Not your garden variety musical

The first question that Craig Trolli had to answer about "Exorcist: the Musical" is what were you thinking?

And, like any true artist, he knew just what to answer: "I've been in love with the movie since I was 12. And there's a lot of camp value in it."

It was also Trolli's dream to play the "bad Reagan" in the movie, so he's created a show that allows him to do just that.

Trolli is the self-admitted founder of Bad Actor Productions, a group that has not even celebrated its first anniversary but has already given the local theater scene such productions as the drag queen, live theater take on the 1985 movie "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and a parody of "Dangerous Liaisons" set on a cruise ship called "Dangerous Lee Press-Ons."

"Girls" started as a one-night gig to raise money for the LGBT Center on Capitol Hill.

"They were doing an art show in their gallery, but I didn't have any art ready," recalled Trolli, who is the artist/writer of "Em-Ma Gawd! And Anna Rexia" comic strip. "So I threw at them the idea of doing 'Girls' and they said yes."

Forced to come up with a script and cast, Trolli started calling people.

"Doing that production, we learned that casting your friends is funny, but not everyone wants to be on stage," he said. Other lessons were also learned, including the dangers of writing your script as you go. "When we did the performance, the first act only lasted 10 minutes and then we were supposed to have an intermission. That's when we learned about rehearsing something all the way through."

For their next production, "Dangerous Lee Press-Ons," the Bad Actors enjoyed having a stage at Richard Hugo House and real theater seats for the audience. Like their previous production, the majority of the ticket price went to charity, but the Bad Actors did hold back a little to cover their expenses. "That's the production where we learned our lesson about keeping some of the money," said Trolli.

Still, Bad Actors always tries to donate something to a charity. "It's good to give back to the community," said Trolli, "because they don't have to come and see our shows."

For the current show, Bad Actors have held four fundraisers for themselves at various bars around the Hill. "People keep saying 'is this it? Is this the musical?' and we keep saying 'no, it's another fundraiser!' We're using the money raised to cover the costs of make-up and props," Trolli said.

When asked exactly what props and make-up were needed, Trolli turned coy.

"Well, we don't want to give anything away. But there's this variant scene that got cut from the movie where she comes down the staircase upside down, called the spider walk. And there's the head spinning-we had to come up with the silliest possible effect for that!"

Trolli also promised to lay to rest any illusions about pea soup in the film's infamous vomit scene. More difficult has been adapting the horror movie to the conventions of a musical.

"With musicals, you have to have a love story," said Trolli. "So we've added one." And to give it that Disney touch, "we've added a stuffed animal that dances around. Reagan does this song with a dancing animal. It's the most atrocious thing that you'll ever see and it's our favorite number."

As with all Bad Actor shows, "we try to butcher live theater and musical theater at the same time," said Trolli. But they also try to keep the jokes flowing and the action fun for the audiences. "If you like musicals, you'll still like this. And if you hate musicals, like I do, you'll love it."

"Exorcist: the Musical!" opens Friday, Feb. 11, and will play on Fridays at 9 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E. Pike. The show continues through March 5. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $12. Senior and student discounts are available.

And, please note, Bad Actors Productions carry the warning: "mature content and feelings expressed through music!"

Rosemary Jones writes about arts and entertainment for the Capitol Hill Times. She can be reached at editor@capitolhill

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