'Judge Jackie Justice' courts musical fun for CLO Cabaret audience
Executive producer Van Kaplan is always on the hunt for small musicals to fill the CLO Cabaret schedule.
“There are not a lot of small musicals and it is difficult to find (ones) that are lighter,” Kaplan says.
Rather than wait for artists to create more shows like “Forever Plaid,” “Nunsense” and “Ruthless! The Musical,” Kaplan has begun taking a proactive approach, by fostering new musicals.
The CLO Cabaret's first foray “ 'S Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical,” which debuted in 2010, drew its inspiration from the musicals of the legendary composing team of George and Ira Gershwin.
For the company's second project, Kaplan needed to look no further than his home TV.
“I've been on a quest to find new, relevant shows that speak to audiences,” Kaplan says. “Reality shows like ‘The People's Court,' ‘The Jerry Springer Show' and ‘Dr. Phil' are popular. People watch them.”
The outcome of that brainstorm — “Judge Jackie Justice” — will have its world premiere with performances beginning Jan. 30 at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown.
The popularity of reality-based courtroom dramas began with radio audiences. Television has hosted a variety of them, including “Divorce Court,” “Kids' Court,” “Paternity Court,” “Judge Judy” and the long-running “People's Court,” which celebrated its 30th anniversary last September.
The premise of “Judge Jackie Justice” is that a reality show is doing a live taping of its show in Pittsburgh as part of its national tour and the Cabaret at Theater Square has been transformed into a TV studio for the event.
Local litigants will appear, seeking Judge Jackie's brand of justice, says Kaplan, the show's creator and also the director of the production.
“You will see a lot of hometown references, which makes it fun,” he says. “There are also a lot of surprises. It takes you to places you don't expect to go.”
It also has three possible endings, so those who see it at one performance may experience a different conclusion than those who see it on another night, Kaplan says.
To create the score and script for “Judge Jackie Justice,” Kaplan enlisted two Carnegie Mellon University graduates — composer Michael Kooman and lyricist and book writer Christopher Dimond.
Kooman and Dimond began collaborating while they were students at CMU. Together, they have written a half-dozen musicals, including “Orphie & The Book of Heroes,” a commission by the Kennedy Center, where it is set to premiere in February.
They were instantly intrigued by Kaplan's concept for “Judge Jackie Justice.”
“This is a concept where you could push far and go over the top,” says Dimond, who grew up in Thornburg and graduated from Bishop Canevin High School.
“It was something we had not done before. We had to come up with creative ways to maximize its potential and be foolproof and make sure the audience would participate in its good-hearted fun.”
The show is scripted. But it also has room for improvisational moments and audience interaction, Kaplan says.
“We tried to come up with a loose idea or structure focused around Judge Jackie and the things going on in her life and how, through the cases, you were able to see her (problems),” Kooman says.
The score covers a wide range of musical styles from old-school Kander and Ebb-style show tunes to pop and rap music, Kooman says.
For research, Kooman and Dimond spent a lot of time with their TVs immersing their creative selves in the worlds of Judge Judy and Dr. Phil and people behaving badly.
“We tried to tap into that, because this is their world,” Kooman says. “It has been fun to play with the stereotypes. But there are also a lot of twists and turns you might not expect.”
Creating songs for the often-outrageous people and raucous situations that reality TV encourages and inspires offered rewards, Kooman says: “You are working with over-the-top personalities who call out to be musicalized.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Hempfield man fights off intruders
- Penn State football coach Franklin renews his plea for patience
- 2nd command officer at Allegheny County Jail punished
- Stop by Stanley’s Bar & Grill in Ford City for Thanksgiving dinner
- H&M to open in Westmoreland Mall
- Pitt’s Dixon monitoring minutes early in season
- Occupying playoff spot on Thanksgiving good harbinger for Penguins
- North Shore parking garage plan moves forward in Pittsburgh
- Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations