Village Theatre Originals is working on ‘Watt?!?’

August 13, 2013

By Peter Clark

‘Daily Show’ scribe pens new musical of political satire

Matt Shimkus (in cowboy hat), as Joseph Coors, and ensemble members, as his company employees, perform the song ‘Envision’ from the Village Theatre original musical, ‘Watt?!?’ at First Stage. By Sam Freeman/Village Theatre

Matt Shimkus (in cowboy hat), as Joseph Coors, and ensemble members, as his company employees, perform the song ‘Envision’ from the Village Theatre original musical, ‘Watt?!?’ at First Stage. By Sam Freeman/Village Theatre

Irreverence is bliss.

That is apparent in “Watt?!?”, Village Theatre’s newest original musical from the brain of an established comedy mastermind. Based on the life of James Watt, President Ronald Reagan’s infamous Secretary of the Interior who took an extreme line against conservation and environmentalism, the referential production flies through his life like a rock n’ roll whirlwind. Satire and absurdity are on the agenda as Village Theatre’s talented actors display Watt’s most notable quotes and actions in song.

David Javerbaum, the Emmy award-winning former head writer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and co-author of “America (The Book),” said using Watt as a protagonist just came to him out of the blue one day.

“I can’t say for any reason why,” Javerbaum said in a private, in-person interview. “I just started thinking very quickly that he would make a very good hero for a show.”

Essentially, he said he found the combination of perspective and subjective virtue to make the man into a compelling character that could stand up to lampooning.

“He’s someone you root for because he’s so fundamentally decent,” he said of Watt. “I still like the idea of trying to get into the head of someone so radically opposed to myself.”

“Watt?!?” marks Javerbaum’s first fully written musical, though he has long contributed to both television and stage. Apart from his work on the snarky news show, he wrote songs for Comedy Central Christmas specials and won an Emmy for writing the 2011 Tony award ceremony opening number “Broadway: It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore.”

Once Javerbaum established Watt as a character and began writing, he partnered with longtime friend and musical theater schoolmate Brendan Milburn to write the score.

Javerbaum praised Milburn for realizing the creator’s vision of a production filled with a variety of music that adds continual energy. Gospel, hair metal and even a vaudeville number are featured to tell the lively and delightful story.

Interestingly enough, Javerbaum also said whom he had initially envisioned in the titular role.

“It was originally conceived for Stephen Colbert,” he said, citing the time they worked together on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

Javerbaum said he left “The Daily Show” writing staff three years ago and is currently working with ABC to develop programming for the upcoming Fusion network, set to launch later this year. In the meantime, his agent submitted “Watt?!?” to Village Theatre, who brought it to Issaquah as one of its original development productions.

The Village Originals are shows that are still in the process of final development. Plays that have been featured as a Village Original have gone on to win multiple awards on the national stage.

“Watt?!?” opened Aug. 9 and will continue its run from Aug. 15-18.

“I think it’s really fun,” Javerbaum said of the show. “The character is one of the nearest and dearest to my heart. If I’ve done it right, you will feel for him and his wife.”

If you go

‘‘Watt?!?’

  • Aug. 15-18
  • Village Theatre First Stage
  • 120 Front St. N.
  • 392-2900
  • Tickets: $25/general admission, $20/youth and senior, free for Village Originals members.
  • www.villagetheatre.org
  • 392-2202
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