From screen to stage: Locals turn to Kickstarter in hopes of bringing musical to Mabel Tainter

posted Dec. 27, 2015 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Emily Miels. bio | email

  • sk_Phantom_Lake_1a_122715
    Staff photos by Steve Kinderman | Enlarge
    - “Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical!” actors, from left, Christopher Sturz, Kelan Smith, Greta Kernkamp and Cassie Pearson are among those hoping to stage the production in July. The show was adapted from the 2006 film by Christopher R. Mihm and pays homage to 1950s B-movie horror flicks. More information about the project is available at monsterofphantomlake.com.
  • sk_Phantom_Lake_8a_122715-1
    Steve Kinderman | Enlarge
    - From left, Mike Cook, Joel Breed and Mandy Tietz will also act in the production. Cook will also serve as director. The group is hoping to raise at least $2,500 by Jan. 10 via Kickstarter.

An atomic waste monster may find a home this summer at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. 

Local musician Adam Boll and writer, director and producer Christopher R. Mihm have adapted Mihm’s 2006 film “The Monster of Phantom Lake” for the stage. Now the team behind the project is looking for funding to bring the musical to life. 

“The Monster of Phantom Lake” is a “new/​old, good/​bad” movie, according to Mihm’s website, and pays homage to B-movie horror flicks of the 1950s. The movie tells the story of five teens, a professor and a graduate student camping in the woods, where the monster lurks. 

In the same vein, Boll said “The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical!” stays true to the film and genre, while developing a few of the characters and adding in lots of music. 

“The music stays pretty true to the big, kind of the golden age of theater type of show music — so Rodgers and Hammerstein style and anything you would’ve heard from back then,” Boll said. “It also ties in some of the cheesy monster movie type music that you’d hear in movies, so that gets layered over the top. And then it brings in influences of 50s and 60s pop music.”

Mihm said adapting the script for the stage wasn’t particularly difficult, but they did have to make some stage-specific changes. 

“If there’s one thing I see as the greatest challenge in adapting for stage from screen was scope,” he said. “The film had a lot of different shooting locations including a lakefront. We used a real 1950s-era truck in the film. We had to get creative in some of these things to adapt them to the stage. I think we pulled them off beautifully.”

Now the script and score are done, a director and cast of local actors have been lined up and those involved are getting really excited about the project — which they hope to bring to life July 21-24, 2016, in honor of the film’s 10th anniversary. 

“When I heard all the people that were coming around this and all the folks that were involved, I could tell this was going to be something really cool and I wanted to be a part of this throwback kind of genre,” said Seth Berrier, who has been pegged to be the monster in the production. 

The cast had its first read-through of the script in November. 

“It was pretty amazing that pretty much everybody had the characters and not everybody had seen the film,” said director Mike Cook, who was also involved with the film-version of  “The Monster of Phantom Lake” and Mihm’s other films. “... You could see it too, that as we got further and further into it, people got more and more excited about it.”

All that’s left now is funding. 

Kickstarter campaign

The group has started a campaign on the online crowdsourcing website Kickstarter with the hopes of raising at least $2,500 by Jan. 10. 

The funding campaign has three levels. The first, set at $2,500, will guarantee the show actually gets put on, though it will likely be in a small space with minimal set and stage effects. A production DVD will also be recorded with a single camera angle and minimal editing.

The second level, set at $6,000, will mean the show gets put on at the historic Mabel Tainter in Menomonie, with full staging.

“The theater’s set up is perfect for this show,” Boll said. “It’s a smaller theater (and) it’s got a great history. It’s a great space for a small show and it’s ‘haunted,’ so it’s a great space for a monster musical.”

This level includes a production DVD with multiple camera angles and edited by Mihm himself.

The third, and most ambitious level, is $12,000, which would include a professionally-produced cast recording of the show, plus everything included at the previous levels. 

The DVD and cast recording are important, Cook said, because Mihm has developed a worldwide fan base over his decade of filmmaking and travels to comic and science-fiction conventions, where he will be able to sell and market it. 

“It’s going to continue. It’s not just going to be a thing that we do for a week,” Cook said of the musical. “... I can say that with confidence simply because I know how it’s been marketed over 10 years, the movies themselves. This will add right into it.”

Those who donate to the campaign get various rewards, including tickets to the production and associate producer credit. As of press time, the Kickstarter campaign has 33 backers and has raised $1,946 toward the goal. 

Boll said the best way to donate by Jan. 10 or stay informed about the project as it progresses is to visit monsterofphantomlake.com. The website also includes a full cast list, samples of the music and more background and details about each funding level. 

March 9, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of “The Monster of Phantom Lake” film. In addition to the musical, Mihm said he plans to re-release the film converted into 3D and have an anniversary party. 

Contact: 715-833-9214, emily.miels@ecpc.com, @EMiels_LT on Twitter