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Updated 12/03/07

click for a Windows Media Audio file of the musical's opening number

Dorian Gray--a name which conjurs the shuddery image of an eternally youthful Victorian man and his hideous, possessed portrait, hidden away in a mysterious locked upper room.

Oscar Wilde's Faustian Gothic Horror story, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (not "Portrait of..." as it is often mistakenly called) is perhaps even more familiar to the general public than Wilde's own name which was thrust into history by the real-life horror story of his infamous downfall.

Like many well known fictional characters, Dorian's name is better known than the actual details of his story.

Various film versions of Wilde's novel have retained the basic premise of an unusually handsome young man and his portrait which ages and takes on the visage of a sin-drenched monster instead of its increasingly evil but innocent-looking subject.

But it could be argued that Wilde's classic book has been given too concrete and prosaic a dramatization in the cinematic versions which have capitalized on the story's shock value rather than the "purple" mood and psychological themes of the original.

Wilde said that a theatrical adaptation of his work should "retain a sense of beauty." Wilde's aim in his writings was always to evoke beautiful, bold ideas and images, no matter how satirical, serious, informational, or simply entertaining he intended each piece to be.

I feel that the impressionist fable of Dorian can best be told through a tapestry of music.

Before there were musicals based on "Phantom of the Opera" "Jeckyl and Hyde" and "Dracula," I composed and directed a workshop production of my first version of "Dorian" in Los Angeles. Only "Sweeney Todd" existed at that point as a musicalized 19th Century horror story. It was a thrill when Daily Variety reviewed that workshop and said that "...'Dorian' could be the next 'Sweeney Todd..."

Now, with more experience in musical composition and in theatrical endeavors in general, I have re-visited my version of "Dorian" and created a new and even more viable performance piece.

Having mentioned the successful musicals which are also based on famous Gothic novels, I want to to add that "Dorian" is different in style from any of those. "Phantom" and the others were crafted by creative teams in the commercial, professional environment, while my musical is a solo effort, and not really written with the New York stage in mind as a performance goal.

"Dorian" as an idiocynractic theatre piece which doesn't really attempt to be "commercial" in a traditional sense, but still one which can find its own, unique audience. In fact, via online exposure of the show's score, it already has its fans.

The show is not, in the strict sense, in the "Broadway Style." Some people have said it's closer in style to an Opera, albeit a modern one. It's a story told through music, sung dialogue, through sound--and none of it created under the obligation of traditional structures and parameters.

painting from the 1940's film version

We all wonder, at one time or another, what it would be like to be immortal. "Dorian" tells the cautionary tale of how it's our own finite mortality which is the essential core element of our humanity, and that we must live with a bitter-sweet awareness of life's brevity, or go mad trying to live outside the laws of reality.

And now, award winning Pentacle Theatre of Salem, Oregon, is hosting the premiere production of "Dorian." May it be the launching of a long life for this, the biggest project of my life.

Me and the portrait I painted for the LA workshop version.

Randy Bowser
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