Speakeasy with ...Rob Thompson

7 Stages invites the devil to Christmas dinner

With a guarantee "to take the 'Christ' out of Christmas," 7 Stages' Christmas with the Devil promises to bring yuletide cheer to heavy metal headbangers. The Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra teams up with 7 Stages and Big City Burlesque for an unholy holiday theater piece Dec. 17-19. Lead guitarist and organizer Rob Thompson, who recently rocked out as the house band of 7 Stages' Hair, explains the origins of the piece, anchored by 666, "a dramatic interpretation of Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast."

How much of this is a rock show, and how much is it a theater piece with dialogue and characters?

It's not a straight-up rock show. We've done the 666 show three times before, and each time we've had a different opening act. The 666 show proper is Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast in its entirety. There's playacting and dialogue between songs the entire time. It's a real Star Wars kind of story, but with a gangland setting, a Satanic sacrifice, and a Luciferian brothel. The first time we did it, Act One was "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." I was dressed like the devil and played the solo, the rest dressed like farmers. We also did Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" and had the devil marry an angel.

So how do you bring heavy metal Satanic themes to Christmas?

This time, the basic theme in Act One is the devil invades heaven for Christmastime. We do Monty Python's "Christmas in Heaven" to set the tone, and have songs including Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and Spinal Tap's "Christmas with the Devil." We take cues from the songs and act them out a little bit. By the end, the people in heaven seem to think it's cool to have the devil for the holidays.

Where did you get the idea to do these kinds of shows?

I've only been doing theater for about four years. I'm a rock and roll scenester and kind of got tired of seeing the same three bands all the time, at places where no one cares if you can sing or not. I started trying to make a show that I would enjoy. Shane Morton of the Silver Scream Spook Show is a friend of mine, and has helped from the beginning. 666 is a show that's rock-based and horror-centric. Someone told me that what we do is very much absurdist theater. I haven't actually seen any absurdist theater, but I'll take their word for it. We want it to be as fun or more so for the theater person than someone looking for a rock show experience. It's the best of both worlds. The great thing is that the theater audience actually pays attention.

Doing shows like this or Hair, do you have to immerse yourself in the music of an earlier period?

Iron Maiden is second nature to me – I was raised on that stuff. With Hair, I totally had to immerse myself in it. My only exposure to Hair was the film, which I didn't like. I almost quit the production, but Del Hamilton was so excited that I couldn't tell him. Then I worked out four Hair songs with the band, and so I saw how the music could be our own and totally different from the film. I was really glad I never quit, because I learned a lot. I've always grabbed people out of my favorite rock bands, and now I'm pulling in my new theater contacts. The choreographer of Hair is helping with some choreography, and Del is directing scenes. I think one of my talents is bringing people together.

Is there anything else you want people to know about the show?

Well, the girls are very sexy and willing to be sexy for the show. It's like a B-movie on a stage with music and a cast of people who love it. I usually warn people that the front three rows are the "blood rows," so dress appropriately.

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