Video of the Day: The Salem Witch Trials, as a Rock Opera


Michael Xavier knows you've heard the story of the Salem Witch Trials, and that you might even remember Abigail Williams, the young girl who first cried "witch." Something about this story is so resonant, Xavier says, "people seem to have a lot of ownership of it."

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So when he talks about his company's first original rock opera, Abigail: The Salem Witch Trials/The Rock Opera, which he co-wrote and co-directs with Daniel Knop and Kurt Brown, he always has to explain that his show, while assiduously researched, is neither a historical bio-play nor a reimagining of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Rather, it's a story of "the personal redemption of a 12-year-old girl" who "denies what she's told is the best thing in life" -- Puritanism, of course. Xavier fills in gaps in our historical knowledge of Abigail (Casey Castille) by portraying her life before and after the trial, all to original music that's part Black Sabbath, part Beatles. Miller's version of the story was "brilliant," says Xavier, but he doesn't explore as thoroughly the fact that Abigail and her co-accusers were just kids: "What does anyone really know at 12?"

Abigail: The Salem Witch Trials/The Rock Opera starts at 9 p.m. on Nov. 23 (and continues through Dec. 15) at DanzHaus, 1275 Connecticut (at Cesar Chavez), S.F. Admission is $15.

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1275 Connecticut, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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Jesus Christ Superstar is my favorite rock musical of all time, followedclosely by Pink Floyd's The Wall, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tommy, and Little Shop of Horrors (is it rock?). For a local production on ashoestring budget, Abigail is a wonder, first for it's rock-anthem stylemusic, powerful singers, uber-hot band, and an attractive cast ofcharacters, who apparently also perform in numerous local bands.Abigail, played by Casey Castille (Roadside Memorial) is particularlyenchanting in the title role, jumping from tender ballad to rebel yellwith the ease, and looks, of a Heart sister. But it's the Tenors whoreally shine, especially in "Fire and Brimstone" with lead singer DanielKnop (Roadside Memorial) playing the evil Minister Samuel Parris, sexySean McCall as the Constable William Baybrook, Rande Machell as Thomas Putnam (who sounds like Metallica's James Hetfield), Tim Craig (aka Sweetness, who also plays Riff-Raff in Buzz Production's Rocky Horror Picture Show) as the imperious Magistrate Jonathan Hawthorne, and newcomer John Zane, who plays the tortured Giles Corey like a gay Bill Murray in Little Shop of Horrors, providing the only, and much needed, comic relief. The Abigail band is icy-tight, led by musical director and lead guitarist Kurt Brown, with Mark Paniagua on bass, Steve Mathews on drums, and Kymry Esainko on keyboards. Like most in the audience, I'm already familiar with the story behind the Salem Witch Trials, but glad the producers included the lyrics in the program (like the SF Opera), which really help if you want to follow the scenes. Danzhaus is cool new cabaret venue, and I'm hoping to see more rock musicals there in the near future.

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