The hit Netflix animated series “Beat Bugs” is being turned into a stage show and Connecticut audiences will be the first to see it.
Bert Bernardi, the artistic director of Pantochino Productions at the Milford Center for the Arts, snagged the rights to the developmental production before “Beat Bugs: A Musical Adventure” gets produced in theaters around the country next year.
“I really wanted to open the company up to more than one voice,” Bernardi says of trying to get away from writing and directing all of the original shows produced by Pantochino.
When he heard a stage version of “Beat Bugs” was in the works, he thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s perfect for families and kids, how can I get this?”
Bernardi looked into who owned the stage property, emailed them, and was surprised and delighted to learn that the writers of the show, David Abbinanti and Sean Cercone, were well aware of Pantochino’s success in recent years.
Halfway through their first conversation, the two writers agreed that Bernardi could put on the first test run of the new show, which is taking place Oct. 12 to 28.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Netflix series, it combines the adventures of five young bug friends in a surburban backyard with the music of The Beatles. Launched in 2016, the show was an immediate international hit, bringing kids and their parents together through the power of the legendary rock group’s songbook.
Asked some questions about the show, Abbinanti and Cercone answered them together:
Is the plot based on a particular episode, or is it a new story using the show’s characters?
It’s a new and original story but many of the situations and places mentioned are from various episodes of “Beat Bugs.” We combed through all 52 episodes and two movie specials and identified scenarios, characters and specific lines that could be adapted and amalgamated into this new story. This ensured the theatrical experience was authentic and true to the characterizations from the beloved animated show.
It must be challenging to adapt an animated series to the stage. What were some of the obstacles you faced in being true to the source material but delivering a stand-alone theater experience?
The Beat Bugs characters were specific and very well-written for the animated show. Once we came up with the structure and plot of the musical, crafting scenes became fairly easy. We spent a lot of time meticulously analyzing every episode and doing the pre-production research work necessary, so we did not find ourselves struggling to figure out who should say a line, or who would have this idea or that idea. Many times, it would be obvious to us that Walter would say this and Kumi would do that and Buzz would say this…It’s a testament to Josh Wakely and all of the creators of the Netflix animated series. They certainly made our job easier.Read Full Article
Was it tough to zero in on The Beatles tunes that are used in the show?
We were like kids in a candy store. We kept saying to each other, “Oh, we have to use this song! Wait, and this one … we can’t NOT use this one!” The hardest part was not being able to use every song from the entire series and distilling it down into an hour-long, live theatrical experience. The scariest, yet most fun part of the creative experience was creating the musical arrangements of the songs. These songs are absolute rock and roll perfection but we also needed to make these songs work theatrically. We were very respectful, sensitive and cognizant of the iconic nature of these songs and the audience’s expectation of how they sound, therefore each creative decision was made deliberately to meet and exceed the audience’s expectation when they experience the show. We just hope we did them justice with creative choices that suit the action on-stage.
To what do you attribute the all-ages appeal of Beatles songs for more than a half century? I can’t imagine a similar TV show/stage production for children being built around The Who or The Rolling Stones.
The Beatles were always experimenting and pushing the limits of what a pop songs can be. It’s probably why, over fifty years later, their music still sounds interesting and fresh. They also wrote songs purposefully to appeal to kids, like “Yellow Submarine.” And those melodies! A great melody is timeless and The Beatles had no shortage of those in their vast catalog.
Why did you choose to partner with Pantochino for this developmental production?
Pantochino is very well-regarded for their ability to produce high quality productions, and with their proximity to the city, it allowed us an opportunity to have ongoing conversations about the creative process and see how the show plays in front of the first paying audiences.
Where does the show go from here?
There are several opportunities in the works for “Beat Bugs” — Off-Broadway, North American Tour and possible London productions. But that all starts here with Pantochino and we couldn’t be more excited to share this exciting new creation with their audiences!