Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015 by Jacob Hall
This past July, the Austin, Texas-based Old Murder House Theatre transported Steven Spielberg‘s Jaws to the stage. Their production, a beat-for-beat recreation of the original film with only a few deliberate changes, was a thing of chaotic beauty. On sets made of cardboard, held together with duct tape and a prayer, the cast and crew created a show that was one part parody, one part homage, and one part, uh, something else altogether.
Now, footage from this bizarre and brilliant show has arrived online, giving those who weren’t in attendance a chance to catch the highlights. A YouTube video can’t quite capture the experience of seeing this thing live, but it’s better than not seeing any of it at all.
You can watch the Jaws: Live! footage below, but only if you like good things.
Like Old Murder House’s past productions, the central joke of Jaws: Live! is that it’s a fairly exacting recreation of a beloved movie – it just so happens to be on a stage and performed with deliberately lo-fi props by actors who manage to keep a straight face no matter how absurd things get. This makes the divergences from the source material all the more surreal. Sometimes, those changes involve characters going off-script and falling into profanity-laden tirades. Other times, they involve musical numbers where the shark takes a break from tormenting the crew of the Orca to sing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, backed up by Flounder and Ben Gardner’s severed head.
Naturally, the video below is NSFW, unless your workplace is cool with a few F-bombs and a great Richard Dreyfuss impression pulling a sex toy from the belly of a dead Tiger Shark.
Old Murder House Theatre is the brainchild of director/actor Sam Eidson (best known for starring in the excellent Zero Charisma), but it works because his cast and crew are all on the same page when it comes to simulating total anarchy. Their shows are often at their best when things go totally wrong – watching everyone think on their feet as things go so completely and totally wrong is a joy. It’s impressive enough to watch Byron Brown (Martin Brody), John Merriman (Matt Hooper), Kirk Johnson (Quint) and Nathan Sakulich (Ellen Brody) nail pitch-perfect impersonations of their characters, but it’s doubly so when the cardboard boat they’re all standing in decides to start slowly crumbling in the middle of the climax. Johnson is especially impressive, capturing everything that makes Robert Shaw‘s original performance so impressive while giving Quint the absurd mental and physical elasticity of a Looney Tunes character.
Jaws: Live! is the latest in a long line of Old Murder House productions. You may remember Jurassic Park Live! from a few years ago, which actually toured around the country:
And then there was the hugely ambitious Aliens On Ice!, where actors who didn’t know how to ice skate faced off against Xenomorphs played by trained skaters:
Their RoboCop is also a thing of absurd joy, made especially memorable by the mid-show ballad where Officer Murphy sings about his transformation into a killer cyborg in an original song set to Basil Poledouris’ iconic theme music:
And yes, they also did Back to the Future:
What’s special about these shows is that every moment is filled with love. The Old Murder House crew genuinely loves the movies they are recreating and it shows. Tiny details jump from the screen to the stage. Tics you’ve always noticed in the original films but never thought about are present in the performances. At a quick glance, these shows may look like they’re making fun of these movies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These shows celebrate the original films. Like any truly great party, these celebrations always descend into madness, but that’s kind of the point. The hilarious, homemade, kind of brilliant point.
You can check out a gallery of images from Jaws: Live! below: