The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 11, 2013

State superhero: Local artists, musicians collaborate on 'Gravitone, the Musical'

By Wess McConville
Special to The Free Press

MANKATO — The collaboration of diverse art forms often produces interesting results.

So, when Mankato band String Theory approached Mankato playwright Greg Abbott to create a play based on the lyrics of their album “What’s the Matter with Captain Gravitone?” Abbott welcomed the offer.

“I thought it would be a good challenge, and I wanted to have fun with it,” Abbott said. “I knew I would have a good time with it, and I did. The actors are having a blast, too.”

The result — “Gravitone, the Musical” — is a comedic throwback to the 1960s-era “Batman.” But unlike the Caped Crusader, our hero Captain Gravitone has developed feelings of angst and self-doubt. Time and time again, his nemeses Gen. Idiocy and Leather Alice are able to cast their spells and coax unsuspecting citizens into skipping locally owned shops in favor of the behemoth corporate box stores. Frustrated by his ineffectiveness, Gravitone nearly quits the superhero business — until he sees what the future run by Idiocy and Aice holds.

String Theory came to Abbott with the initial plot for “What’s the Matter with Captain Gravitone?” but it needed work before it transferred to the stage.

“I began by looking at the lyrics, their songs, what they had, just to get an idea of who Gravitone was,” Abbott said. “Then I created some villains to counter it. My plot is based on (String Theory’s) question — if Gravitone’s superpowers really do help people make better choices or, in the end, do they still make the bad ones?”

Abbott’s plot differs in ways to the String Theory album that has a slightly more dystopian feel to it and features a number of instrumentals.

“Our initial vision for (the album) was for a superhero to go into the future, see nothing there and begin to question his meaningfulness,” String Theory’s Eli Hoehn said. “Eventually we came to (Abbott) with the idea, and he created a villain and some other characters and took it in a slightly different direction. It’s certainly lighter than we originally envisioned, but I like it that way. It’s definitely more watchable.”

Gustavus Adolphus instructor John Rezmerski will provide a unique twist to the play, as he will provide poetic backdrops and insights into the character’s thoughts in lieu of a narrator.

“I wrote the script and got a hold of (Rezmerski) to write poetry for the intros of the scenes,” Abbott said. “It’s a little unusual to combine the music, script and poetry, but we thought that instead of having a narrator, we would have a poet give us the background.”

On the surface, “What’s the Matter with Captain Gravitone?” seems like a marriage of the “Three Stooges” and Adam West’s “Batman.” However, there is an underlying message the audience can take away from it.

“(Gravitone) has the superpower of making people think about what they choose,” Abbott said. “Like choosing a carrot over Cheetos, or shopping locally, rather than the (big-box chain stores). The overriding point of the play is for people to make better decisions.”

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