Michael R. Jackson doesn’t have a vagina. He additionally doesn’t not have one.

“Whereas I’m not a teen evangelical with enamel in my vagina,” he stated, “spiritually I’m.”

Jackson’s spectral self-identity was a guiding mild as he and the composer Anna Ok. Jacobs collaborated on “Teeth,” a brand new musical based mostly on Mitchell Lichtenstein’s 2007 indie scary movie of the identical identify. It’s a few highschool scholar named Daybreak who discovers to her horror that she has vagina dentata — a fable, discovered throughout cultures and eras, a few vagina that has a deadly set of chompers. (The movie is streaming on Tubi, and the present is in previews Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons earlier than a March 12 opening.)

In the event you’re going to musicalize a horror film, “Enamel” is a doozy, and a big gamble. Darkly comedian and at occasions stomach-churningly gory, it’s a touchstone of feminist physique horror and an exemplar, together with “I Spit on Your Grave” and “Jennifer’s Body,” of a rape-revenge movie that indicts misogyny and physique disgrace for the grip they’ve on ladies’s sexual autonomy.

Jackson, the present’s lyricist, and, with Jacobs, co-writer of the e book, stated he was drawn to adapt “Enamel” due to the way it frames horror and darkish comedy round intercourse and conservative Christianity — two themes that additionally raged by means of his 2022 Broadway musical, “A Strange Loop,” a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner.

“I do know what it’s prefer to be afraid of your individual physique and to really feel like someone’s going to catch you masturbating and what meaning, that you simply’re going to go to hell,” stated Jackson, who grew up within the Baptist church. “I instantly glommed onto Daybreak as a result of I’ve had that inner expertise.”

That final line obtained fun from two different members of the “Enamel” artistic group who, with Jackson and Jacobs, sat for an interview at Playwrights Horizons in Midtown Manhattan earlier than a current matinee: the director, Sarah Benson, and the choreographer, Raja Feather Kelly.

Aside from Jacobs — who stated she has “an exceptionally low worry threshold” — the musical is the spawn of bona fide horror followers. Jackson stated he grew up studying Stephen King novels, which helped him discern that horror is “when one thing you’re afraid of comes true.”

Kelly, who’s a fan of horror parodies just like the “Scary Film” franchise, enjoys watching horror films alone.

“It requires you to be susceptible,” he defined.

Benson is one thing of a Grand Guignol maestro, having directed a number of macabre exhibits, like Sarah Kane’s despairing play “Blasted” in 2008 at Soho Rep. Benson stated her love of horror is rooted within the methods it “opens up an area to have a look at disturbing and destabilizing human habits inside a container the place worry is the fabric.”

One among her hardest duties was how you can deal with the present’s penile amputations. Each assaultive male appendage — whether or not hooked up to Daybreak’s crush, her classmate, her physician — finally ends up a bloody stub as soon as it makes her vaginal acquaintance.

Onstage, there’s a loud crunch every time Daybreak’s penis fly entice takes a chew — “It’s very percussive,” stated Benson — adopted by shows and sprays of blood. Benson stated the props group used handled silicone to make the bloodied penises look comical however authentically phallic.

At a current preview, screams greeted Alyse Alan Louis, who performs Daybreak, as she held a male member aloft like Perseus lifting the head of Medusa.

Scared of her vagina, Daybreak retains her secret from her household and from her pals in her conservative church’s no-sex-till-marriage membership. Jacobs, whose different musicals embrace the Andy Warhol-themed “Pop!,” has been working with Jackson on the present since 2009, when he introduced the concept to her. (They each studied musical theater writing at New York College.) Jacobs stated a serious affect on her rating was Christian TikTok, the place “teen evangelicalism is attractive” and, as considered one of her musical numbers proclaims: “Modest is hottest.”

“That helped me acknowledge that it’s actually essential to me that the music really feel infectious,” she stated, in order that audiences “would virtually wish to be a part of that group.”

