Christopher Walken as Houdini

Did you know that Christopher Walken once starred in a musical about Houdini?

In 1973, Lyn Austin produced Houdini, A Musical at the Lenox Center for the Performing Arts in Lenox, Massachusetts.
It played for one night only.
Up and coming 30-year old actor, singer and dancer Christopher Walken was in the lead role as Houdini.
Grover Dale, later the Tony-nominated director of Broadway's The Magic Show was the director.
And David Spangler composed the music. Spangler later created the choreography for The Magic Show.
Houdini received favorable reviews in the New York Times and regionally- but it was never produced again and was never published until 2002.

Houdini was meant to be part biography and part fantasy. Author Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) worked on Houdini for decades before debuting the musical in 1973. She researched Houdini's life, using information that was available to her at the time. As such, some events are portrayed in ways that have since been proven to be untrue.

After the one-off Lenox production, Muriel Rukeyser put the finishing touches on the manuscript, and filed it away. On her death, she left the manuscript to her longtime companion and agent, Monica McCall, who eventually allowed the manuscript to be published by Paris Press.

The manuscript is now in the public domain.
You can read the entire play for free online at INTERNET ARCHIVE.
You will need to create a free account at INTERNET ARCHIVE, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

It is pretty quirky.
It most definitely is a loose portrayal of Houdini, and was written more as a philosophical study than an actual biography of events.
Also fair warning- there is some coarse language and imagery, which was very much en vogue in the mid-1970s!

By the way, producer Lyn Austin was a legend in the theater world as well. In 1971 Ms. Austin gave up her successful career as a Broadway producer to develop bold new works in musical theater, or, more accurately, "music-theater", a category she created to indicate a cross-pollination of the arts which is alive and well today. Within this context, theater pieces combined aspects of dance and the visual arts. She became the executive director of the Berkshire Theater Festival, then resigned the following year to found the Lenox Arts Center and the Music-Theater Group. When she began this organization, ''Nobody had any idea what I was talking about,'' she said. Soon Music-Theater entered the stage lexicon, and more and more people became aware of the inventiveness of the artists who belonged to the group. In its 30 years, the Music-Theater Group (based both in New York City and in the Berkshire area of Massachusetts) produced more than 100 shows and provided a continuing home for adventuresome talent. Sadly, on October 30, 2000, Ms. Austin was struck and killed by a taxi in New York City at age 78.

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