There’s a Bon Jovi musical this weekend on the Drexel University campus, just one state over from New Jersey. That’s right: a musical with Jon Bon Jovi music.
English performance artist Paul O’Donnell brings his We’ve Got Each Other to the URBN Annex Black Box Theatre at Drexel University April 18 to 20. It’s being produced by EAM Productions at Drexel, meaning the students in the “Producing Live Entertainment” class in the department of Entertainment and Arts Management.
O’Donnell’s work is yet another production that has crossed the pond to Philadelphia from the massive Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where his one-man show got good reviews in August.
A native of Coventry, England, O’Donnell weaves the music of Perth Amboy, N.J.'s, favorite son around the story of dock worker Tommy and his girlfriend Gina.
“I had this idea for a musical, and I was looking for the right music," O’Donnell says. "So I went to YouTube, and I was running through the music there, and I came upon a four-trombone version of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer.’ And I said, ‘Oh, my god, this is hilarious!’ ”
We’ve Got Each Other is a show "that picks apart musical theater, really,” O’Donnell says. It’s a last-minute replacement for cabaret artist Beth Malone, who had to bow out from her scheduled campus performance to do an HBO series.
The Drexel students are helping O’Donnell with everything from the show’s 180-plus light cues to adapting its language to U.S. English. “There are a lot of pop references in the show that nobody here will know about,” he says, “and I had this really interesting meeting with the students where we went through the script and made it Philly-audience-friendly.”
He adds, “I can say proudly that we even worked in a use of the term jawn.”
Brannon Wiles, who teaches the Producing Live Entertainment course, chooses a show, and the students (15 of them this year) create the budget, marketing approach, and production, everything down to the artwork for the ads.
Wiles was in Edinburgh last summer and saw the show in a catalog. “I said to myself, ‘This could be either campy and bad or it might be fun,’ so I and a student went to check it out.”
Did it grab him right away? “To be honest, at first I couldn’t figure it out,” he says. “But the way he takes the audience from zero at the start to standing on their feet, all singing ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ it’s remarkable.”
“He saw me in a cafe and came over to talk,” O’Donnell says, “and we’ve stayed in touch.”
We’ve Got Each Other