If you are looking for a VHS or DVD copy of the Highway to
Helen TV special contact
Note: The show has not been scrapped, it is still in development. Musicals take a long time. Could premiere someday.
Highway to Helen | Interviews | Notes | News
This is a documentary made in 2003 for the BBC which follows Brian Johnson and his partners around as they work to get the musical off the ground. If feature much footage of MM.
Malcolm arrives to record his song
Malcolm in the studio checking out the lyrics for the first time
10/02 Razor Magazine with Malcolm for Helen of Troy
Was to premiere March 20th, 2003 8pm in Saratsota Florida.
Saratsota Ballet - Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Malcolm will play the role of Zeus the narrator who also does
Thur., Mar. 20, 2003 - 8 pm
Fri., Mar. 21 - 2-8 pm
Sat., Mar. 22 - 2-8 pm
Sun., Mar. 23 - 2-8 pm
VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 80's - #10 is AC/DC and mentions Helen of Troy. 11/06
AC/DC goes ballet
From The Sunday Times' Maurice Chittenden
September 2, 2003
It is less head-banger, more Nutcracker. Brian Johnson, the gravel-voiced
singer with hard rock group AC/DC, has composed an orchestral piece of music
that is being developed for the stage as both a ballet and a West End musical. The
Tyneside-born Johnson, 55, who credits his talent for screaming out rock
lyrics to his army sergeant-major father, began writing Helen of Troy as a
distraction from performing such heavy-metal anthems as Given the Dog a Bone and
Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution. The singer, famous for never removing his cap in public, says he got the idea
while watching a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats.
"One day I was sitting through a boring musical and thought: 'I can do better than this.' I thumbed through the program and there was an advertisement for a bank with gold coins tumbling out of a wooden horse. That triggered the idea for Helen of Troy. It was as simple as that."
Johnson, who collaborated with British composer Brendan Healy on the piece, has been holding workshop performances for potential backers at Cameron Mackintosh's Prince Edward Theatre on London's West End with Gary Griffin, director of Stephen Sondheim's musical Pacific Overtures. Helen of Troy is tipped to make its UK debut in November and Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer with Irish group the Cranberries, may play Helen, who is kidnapped on her wedding night by Paris, with the help of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Meanwhile, the Sarasota Ballet in Florida, where Johnson has his main home, is planning a dance version for next year's season. Malcolm McDowell, the actor who came to fame in A Clockwork Orange, is likely to play Zeus, who narrates the performance. Robert de Warren, artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet and former head of the Northern Ballet in Britain, says: "I would like Brian to play Helen of Troy's father, King Tyndareus, a non-dancing role. He can wear a crown or a laurel wreath instead of his cap."
Tickets were to go on sale September 3rd, 2002
For ticket info check:
That gravely voiced AC/DC frontman, Brian Johnson, has a softer side.
According to Jon Wiederhorn of mtv.com, the singer is busy writing for a musical
production of "Helen of Troy" which is being described as "an
action-filled love story" based on Greek mythology.
Johnson is collaborating with British composer Brendan Healy and Sarasota Ballet Artistic Director Robert de Warren on the production.
Johnson has currently written 14 songs for the musical which will debut in March of 2003 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida. After a nine-show run, "Helen of Troy" will tour Florida, and if the show is a success, a national tour will follow.
The $1.2 million show will feature five singing roles, a chorus of 15 and a dancing troupe of 15, which is set to include jugglers, acrobats and fire eaters. There will also be a narrator that plays Zeus. That part will likely go to Johnson's friend Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange"), said de Warren to mtv.com, adding that shock television host Jerry Springer has also expressed interest in the role.
Johnson reportedly started working on "Helen of Troy" six years ago. However, the show really started coming to fruition in 1990 when a friend introduced him to de Warren. The singer brought the ballet director a CD of the tracks he'd been working on and the two exchanged ideas. When they realized they were on the same page, Johnson asked de Warren to choreograph the production.
Unlike the Who's rock opera "Tommy", "Helen of Troy" is closer to a real operetta. "It's not at all based in rock," de Warren said to mtv.com. "It's rather like Gilbert and Sullivan. It's very British, actually. There's a lot of very beautiful melodies, and it's amazing how literate [Brian] is, which is quite unusual for a rock star."
Johnson's publicist confirmed his participation in "Helen of Troy" to Wiederhorn of mtv.com, but said that the singer thought it was too early to talk about the show.
SARASOTA -- You wouldn't think that Brian Johnson, the raucous, charismatic
lead singer of the rock group AC/DC, would connect with Robert de Warren,
the reserved artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet.
