Last year, dancer and choreographer Brown unapologetically abandoned modern dance for the “holy grail” of musical theater. He was drawn to the (at times) harrowing process of weaving a staggering number of performance art elements into a cohesive whole—punctuated, of course, by South Park-esque jokes about flexibility and asanas. Surely your inner seventh-grader has already alerted you that the word “asana”—referring to yoga’s various postures—is a comic gold mine in and of itself.
Naturally Brown—who has participated in performance art endeavors large and small from Austin, Texas to New York City—tirelessly researched the ins and outs of musical theater production and imported a few seasoned pros to help make his first foray into the territory of Mel Brooks-style musical numbers a success. “I’ll admit that I don’t watch all that much musical theater, but it sure is fun to create,” Brown says with his signature grin.
A gracious, self-effacing audience proved to be Brown’s greatest asset. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out many fitness freaks, New Agers, refugees from the earliest dawn of the Age of Aquarius and devout practitioners of yoga actually have a sense of humor about their quirkiness. “One would think this was a very stiff subset of people, who wouldn’t know how to laugh at themselves,” Brown says. “But a lot of New Agers and yoga people have a good sense of humor and have enjoyed my irreverent musical theater tribute.”
Brown—himself a veteran yogi and teacher at Centered City Yoga studio in Salt Lake City—readily admits that he is an active member of that yoga subset. His audience accepts his crude yet good-natured barbs because they sense he’s cut from the same flowing sheet of hemp cloth.
In addition to entertaining the masses with ribald jokes, Brown places the strange and amusing cultural confluence of Eastern mysticism and Western materialism under a discerning microscope for the audience’s sincere consideration. “I’m interested in the moment when The Beatles traveled to India and started using sitars in their music, and all of that became absorbed into pop culture,” Brown says. “A friend of mine said, ‘You haven’t left India for a few years now,’ and I guess he’s right about that.”
Judging from last season’s string of sold-out shows, the tale of the fictional city of YogAngeles—where yoga gurus and their devotees duel for dominance, West Side Story-style—tickled funny bones instead of ruffling delicate sensibilities. It was proof, perhaps, that all of the healing crystals and meditative chants that Brown poked fun at onstage are quite potent in real life.
Part two of Brown’s irreverent musical theater tribute—Revenge of Yoga the Musical—includes a revised version of the first Yoga The Musical, along with an electrifying Star Wars-themed conclusion where yoga gurus and their devotees duel for dominance. Despite the inclusion of Darth Yoga and the Yoga Death Star—you have to see it to believe it, dear reader—Brown insists that there are only loose similarities between his latest project and a George Lucas film.
More importantly, perhaps, he believes that the new production is a sequel that welcomes those unfamiliar with the original. “Even if you didn’t see the first Yoga The Musical, you don’t have to scroll through 60 pages of credits to understand what’s going on. You can catch on immediately and enjoy the production without any background,” Brown says.
Revenge of Yoga The Musical brings a slightly different cast than the first run, including Oklahoma-based singer and actress Ashlie Skyie in the role of star yoga teacher Jackti. One of the hallmarks of an SB Dance production is “a crazy cast of folks from all walks of life” who often appear on a one-time basis, due to the multitude of other creative endeavors pulling them in various directions.
Brown and his creative team are so excited for the second Yoga run, they even produced a limited number of Revenge of Yoga The Musical trading cards, which are available at various Salt Lake City businesses. The Bandah Gerbil is sure to become a collector’s item. If you collect irreverent trading cards, be sure to snatch a deck while supplies last.
Despite the success of the first production, Brown stresses that the chances are slim to none that Revenge of Yoga the Musical will become part of a trilogy. “My works don’t have much of an after-life. I encourage everyone to come out and see this upcoming round of performances,” Brown says. So come out and celebrate the nonattachment jokes while they last.
REVENGE OF YOGA THE MUSICAL SB Dance @ Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, 138 W. 300 South, 355-2787, June 6-15. SBDance.com