Fish” and even “Hunchentoot” and give each production the staging, direction and complete attention to detail they deserve. Yet as long as FZ’s heirs have anything to do with it, the results will be slightly better than mediocre (as these and other clips demonstrate). What is really required is a director and choreographer sensitive to Frank Zappa’s vision and musical genius. Now, that would be a show to see!

  8. Paul Sempschi says:

    So do we know that the ZFT put their weight on this production? Was Ike Willis even considered?

    That being said, I thought it was a pretty good production of the material. And see no need to shit all over it. Obviously, they were an earnest cast and had fun with this material. WITH THE MATERIAL.

    Like Thinman pointed out, these were albums AS stage plays. That means bitchen music with a horrendous plot. Remember “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”?

    If they seem cheesy and embarassing, that’s a vast part of Zappa’s presence. “200 Motels”, “Sleep Dirt” w/lyrics and the 84 line up suffer a similar groan. However, the saving grace always was the music and some genuine wit.

    How I long for that choir/orchestra arrangement of “Penis Dimension” from Motels without the little punchline at the end.

    I guess aside from the music and white folk vocals, this production is the best “Thing-Fish” possible.

  9. Matt says:

    Aside from the music and vocals? That leaves you with a mime show LOL I thought that the potato-heads looked fine. But I tend to agree with Thinman: imaginary stage plays are best left to the imagination of the imaginer.

  10. jane23 says:

    I liked the Zappa treatment of Thingfish as he laid it out in Hustler Magazine.

  11. Paul Sempschi says:

    A quote from Matt:

    Aside from the music and vocals? That leaves you with a mime show LOL I thought that the potato-heads looked fine. But I tend to agree with Thinman: imaginary stage plays are best left to the imagination of the imaginer.

    I’m glad you caught that!

  12. Paul Carr says:

    It is difficult to tell from ony watching 9 mins of it, but to me it looks like the equivalent of a pat boone version of a Little Richard track (Compare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvieb2OedWE to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFq5O2kabQo if you don’t know what I mean). Although the original was associated with Ike, his exaggerated ‘black’ tone (which was based on Amos and Andy’s King Fish) was in typical Zappa fashion intended to be humorous, while at the same time discussing a series subject (aids etc). Although this production seems to lack the humor and sex, at least it was given the ok to be performed – it’s a start. I still think it will be a number of years before the West End or Broadway will be ready for Zappa.

  13. Paul Carr says:

    Also thought someone may be interested in this http://www.laweekly.com/2008-09-18/stage/racy-against-time/1

  14. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Paul Carr:

    Also thought someone may be interested in this http://www.laweekly.com/2008-09-18/stage/racy-against-time/1

    A $70,000 budget? For Zappa? How much did the “Joe’s Garage” and “Thing-Fish” albums cost to record, produce, distribute? Methinks the ZFT probably donated more money to the Gore campaign.

    Until people are willing to produce Zappa as he should be produced, I’d avoid these productions which do his legacy more harm than good.

    Both Thinman and Jane23 are on the right track: Zappa’s material is a matter of interpretation (just like Cronenberg interpreted Burrough’s Naked Lunch). A good starting point is evidence Zappa left to us himself: the Zappa treatment of Thingfish as he laid it out in Hustler Magazine.

  15. tombo says:

    Geez, I’m glad you folks didn’t attend any of the four sold-out shows, your hootin’ and hollerin’ would have spoiled all the fun all the other people seemed to have had … anyway, I agree with this and that comment up there, no doubt about it. My, those wrong notes and off timing H.U.R.T. – really!

    I still don’t regret pouring 4 years of negotiation time with the ZFT and a couple of thousands of bucks (everything my two colleagues and I had at the time, in fact) into this production.

    Was Ike considered? He was but we opted for “authorized”, which rules out Ike, as you’ll all know (not to speak of logistics, my word!). Would we have liked to rehearse for 10 more weeks/months? Sure, but no money. Would we have liked to have animated masks instead of what we had? Sure, but no money. I could continue the list.

    So does this production have a CHEAPO student-flair, or what? It has. But as long as the “professionals” aren’t prepared to put up what it takes to stage such a production (bagloads of money, a humongous amount of time, balls of steel, ZFT negotiations … or lawsuits), it’s up to us ugly, poor, white folks to at least give it a shot.

    Would I do it differently, today? Probably. You get older, you learn.

    But I wanted to see Thing-Fish on stage and this was my chance: to do it ourselves. Probably the first and last chance at that, since I’m not expecting a full-blown production anytime soon. And it seems so much more worthwhile than to sit at home, whining & waiting for the ZFT to finally release “fill in the blank”, being unable to do ANYTHING about it …

    So, nevermind the fark-ups, here comes the ‘tater.

  16. urbangraffito says:

    tombo, I applaud your obvious zeal for staging this production, and putting your money where your heart is as well (regardless of the limitations inherent within such a budget).

    speaking of logistics, i can well appreciate 4 years of negotiation time with the ZFT (which i am certain had something to do with the final resulting production).

    “Was Ike considered? He was but we opted for “authorized”, which rules out Ike, as you’ll all know”.

    this certain makes one wonder what other elements were “ruled out” for that blessed “authorized” label, tombo, during 4 years of negotiation with the ZFT?

  17. tombo says:

    Considering we probably weren’t very high in the priority ranking at the ZFT, the fact alone that I was negotiating directly with GZ shows that we were far from bottom line.

    The negotiations were not unpleasant, though. But they did result in the whole thing being banged together as a last-minute production. No one’s fault, really. Triple our budget and we would have had it down very decently (we all had daytime jobs to pay the bills, among other things to take care of). With what we had and how it went, it is trashy, a B-Musical, if you will. But that’s also a good thing, knowing that Zappa didn’t exactly hate B-Movies … ;)

    All I can say is that I have been contacted by at least four parties in the meantime who wanted to stage Thing-Fish and asked our advice (full fledged theatres with permanent cast and bands among them) … but nothing ever came true.

    Who knows … I might take another shot at it some time … as full playback puppet show, for example. I probably should contact Brian Froud for that one …

  18. james says:

    fair play to you tombo.

  19. exile says:

    What is the point of these exercises?

    The definitive versions already exist in the albums. I really don’t see the point in reducing (crucifying) the music and smothering everything with cheese.

    And this goes for cover versions/bands. ZPZ too.

    Accept no imitations.

    Get the records folks… on vinyl if you can.

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