In a telephone interview, Lichtenstein stated he discovered about vagina dentata at Bennington Faculty by the use of his adviser, Camille Paglia, a renegade cultural scholar who taught a category on decadent literature. He took the parable and ran with it in “Enamel,” discovering inspiration within the monster with “oozing moist enamel” in “Alien” and within the prom-killing powder-keg of faith and repression in “Carrie.”

Along with horror, Lichtenstein — the son of the Pop Artwork grasp Roy Lichtenstein and one of many stars of Ang Lee’s 1993 homosexual rom-com “The Wedding Banquet” — considers “Enamel” a style movie of one other sort.

“The construction is just about the identical as most superhero origin films, the place they don’t know they’ve this energy they usually reject and deny it, however then they will not deny it they usually discover ways to use it and embrace it,” he stated.

Like many screen-to-stage variations, “Enamel” takes dramaturgical liberties. It combines characters (Daybreak’s pastor is now additionally her father, performed by Steven Pasquale) and drops some plot factors (a nuclear energy plant not looms within the distance). It introduces an incel story line for Brad (Will Connolly), Daybreak’s abused and abusive stepbrother; a conflicted homosexual character (Jared Loftin); and a Greek chorus-chorus line of do-gooder youngsters known as the Promise Keeper Ladies.

Additionally new is the “chaste greeting,” as Jackson described it, wherein Daybreak and her evangelical friends say hiya with gestures involving crossed arms and hand actions. Collectively they translate, in keeping with Kelly, as “coronary heart, modesty and, like, hey.” A dance vocabulary, in different phrases, wherein disgrace and need are competing forces.

“I take into consideration my relationship to faith and I’m like, effectively if they begin dancing, that’s too sexual, it’s not OK,” Kelly stated. “In the event that they’re following the foundations, how does the habits appear to be dance however observe this rule that they arrange for one another that they will’t be shut to at least one one other?”

Followers of “Enamel,” the film, gained’t acknowledge the finale. Lichtenstein constructed to a dramatic bed room climax between Brad and Daybreak, who embraces her toothy energy as a device for vigilante sexual justice. Within the musical, a brand new ending imagines Daybreak and Brad as mythological figures — gods, actually — storming throughout a improbable, scarlet-colored hellscape the place pillars of honest-to-God fireplace illuminate their literal battle of the sexes.

Lichtenstein stated the present hits “the proper tone for a younger viewers and a youthful technology.” The creators have his blessing.

“I’m completely happy to allow them to discover it in no matter method they need,” he stated.

The musical’s sexual libertinism extends past the stage. At a small gallery and maker store inside Playwrights Horizons guests can study and buy erotic artworks, cheeky academic books (“My Vag”) and sexual aids (sundry vibrators). There’s a sign-up sheet to obtain emails from the Brooklyn sex-positive emporium SHAG.

For theatergoers with tender constitutions, “Enamel” could also be robust to abdomen. To get forward of complaints, Playwrights Horizons posted on its web site a “content transparency statement” — a set off warning — that cautions audiences concerning the present’s “intense violence” and “mature content material and themes,” together with rape and emotional abuse.

But at a current preview, the present’s intentionally cartoonish savagery was met not with walkouts however with raucous cheers from a really Gen Z-looking crowd — a collective roar of approval, maybe, {that a} musical is taking on arms towards spiritual sanctimoniousness and sexual disgrace in a post-Roe America. The present has already been prolonged two weeks, by means of April 14.

“Given what’s going on within the local weather proper now, folks could also be bringing in an additional quantity of stuff into the theater once they see the present, and maybe that makes it particularly important to them,” Jacobs stated.

Jackson cautioned towards measuring something towards the political and cultural second “as a result of when you do this, the second passes.”

Nonetheless, he hoped “Enamel” could be a “highly effective antidote” to the poison of ideological pondering.

“I don’t wish to be instructed how you can dwell or how you can suppose or what I can say or what I can do,” he stated. “That’s why I really like our present a lot. It’s a container the place it’s OK to be a freak.”



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