There’s a mystery at the center of “Wolves: The Musical,” opening Friday (April 8) at Obsidian, and it’s not onstage but off.
The hour-long show — described on its Facebook event page as “like ‘Cats’ for dog people” — is a story about magic and science, wolves and humans, and perhaps even aliens.
“It is mostly just a really silly, sweet musical,” said co-director and producer Juliana Kimbrell.
Although more 1,000 people have been invited to the Facebook event, the show’s creator — an Olympia independent filmmaker, songwriter and visual artist — chooses to remain nameless, at least as far as publicity is concerned.
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“It creates this mystery around him, which is appropriate because he’s a very mysterious character,” said Lillian Maring, the show’s composer and bandleader. “I’ve known him for over 10 years, and I still can’t figure him out, and that’s the beauty of him.”
But if its origin is a mystery, “Wolves” does involve some well-known names. Maring played with K Records band Grass Widow, and the other band members are Ange Duval, who recorded with K under the stage name Angelo Spencer; Leah Cipolla, formerly of The Vibrarians; and Abigail Ingram, formerly of Broken Water and now in Nudity.
The music is a big part of the show’s appeal, Kimbrell said.
Maring describes it as heavy-hitting pop, influenced by Harry Nilsson’s 1971 album “The Point” and by ’90s Euro-pop.
“There’s a contrast between the campiness of a musical and the true beauty of a well-written song,” Kimbrell said. “That makes it so much richer.”
The cast also includes actors you might well have seen around, most notably Max Schilling, frequently seen in Theater Artists Olympia productions.
They’ve joined forces with Pulp Productions and the unnamed writer to put on “Wolves,” which is satirical but with some substance, Kimbrell said.
“It has some really poignant themes,” she said. “It’s not just campy.”
It’s also quite a large-scale production, especially considering that it’s going on tour, heading to Whidbey Island and Portland in addition to two other stops in Olympia. While the set is minimal, the show includes shadow puppets. And a musical with a live band, which also provides sound effects and does incidental music in addition to playing the songs, has plenty of complexities.
“It’s hard enough to put on a show and it’s about three times as hard to put on a musical,” Kimbrell said.
While Pulp is a relatively little-known company that has produced work in such alternative spaces as the roofless shell of the Griswold Building on Fourth Avenue, the “Wolves” creator’s work is considerably further underground.
“It was exciting to me to do totally new local work,” Kimbrell said. “He is a little bit more fringe scene than we are normally.”
The writer typically maintains control over every aspect of his work, so this project is a big change in that there’s a team involved. “I was excited to work on something he wrote that would include the input of a bigger group,” Maring said.
“This was originally written to be a film that he would make,” she said. “(Juliana) took the script and helped turn it into a stage production.”
The resulting show would seem to be an unlikely blend of the fringe and the more-or-less mainstream.
“His work seems to somehow encapsulate all of the humor about being on this planet in terms that both a 7-year-old and a 70-year-old can appreciate,” Maring said.
“Wolves” will put that statement to the test, at least when it comes to the 70-year-olds.
After its short tour, the production will return to Olympia for performances at the Olympia Center and the Olympia Timberland Library.
The Center performance is sponsored by the Olympia Senior Center, though the show will be open to the public. In fact, Kimbrell hopes to do more Pulp performances in partnership with the Senior Center, provided there is room to do them in a relatively small space.
Wolves: The Musical
What: This locally written musical, accompanied by noted local musicians, is both campy and sweet, with characters including a scientist, a pair of magicians and, yes, wolves.
When: 7 and 9 p.m. Friday (April 8) and Saturday, 1 p.m. April 25 and 8 p.m. May 11.
Where: Friday and Saturday at Obsidian, 414 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia; April 25 at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia; May 11 at the Olympia Timberland Regional Library, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia.