Burkett Goes Off-Off-Broadway


It's not Off Broadway, or even Off-Off-Broadway, it's Lake Jackson, Texas. But what makes the opening of a play in Brazosport College newsworthy in these parts is that it was crafted --lines and lyrics -- by the Payson Roundup's own Mike Burkett.

Burkett attended the opening earlier this month of the musical comedy, "Melody of Frankenstein," which was presented by Lake Jackson College before standing-room-only, turn-away crowds.

Burkett said he's written about a dozen plays, which have been professionally produced.

But this one was special, Burkett said, because its characters, story and songs have been in his head for 30 years.

"I started writing it in the early 1970s with a musician friend, Glen Rose," he said. "We wrote a couple of songs and recorded them in his garage."

But before the play was finished, Burkett and Rose became involved in other pursuits and lost touch with each other.

"Twenty-five years later, I was going through a box of stuff and found this ancient cassette tape," Burkett said. "I popped it into a player ... and it was those songs we'd recorded in Glen's garage.

I thought, 'Man, these are great! I'd love to finish writing this show.' But I hadn't talked to Glen in about 25 years. I had no idea where in the world he was, and knew I couldn't finish it without him."

Fate intervened. Immediately after finding the cassette, Burkett's telephone rang. It was Rose, who'd been in Hollywood working as a studio musician and orchestrator with composers such as Henry Mancini and John Williams.

Within two months, the book, lyrics and score for "Melody of Frankenstein" were complete.

The central characters of the play are Rodney and Sylvia Quasimodo, sibling hunchbacks who have turned the original Castle Frankenstein into a tourist attraction. What they don't know, but quickly learn, is that Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his creation are still alive and well in the castle's basement.

Through the course of the action, Sylvia and the monster fall in love, her overly-protective brother banishes the creature from the castle, the dejected and depressed Sylvia is transformed into a love goddess by Dr. Frankenstein, the monster becomes a pop superstar called Blood ... and everyone eventually learns that fame, beauty and riches are no match for matters of the heart.

"Boris Karloff may have made the monster of Frankenstein in his image," wrote the drama critic of the Brazosport County newspaper "but he still wasn't able to breathe life into it the way ('Melody of Frankenstein') has."

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