boojum! Nonsense,
Lewis Carroll

a full-length work of choral nonsense theatre,
for soloists, choir, piano & optional percussion,
available on double CD (to order, click

book and music: Martin Wesley-Smith
book & lyrics: Peter Wesley-Smith

Boojum! CD

reviews of the production by Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard,
November 18 to Dec 16 2010, Chicago USA

a few excerpts from reviews of the production:

Chicago Timeout: "... its compelling examination of Dodgson's fractured and recurring motives. Boojum! makes Carroll's unimaginable nonsense unimaginably human."

New City Stage: "Boojum! is admirable for its spare but striking stage scenes, creative technical theater, the energized skill of the cast and the play's grand designs."

Around the Town: "... this is a show filled with music (34 total musical numbers), some quaint and comical and some romantic and a few very powerful songs that will send chills down your spine."

Chiilmama: "So many of the Wesley-Smiths' songs had us laughing out loud. And yet they didn't shy away from exploring (albeit gently and tastefully) the murky waters of Dodgson's less than holy hobby of photographing his child playmates in various stages of undress."

Gaper's Block: "From the source material itself to the rapid changes of scene, time, and place, Boojum! essentially dares you to try and make sense of it all ... Nonsense and confusion aren't usually the aim of an opera, but Boojum!'s Gilbert-and-Sullivan-meet-David-Lynch vibe is pulled off admirably by the small cast. Confusion, silliness, and vagary may be the best possible way to explore the life and work of such an unusual and surprising man as Lewis Carroll (and his moral counterpart). When executed with beauty and imagination, as it is here, the overall effect is much like the general delight one feels when reading one of Carroll's famous stories."

Sun Times: "A zesty hybrid of cabaret theater and contemporary opera - with a book and score by Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith, two immensely talented brothers based in Australia - it begins a bit opaquely. But before long, director Jimmy McDermott's superbly polished and ingenious production - which features superb musical direction by Andrea Velis Simon (who also supplies the brilliant, tremendously difficult onstage piano accompaniment) and Martin Silberstein - draws you into its dark, brainy, eccentric world. And as Carroll's desperate need for 'nonsense' and an imaginary language become increasingly apparent, the realization about the reasons for such masking techniques delivers a genuinely gripping emotional punch."

Chicago Journal: "... they opine, prophesize and sermonize in all manners of sung verse and dance - from swaggery dancehall ditties and extravagant showstoppers to mournful ballads - about themselves, the elusive Snark and Boojum (the Snark's companion? Doppelganger? Both?), and the absurdities of their situation with a lyrical flourish that would make Carroll proud ... Much like the author's work, it's wonderful nonsense."

Chicago Tribune: "The dizzying wordplay, adroit stage pictures and eclectic score slowly peel away to reveal some heavy truths about mortality, longing and loss."

Chicago Theatre Blog: "high-energy high-jinx"

Chicago Stage Review: "... Boojum!'s absurd antics, dark humor and razzle-dazzle music-and-dance numbers are all the more impactful because of the sense of tragedy that laps at the edges of the story. All of the details are here: eye-popping costumes, snappy choreography, perfectly timed delivery, wonderful music ... this fine group of actors accompanied by a single piano really make Boojum! shine. We can't help but imagine what they could do with a Broadway sized theater and full orchestra. If the theater gods are smiling, they will certainly get the chance to show us."

Chicago Broadway World: "... the result is a show that is quite unlike any other I have ever seen. Reminiscent of opera, art song, musical comedy, a play with music, experimental theater and a night in an adventurous bar, "Boojum!" may be a highly original, unique work as written, and it comes across as pretty singular in performance, as well. It's part journey theater, part character analysis. It's a staged secular cantata. I don't know, am I right? ... This Australian musical ... has been dropped onto our laps as a holiday gift no one saw coming. It's not for the faint of heart or those looking for a fancy night on the town. But as a piece of theater/music/music theater/literary theater/community exorcism/storefront magic, this work is powerful, troubling and seductively beautiful. Give yourself to its slow seduction, and try to understand the tortured soul of a genius. I can't shake Boojum!. I want to, but I can't."

photographs by John W Sisson Jr Photography:

synopsis authors' notes CD credits critical comments libretto: Act 1, Act 2
Martin Wesley-Smith Peter Wesley-Smith mw-s discography
e-mail Martin
e-mail Peter
Lewis Carroll
home page
Mrs Hargreaves
Who Killed
Cock Robin?
other libretti by Peter Wesley-Smith include:
Black Ribbon [2001] Quito [1994] True [2002] doublethink [2005]

the Boojum tree (Idria columnaris)

see this brilliant Snark site by Mahendra Singh in Montreal, Quebec

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site updated Dec 10 2010