After all, Johnson belts out the sometimes-suggestive lyrics to songs like
"Back in Black" and "Highway to Hell" in front of thousands
De Warren speaks softly in a "Masterpiece Theatre" British accent,
to chamber music and only recently learned who Billy Joel was.
Johnson is a T-shirt-and-jeans guy with black hair that tumbles out of his
baseball cap. He loves his Porsche Boxster and his silver Harley-Davidson. De Warren favors country-club attire and drives a sturdy Cadillac de Ville
with 150,000 miles on it.
But these polar opposites are friends and collaborators. Thursday, they announced plans for a lavish theatrical production that they hope will electrify Sarasota and then tour the nation.
The show is "Helen of Troy," a blend of song, dance and spectacle based on Greek mythology. The $1.2 million production will premiere in March at Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Johnson wrote the music and lyrics with partner Brendan Healy, a British composer and actor. De Warren will choreograph and direct the production, which will feature Sarasota Ballet dancers as well as a stage full of actors, singers, acrobats and fire-eaters. Johnson said his friend, Malcolm McDowell, the star of such films as "A Clockwork Orange," will play the role of Zeus, the show's narrator.
"Helen of Troy" has been in the works for six years, said Johnson, who described it as a poignant and funny love story set against the Trojan War. "I'm interested in mythology and history, especially military history," he said. "I must admit that the only part of the 'Iliad' that I read was about the siege of Troy." A 54-year-old native of northern England, Johnson has the charm, wit and working-class accent of a Dickensian rogue. His interests have always extended far beyond rock. "I love musical theater, especially the classic stuff," he said. To prove it, during lunch at Mediterraneo restaurant, Johnson started singing "I'd do anything, for you, dear, anything," from "Oliver!," and then launched into "Shall We Dance?" from "The King and I." Johnson isn't crazy about more recent musicals, though. He and his wife, Brenda, saw "Cats" several years ago. "I couldn't wait to leave," he said. "It was puerile drivel. That's when I started thinking I may as well try to write a show. Then I went to see 'Grease' in New York, and it was friggin' drivel, too. That spurred me on more." "Helen of Troy" is a "Les Miserables"-style musical, with rousing anthems,
tender ballads and minimal dialogue. "It's meant to be pure entertainment on a grand scale," Johnson said. "It's full of songs you can go out singing. It's Gilbert & Sullivan meets . I dunno, George M. Cohan, maybe."
And how in the world did Johnson and de Warren meet? They are both residents of Sarasota's Bird Key, where they were introduced by mutual friends a couple of years ago. "I'd seen Robert's work with the Sarasota Ballet even before I met him, and I was impressed," said Johnson, who has lived in Sarasota for 10 years. "I told him about this project, and I thought he'd be the right guy to help pull it together. We've really developed a simpatico relationship, a level of trust and respect."
De Warren said he was overwhelmed by the power and beauty of Johnson's music for "Helen of Troy," and by the sophistication and humor in his lyrics. "Brian is a bright, fascinating fellow, and it's so exciting to be part of a venture like this," he said. De Warren, who says he's over 60 but won't be more precise, led ballet companies in England, Iran and Italy before coming to Sarasota in 1994. He says he has become an AC/DC fan since meeting Johnson. "I went to their concert in Madison Square Garden last year, and it was amazing and so theatrical," he said.
AC/DC was founded in Australia in the early 1970s. Johnson joined the group in 1980. The band, among the top-selling rock groups in history, still tours regularly. "I still love performing, and I'll keep doing it until I become a parody of myself," Johnson said, laughing.
Nearly $800,000 of the $1.2 million budget for "Helen of Troy" has been raised from local and out-of-state contributors and investors, according to de Warren and Johnson. After seven performances at the Van Wezel, the show will tour Florida and then around the country, they said.
Another of their Bird Key neighbors, talk-show host Jerry Springer, may be interested in playing Zeus in "Helen of Troy" at some point. "Jerry and I have talked about it," Johnson said. "He just did a role in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' in New York, and did great."
Johnson hopes his head-banging AC/DC fans will take a chance on "Helen of Troy." "It's just me trying something new. I hate doing the same thing. That's why I have four cars, so I can drive a different one every day." And he'd be thrilled if "Helen of Troy" lands on Broadway, and critics hail
him as the rock-era's answer to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. "If that happened," he said, "I'd be so happy, there would have to be two of me to contain all my joy."
This format © 2002-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net