What are the citizens of Vermont doing, now that the United States is being remade along the lines most of them seem to favor, and they no longer have to plot to secede from the Union to join Canada?
Well, tonight, and next Tuesday, some of them will be going to see a new musical at the Paramount Theater in Rutland. The show is called Room 16, by the youthful team of Stephen Sislen (composer and co-lyricist) and Ben H. Winters (book writer and co-lyricist), and its subject is nothing less than the Watergate break-in. From what I could gather in these articles from the Rutland Herald and Vermont Public Radio’s site, the show focuses on the relationship of the break-in’s two main planners, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.
The brief description of the musical at ASCAP’s site gives an indication of the plot: “though initially wary of each other, the two soon become successful co-conspirators…and pals.” Not much different from The Producers, in other words, and we all know what a massive success that show proved to be.
Last year Room 16 was featured in an ASCAP/Disney workshop in New York, and Youtube has clips of three songs from it: “Room 16,” “After November,” and “Under Control.” Watching these clips, it’s quite apparent that Sislen has a superior gift for melody in the grand Broadway tradition and that he and Winters can produce lyrics on the same high level. (Indeed, their songwriting style somewhat brings to mind Liddy’s favorites, John Kander and Fred Ebb of Cabaret fame.) It’s hard to say to what degree the show’s book would follow the historical record, but then again, The King And I and The Sound Of Music are not exactly models of fidelity to the facts.
No word yet on when or if the show will reach Broadway, but considering that John Adams’s Nixon In China is probably the most produced opera from the second half of the twentieth century, Room 16’s chances of further success may be quite good.