'Really Leary'

From left, Randy Handel, David Rubin and Eric Swenson star in the comedy "Really Leary" at SFCC.

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 10:46 p.m.


"Really Leary"

WHAT: New musical satire written by Gainesville's Bob McPeek
WHEN: 8 p.m. today through Saturday and Feb. 3-5
Ω WHERE: Santa Fe Community College, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Building E Auditorium
COST: $5; free to SFCC students and staff (352-395-5004)

Trivia time: Q: What was the last year Ted Williams batted over .400?
A: 2042. No, this is not just another cheap Frozen Ted joke, another opportunity to poke fun at cryogenics, the questionable practice of freezing one's self upon death with the hope of being revived in the future.
Well, actually, it is. But it's part of a much larger, more elaborate joke that, in addition to cryogenics, encompasses Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Broadway, Republicans and, of course, the frozen head of writer and LSD activist Timothy Leary. And it's all from the slightly - perhaps significantly - deranged mind of Gainesville musician and writer Bob McPeek.
"I'm like a dog with a bone; give me a concept, and I will get every bit of mileage I can out of it," McPeek says.
In this case, the mileage is the brand-spanking new musical "Really Leary," which premieres tonight at Santa Fe Community College.
The idea for "Really Leary," McPeek's first full-length play, came to him about four years ago, while he was pressure washing his pool. He had recently seen the 1996 documentary "Timothy Leary's Dead," which includes suspect footage of Leary's head being cryogenically sealed.
"I was sort of thinking that this would be sort of an interesting novel, based on when Tim Leary is revived. Then I had the thought that I could make this into a musical, and for some reason that idea stuck," McPeek says. "One of his interesting quotes is 'If I do wake up from cryogenic storage, please don't let it be in a Republican administration.' So, of course, when he wakes up in the play, the first thing he says is 'Oh, no, I woke up in a Republican Administration.'"
Once he wakes up, Leary, or at least his head, must battle the also recently thawed Walt Disney for the 2052 presidency, which is controlled by one of many clones of erstwhile Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
And then things start to get strange. McPeek has been writing music for years, both professionally and recreationally, but this was his first attempt at writing music for the stage. (He is best known locally as the founder of Hyde N Zeke Records and Mirror Image Recording Studios, both of which he has since sold.)
He completed the play in the summer of 2003 and sent it to SFCC Theater Director Gregg Jones, who initiated the process of bringing it to life.
"When I wrote it, I wasn't thinking about practicalities of production. I was imagining Steven Spielberg-budget movies. It's been an interesting experience to make this ambitiously written project to a reality," McPeek says. The production has a five-member band as well as extensive video footage.
Much of that footage involves the multiple incarnations of Gates, all of which are played by SFCC English Department Chairman Bill Stephenson.
"I was really curious to see how he acted, so I watched a speech of his I found on a Microsoft site and found out that he was just unbelievably boring," Stephenson says. "In all honesty, the Bill Gates character in this play doesn't have all that much to do with Bill Gates. It's just a place holder for 'incredibly wealthy nerd.'"
After the initial run at SFCC, the play will head to the York Theater in Manhattan on Feb. 15 for a staged reading. The York is dedicated to the production of new musicals and uses readings as a way to judge the viability of new plays for future production.
"Without a doubt, this is the most complicated thing in theater I've been involved in," says Jones. "It's a multi-media show, it involves video, a band and 16 numbers... In spite of that, it's been the most rewarding thing, too."

Lyrics from "Really Leary"

  • From "Welcome Back": "Hello everybody. My name is Walt For years I've been chillin' in my cryo-vault
    They slipped me a Mickey back in 1965 But down in the deep freeze, they kept me alive
    But now I'm back, here in Tomorrowland I'm back, it's all part of the plan My joints are stiff and my hands are numb
    But I am the magic kingdom come! I'm back!"
  • From "Send in the Clones": "Send in the Clones, oh what a thrill! Hundreds and hundreds of Bills, Bills, Bills
    With DNA refined, sublime, so handsome, brilliant, rich
    Genetically superior, our code is free from error
    'Cause when you're a clone, you're never alone!
    So just accept your fate and grow accustomed to our faces
    So finely honed, so in the zone Super minds, optimized, sexy guys, super-sized - the collective William Gateses!"
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