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Avant garde, pop culture and Jesus collide in The Lovinator

It's a rock-and-roll musical that puts a main character named Jesus in a land where people worship boobs. It's also a classic hero-myth set to interpretive dance. It's The Lovinator, and it's going to be weird -- but co-creator Brian Powell says it won't be so weird as to not be entertaining.

"We use terms like 'play' and 'musical' loosely," he notes. "The difference between this and a traditional musical is that [co-creator] Craig [Gunteski] and I are the band, and we're playing all the music in the show, and the whole story is told through the lyrics." Meanwhile, the story is illustrated by dance, "or I guess you could call it miming," he says.

It's a pretty strange setup, and Powell concedes that the story itself is also strange, but it's actually based on stories we've all heard before. "The basic plot has been directed by my original idea," he says, "which was to work within the framework of a classic hero myth."

That framework, as laid out by Joseph Campbell in his 1948 exploration The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is basically this: There's a man who is somehow different from his contemporaries, who is cast into some sort of strange land ("usually an underworld," Powell notes), then gains enlightenment and returns to the normal world to bestow the knowledge upon his contemporaries.

"This would probably piss off the Christian right," Powell says, "but a classic example of the hero-myth is the story of Jesus."

And that, says Powell, is exactly why he named his main character after the Lord. "A myth is like a living story," he explains. "They're these basic templates that get changed to suit our circumstances.

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"The problem," he continues, "is when you turn a myth into history, you kill it. It becomes exclusive. So for those who don't believe that X happened, the story becomes something that's not true, and for those who believe it did happen, it becomes a series of events. It loses its meaning. So what I wanted to do, was I wanted to create a character named Jesus that might breathe some life back into that myth."

Pretty heady stuff, and if you talk to Powell, it keeps getting headier. For all the play's silliness, Powell reveals that there's a surprising degree of cerebral theory underneath. But not so much as to make the play inaccessible: "I think the show will speak for itself--it's basically entertainment," he contends.

"I mean, it's people with guitars who are singing to you in modes and keys that are very familiar," he says. "And it's a story we've all heard 1,000 times before."

The Lovinator is the debut production of Waxwing, Inc, Powell and Gunteski's production company. The show premiered last night at the Packing House Center for the Arts and continues its run tonight and tomorrow. Shows start at 8 p.m., and tickets are $14 at the door or $11 in advance. If you can't catch it this weekend, The Lovinator will also be featured in the Boulder Fringe Festival August 18-29.

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