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HGO, TUTS and Houston Symphony plan world premiere of Fracking! The Musical

Act One. Curtain rises. Cue the banjo. Somewhere in West Texas. A foggy sunrise.

Amid a vast forest of mighty wind turbines, a lone and tired pumpjack nicknamed Bitsy siphons her last barrel of crude. Billy Merle "Burrito" Ray cuddles up to her polish rod and intones a lone chantey, "My dry hole," to the tune of Les Miserables' "On My Own" on a dirty, dented and slightly out-of-tune harmonica. Bitsy gives her last thrust.

The preamble to Fracking! The Musical is set in 2054 and recalls a time when oil reigned king. Billy Ray, a T. Boone Pickens type, is a fallen tycoon who looks back at the good ole' years of Big Oil. That's when tap shoes, honky tonk and bel canto fuse for a rowdy hootenanny square dance and pumpkin chuckin' contest in a land where barbecue, the dealth penalty and cattle coexist in perfect harmony. 

Half jazz-hands musical, half country chamber opera, the show is an unusual collaboration between Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony and Theatre Under the Stars. For Fracking! The Musical, BP Global is the major underwriter, with support from Anadarko, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

 "Oil is the best part of the earth," HGO artistic director Patrick Summers says. "Why not celebrate it with song?"

With arias like "Five hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred gallons," "Do-Re-Drill," "I say upstream, you say downstream," "I'm gonna wash that oil right outta my hair" and "Where's my wellhead," audiences will readily recognize melodies from beloved Broadway productions like Rent, The Sound of Music, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific and Cats

"Rather than composing all original songs, we've created a juke box musical bringing together the best selling melodies out there," John Breckenridge, TUTS president and CEO, says. "We save money by not hiring a composer, and we expect CD sales to kill at our gift shop."

The musical is set to premiere on April 22 at Discovery Green as part of Earth Day festivities. A special mud pit will be set up where children can experience the benefits of oil spills on the environment.

"Oil is the best part of the earth," HGO artistic director Patrick Summers says. "Why not celebrate it with song?"


Editor's Note: Happy April Fools' Day!

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