First Look at John Cameron Mitchell's 'Anthem' Musical Series (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
From John Cameron Mitchell -- the mind behind Shortbus and Broadway's Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- comes an ambitious new anthology series, Anthem, which combines music, drama, film and theater to tell a story unlike any other. The groundbreaking podcast will debut in April on Luminary.
In the premiere season, Homunculus, the solitary and broke Ceann Mackay (Mitchell) launches an online radio telethon to raise money to remove his brain tumor. Over the course of 10 episodes, audiences are taken on a bitterly funny journey of his life through a mix of flashbacks and original songs, which introduce the many, many colorful characters of Ceann's world. As his "tumor telethon" eventually gains attention, Ceann realizes the thing killing him may actually be what will save everyone.
"Building on the serio-comic musical aesthetic of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, we've tried to push narrative podcast into cinematic territory [by] packing over 30 original songs and 40 characters into five-and-a-half hours of story in 10 episodes," Mitchell says of project, which would have been too expansive for the stage or screen.
Among those lending vocal support to Mitchell’s series are a number of Broadway and film stars, including Glenn Close, Cynthia Erivo and Patti LuPone. The three Tony-winning actresses play key women in Ceann's life. Close, coming off a career-high with The Wife earning her a Golden Globe and her seventh Oscar nomination, plays Ceann's mother, Maeve, who "sings a punk song nailed to a cross," Mitchell reveals. LuPone, meanwhile, plays Ceann’s Aunt Ida and gets to wail "a bebop epic about the secret origin of the universe," and Erivo, who recently broke through on screen with Widows, "plays Joan the Baptist who preaches the Gospel of the Virgin Mary."
"Cynthia, Patti and Glenn were our eager partners in reviving a vintage form of radio drama but adding the bells, whistles and topicality of a deep-dish modern musical about what it means to be living in America today during our so-called End Times," Mitchell says.
Rounding out the cast is Marion Cotillard, Denis O’Hare, James Monroe Iglehart, Ben Foster, Nakhane, Bridget Everett, Laurie Anderson, Justin Vivian Bond, Simone, Christopher Hanke and Madeline Brewer.