Kensapoppin’: an excerpt
Kensapoppin’ was a very short-lived musical which attempted to fuse Skee-ball, then thought be on the verge of a national vogue, with an examination of the burgeoning issues of privacy in the age of the internet and celebrity, using the metaphor of the everyman and the superhero. We at mike.whybark.com are devoting the final three instalments of our ongoing Ken Goldstein of the Week Week to spotlighting the show.
Our image today is a shot from an early practice for the production, illustrating one of the most common costumes as noted in the stage instructions below. The masks seen here are the very early paper variety, as opposed to the full-head latex models eventually employed in the production.
[The curtain rises. The set is pseudo-Busby Berkeley – a sweeping stair-stepping stage with two curved wing staircases and a central staircase that narrows at the top, creating a mild forced perspective.
The backdrop is a silvery mylar curtain, and within the staircases are spots directed into the eyes of the audience that strobe randomly throughout the production, emphasizing musical phrases and rhythms.
Between the wings of the staircases are bubbling fountains, and tethered at various levels and in varying sizes are balloons that reproduce the face of KEN GOLDSTEIN, our star.
Ranged about the stage are about forty persons, backs to the audience. They vary in dress, stature, size and gender. Some wear a blue anorak with a buff lining, worn open. Others sport a sweater vest; some wear a cable-knit sweater. Jeans, khakis. One wears a peculiar old-time sporting uniform. The word “Spats” is stitched on the back, above the number. Another wears a colonial American getup. There are others – one sports an Elvis-style jumpsuit, another wears Bob Dylan‘s ensemble from Highway 69 Revisited. About a third of the cast wears these various costumes, sprinkled amidst the anoraks and sweaters.
The music swells into a crescendo, a live-orchestra version of the Dolby sting, and as the music proper starts, the theme emerging from the upwelling of music behind a big cymbal splash, the cast turns.
They hold the turned pose for one beat, two, as the music comes into focus, and begin hoofin’ with every ounce of their showbiz souls. Each castmember is wearing the well-known Ken Goldstein Mask (already seen on the balloons, and of course available in the lobby as a mask, poster, or tee shirt). Naturally, they burst into song. The music is uptempo, nearly a patter song’s backing.]
Who’s the little man
with the ever-cunning plan
who smiles upon his hand
as you find to your surprise you’ve bet the farm?
Who’s the little pisher
always showin’ in a picture
of a scene he later swears that wasn’t there?
Who’s the cheery bumpkin
I’ve seen eat his share of pumpkin pie
if there’s any pumpkin pie there to be had?
[The following is chanted in a stage whisper by the whole cast. The cast is all facing the crowd, and crouches, snapping their fingers as they move toward the front of the stage, one step on each syllable. At the end of each word, three balloons pop, in a triplet, providing percussive punctuation. They are immediately replaced after each set of three bursts, rising from below the stage to the same height as the prior balloons.]
Who stands astride the mighty
in his blindin’ tighty whiteys,
ever at the soivice of the goils?
Who’s the hidden hand
in the game of kick the can
that leads from off-off-Broadway to the woild?
Who’s the pale dry boy
who fills us each with joy
and later has great fits of anxious doubt?
[Set piece dance break. The break lasts for three full cycles through the main musical phrase, and begins with an ensemble piece, moves into two solo features, and back into the ensemble. A key change leads us back to the finish.]
Let us reflect upon his praises,
the sweet phrases that amaze us,
words of wit and whimsy from his pen!
Although he might deny it,
and blushing try to hide it
to those of us who know it’s crystal clear:
He’s the nebbish with no blemish,
a perfect everyman,
exceptional in each mundane and boring way;
Keep his face nearby you
for it may profit you to hide yours
neath a mask that’s been fashioned after Ken!
[As the end of the song builds, a rotating platform rises into view with KEN standing on it, wearing his mustard-yellow-and-red caped SKEE-MAN superhero outfit in preparation for the next number. A mask obscures his face, allowing the tension between KEN’s avowed interest in and preference for anonymity and his taste for the high life to be symbolized by his red and gold uniform – and, of course, by the singing, dancing crowd of masked Kens that surround him, singing his praises. He begins to sing a plaintive solo number at variance with his superhero uniform.]
This has been your
Ken Goldstein Of The Week Week
Entry NUMBER SIX!!!
(Tomorrow: the mud-slingin’ tale of the musical’s downfall!)