Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Randy Newman's Faust

Following a recent performance of Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to investigate the story further via The Fountain of All Knowledge. According to Wikipedia, Little Shop of Horrors is a modern retelling of Goethe's Faust. Upon perusing other interpretations of the story of the man who sold his soul to the Devil, I found a musical by Randy Newman.

Yes, as in "You've Got a Friend In Me" Randy Newman.

Apparently, two years before Newman became our friend through Toy Story, he created a musical very aptly titled
Randy Newman's Faust. It is a modern rendering of the tragic tale, with a few noteworthy elements:

First, Faust is a student at the University of Notre Dame, not an alchemistic doctor. In this musical, a spiritual battle for his soul takes place between God and the Devil.

However, the most wondrous element of this musical is the cast:

The Devil is played by none other than Randy Newman himself. God is voiced by James Taylor. The student Faust is played by Don Henley of
The Eagles. Other members of the cast include Sir Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke. It's much too amazing for that.

However, I thought as much when I wandered upon this information on Wikipedia last week. Apparently, it was not a huge success despite its star-studded cast ["no more than a noble failure," one review called it]. Very little information on the show exists on Wikipedia or elsewhere. [As a side note, Citizendium had no article for
Faust whatsoever. Just in case you were wondering.] No one I have spoken to has ever heard of this musical.

But now I have. I plan on investigating further.

And so it got me thinking: what classic tale could we retell and with what outrageous cast? Any suggestions?


prb said...

I personally like a modern retelling of Great Expectations with the grisly convicts played by OJ Simpson and Martha Stewart and the role of Pip filled by Shia LaBeuf. But, for a more musical remake I suggest retelling the lives of Milli Vanilli with the all the roles played by Hanson.

Drew said...

Okay, hear me out: A musical version of Waiting for Godot.

It would be set with James Earl Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Vladimir and Estragon, and Daniel Day-Lewis and Patrick Stewart as Pozzo and Lucky. The soundtrack would be a psychadelic rock opera composed by none other than Roger Waters.

I think I have to stop now before it becomes too awesome.

Great post!

Susan said...

Hi Alex,

I'm glad you discovered Newman's Faust! The album is still available, and you are in for some wonderful music when you find it. There are two versions: the original 1-CD album, and a 2-CD set that includes some additional songs and demos. You can read the story, and see the listing of songs, here:


If the link doesn't fit, you can go to his site:
...then click on "discography" and "Faust."

There were only two productions of Faust, one in Orange County, CA and the other in Chicago.

If you are surprised that Newman could produce something like this, you probably haven't heard any of his studio albums and been introduced to the characters he develops on them. "Shame" is one of my favorite songs off his last album, Bad Love and I think this guy on YouTube does an excellent job bringing that character to life. He lipsynchs (very well) to Newman's song, but the character is exactly as I imagined him: a vulgar Southern gentleman, trying to lure a sweet young thing back home:


Have fun with Faust-- "Glory Train" is about the best song ever!