The TUNEabomber

Another in the seemingly endless flow of musicals about unlikely subjects that prove successful. This time it’s The TUNEabomber, a tunefully jolly and satirical take on The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

A tunefully jolly and satirical take on The Unabomber

Kaczynski (1942- 2023), was a mathematics prodigy, who gave up his academic career in 1969 and took to the woods where he lived a simple life. Between 1978 and 1995, he committed three murders and injured 23 others in a nationwide mail-bombing campaign. His targets were people who prioritised progress in technology over preserving the environment. He set out his philosophy in Industrial Society and Its Future, a 35,000-word manifesto and social critique in which he opposed industrialisation, rejected left-wing ideologies and advocated a nature-centred form of anarchism. Moving to a remote cabin near Lincoln Montana in 1972, he became a recluse, living without electricity or running water, deploying survival skills, and becoming self-sufficient. As the destruction of natural habitats around him increased, he decided to battle against it through acts of terrorism. Hunting him down became the longest and most expensive investigation in the history of the FBI. Their case identifier for mysterious perpetrator was UNABOM (University and Airline Bomber). Hence he became know as the "Unabomber".

In 1995, in a letter to The New York Times, Kaczynski promised to give up his campaign if The Times or The Washington Post published his manifesto. The authorities appoved it. However his brother David recognized the prose style, and reported his suspicions to the FBI. They arrested Kaczynski in 1996. His lawyers wanted him to plead insanity to avoid the death penalty, but he insisted he was sane. His failed attempt to dismiss the court appointees led to a guilty plea and in 1998 he was sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. Kaczynski committed suicide in the Federal Medical Center, Butner, North Carolina in 2023.

But suppose he never wanted to be a monster, just a musical theatre star; the next Bob Fosse. In The TUNEabomber Michael Wysong and John Lampe create a musical in memoriam, bringing him back from the grave to perform the musical he wrote and rehearsed in solitary confinement. His audience is the parole board (that’s us) who listens to no avail. Released from his shackles, for a brief time his orange jumpsuit becomes his costume, the lights go up and the keyboard belts out the backing to a symphony of songs that demonstrate the musicality, humour and performance skills of these two highly talented and innovative artists who cover his life-story in a fast-paced 75 minutes at C-Aquila.

New York-based director Liz Power invests the show with cabaret theatricality, and the relish the guys have for the show flows in waves throughout the auditorium. As far as they are concerned, the best way to take away any influence this despicable criminal might have is through laughter and they certainly succeed in that.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Set at a parole board hearing, Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber) recounts his life through song in the hope of proving that he never wanted to be a monster, he only wanted to be a star. While he may have spent years sending explosives, this is one performance Ted can't bomb. Written and performed by John Lampe and Michael Wysong, this new musical comedy dares to ask the question no one needed an answer to: What if this notorious eco-terrorist was the next Bob Fosse?

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