The Colonel Mustard House

Back in 2007, some college kids were assigned to find out the history of where they lived. One person, Lindsay Kerns, was renting a house just outside downtown Lincoln that was almost as old as the town itself. She and her friends thought the story of Albert Watkins, its first owner, was fascinating and wrote a short play to perform in the house’s attic. That was the first performance of what would become The Colonel Mustard Amateur Attic Theatre Company.

After a couple more attic plays, Lindsay got together with Aaron Holmes and Phil Malcolm to write Jurassic Park: The Musical, to be performed in the backyard with a live orchestra in 2009. About 250 came to that show and had a wonderfully silly time. Aaron was my roommate in college, and asked me to play in the orchestra, so I played flugelhorn and French horn. You can watch the whole show on Vimeo.

The next summer, the crew wrote Dr. Quinn: The Musical and Phil asked me to orchestrate a song for the show, and I also played tuba in the pit. The performance had grown, and now took up three backyards a block away from the original house.

In 2011 we were able to perform X-Files: The Musical and for the first time we actually had a budget, so our set could be more extravagant and our cardboard props could now be even cardboardier! I orchestrated another song for this show and moved to the front of the orchestra to conduct. As the budget increased (which was easy, because there was no budget before) so did the show’s space needs, and we took over an empty lot where a church had burned down several years prior. You can watch it in 11 parts on YouTube.

Gods of the Prairie was a huge choose-your-own-adventure style play, based on Norse mythology, Nebraska history, and lots of crude jokes. Scenes were set in several locations throughout downtown Lincoln, including the capitol building. It was an adventure transporting the orchestra from the lot to the capitol and back, but the giant snake made out of hula hoops and rollerblades was worth it. I wrote a few pieces for the show.

Picture: Eric Gregory, Lincoln Journal Star

When figuring out what to do for the 2013 show, the group kept coming back to Jurassic Park: The Musical, and all the things that could be done with a budget. The script was heavily edited, some songs scrapped, some added, and the staging flipped into a reverse theatre-in-the-round setup to create Jurassic Park: The Musical 3D. I orchestrated about half of the show, building off themes from the original JP:TM and creating new ones, like “Chaos Theory” in 7/4 time, with never-ending key changes (as chaos is wont to be).

The idea for Spiderman: The Musical: The Musical came a few summers before it came to life. Luckily for the world, that idea came to fruition in the summer of 2014, with a mashup of Spiderman, Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, and a giant spider king. The play was not only a parody of Spiderman: The Musical, the biggest flop in broadway history, but also of the the theatre industry itself. Most of the score was mine, with words by Lindsay Kerns and additional musical help from Phil Malcom, Collin McAcy and Josh Huls.

The next summer brought The Brothers Karamazov, Unabridged. This play was not a musical like its predecessors, so there was a lot less writing involved. A Russian play like this deserved a good Russian score, so there was a very heavy Igor Stravinsky influence on it.

Picture: @karinbalzell

In 2016 the company returned to the bigger stage with its original production Robyn Hood and her Merry Men. This gender-swapped take on the classic tale provided a very unique experience for me: for the first time I got to sit in the audience and listen to a Mustard musical. I had a pep band engagement on the Friday night show and a wedding at which I was performing during the Saturday show, so someone else took the baton for the weekend. I’ve heard my music performed a lot of times but never from the audience, so I found myself watching the show with a lot of anticipation of what the orchestra was about to do. It was quite distracting!