John Heginbotham leaps into the musical theater spotlight
BY BRIAN MCCORMICK | A man named John wakes from a coma to find himself center stage at the legendary East Village cabaret, Joe’s Pub. Terminally ill, with only one hour to live, he is granted his dying wish — to star in his own one-man show. Enamored of Fred and Ginger, but a total loser himself, he sings and dances until his hilarious death. Two caregivers and a pianist taking the form of a frontal lobe provide backup entertainment, desperately trying to control the chaos of this dark pink comedy.
The John of “One-Man Show” is John Heginbotham, best known as a 12-year member of the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG). He’s been choreographing for at least as many years and mostly made smaller works. But after his first experience working with Opera Erratica on the dance theater production “Champ: A Space Opera,” which ran at the NY International Fringe Festival in 2007, “I got the bug,” he told Gay City News.
“Up to this point, I’d been making small things,” Heginbotham said, “and was serious about making them good. That is also the practicality of life. Even with heavy touring with MMDG, I could always make work by myself.”
But he ended up making more than he’d expected when he was brought in to choreograph the opera.
Opera Erratica director “Patrick Young was the impetus for ‘Champ,’” said Heginbotham. “It’s not straight opera — it’s very much dance and physical theater. It was already in progress when I was brought in. It was an intense collaboration. It’s danced through, and Patrick is not a choreographer. I was really co-director.”
The artist explained, “I figured the next thing I’d work on would be my own evening-length work.”
“One-Man Show” is being produced by DanceNOW [NYC], which under the direction of Robin Staff, Tamara Greenfield, and Sydney Skybetter produces an annual festival of dance as well as the series at Joe’s Pub known as “Dancemopolitan.”
“I’ve known Robin for 17 years,” Heginbotham said, “and have done small pieces for her periodically. So when I told her what I was thinking about doing, she said, ‘Here ya go!’”
Heginbotham drew inspiration for his “One-Man Show” from solo performances he describes as “not cabaret, but theater” such as “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” and Sandra Bernhardt’s “Without You I’m Nothing.”
“And Spalding Gray,” he added. “I didn’t really get what he did, but I liked the idea of a person alone on stage.’ Heginbotham also admitted to being a huge fan of Carol Burnett, and those familiar with the comedienne’s oeuvre may recognize some Eunice in one of his characters.
“One-Man Show” is “theater,” the choreographer said, “with a heavy dance element.”
You know that when you see who else is in the cast — the awesome Elizabeth DeMent from Liz Gerring’s company and Aaron Mattocks from Other Shore, who has a dance named after him — as well as Daniel Pettrow, an actor who works with the Wooster Group, described by the choreographer as “easy on the eyes.”
The music was written for the show by Julia Meinwald, with lyrics by Gordon Leary. The costumes are by MMDG dancer Maile Okamura, whom Heginbotham calls his best friend.
“As I’m trying to emerge as a choreographer, she has been my frequent collaborator,” he said. “The designs are brilliant, sick, and very funny — perfect for the show.”
You can follow Heginbotham on Twitter @john0101.
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater
425 Lafayette St., btwn. Astor Pl. & E. Fourth St.
Jun. 3-4 at 7:30 p.m.;
Jun. 5 at 9:30 p.m.
$15 at joespub.com or
$20 at the door
Table reservations at 212-539-8778