OWASCO — For two weeks at least, the Loch Ness monster will have a new aquatic home when a musical about the famous cryptid comes to the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse on Owasco Lake.
"Loch Ness: A New Musical" will open its third production Saturday at the Emerson Park theater. Director Marshall Pailet, who wrote the show's music and co-wrote its book with lyricist A.D. Penedo, said Wednesday that a combination of puppeteers and acrobats, as well as lighting and fog effects, make the production "the most fully realized version of 'Loch Ness' that we've had."
"They all work together to create this magical theatrical experience wrapped around this intimate story," he said. "It's a spectacle of the imagination."
The story finds a father and daughter relocating to the area surrounding the mythic Scottish lake as they cope with a recent tragedy. Before long, each comes into contact with the monster long rumored to reside in the lake's deep, murky waters. Pailet said he's been obsessed with the monster, sometimes called Nessie, since he was a child. He began writing the musical when he was 9.
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But it wasn't until last year that the Nessie audiences will see on the Merry-Go-Round stage began to take shape. After the first two productions, Pailet assembled several artists in New York City to workshop new ways to depict the monster. They experimented with different forms of puppetry, as well as fabric and fans, over the course of a year before deciding on a combination of puppets and people. Between traditional puppets representing the monster's head and tail are several performers whose movements will bring its signature humps to life, Pailet said.
"We use the ensemble to create the language of water," he said. "And we use the language of water to create the Loch Ness monster."
Performers will also roll by a character paddling on a dinghy to communicate their passage through the water, Pailet said, and mimic splashes with their movements. The puppet parts of the monster are just as expressive: Six Nessie heads are used throughout the show, including one with a smokey nose and one with blinking eyes. The tails, meanwhile, vary in length and the tricks they perform.
Much as the show's new language echoes the magic and mystery of its subject matter, Pailet believes audiences will quickly learn to interpret the movements they're seeing. And with a soundtrack inspired by the area's native Celtic and Gaelic sounds, he continued, the story-driven spectacle of "Loch Ness" should appeal to audiences of all ages.
"What we're putting on stage is something that we've never done before. And we've never seen anything quite like it, either," he said. "So we're excited, we're scared, we're really eager to share it."