Danielle Dorky reviews For the Record Presents Tarantino, a rock musical based on the films of Quentin Tarantino at DBA Hollywood.
Award-winning director Quentin Tarantino is known for being a “Director DJ” of sorts. Over the last twenty years, he has cultivated a style that is uniquely varied and musically driven, that’s gratuitous violence and blend of satire with drama lends itself perfectly to a musical stage show. ‘For the Record‘ concert series, which has paid homage to directors Baz Luhrmann, the Coen Brothers and others in the past, saw it fit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction with a raucous cabaret inspired by the director’s most celebrated films.
Tarantino is the first For the Record show to premiere at their new location at DBA Hollywood in West Hollywood. The multi-purpose performance venue was cozy and dimly lit, easily masquerading as a bar any one of Tarantino’s infamous characters might walk into.
Shortly after 8pm, the recognizably high-energy guitar riff of “Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction kicked off the show, the performers swarming a smoky stage and dispersing into the audience to climb onto the backs of booths and bars, drawing every eye in the room with a flawless routine that included teasing burlesque moves and a head-banging guitar solo.
From there they launched into a mash-up of “Jungle Boogie“, “Street Life” and “Hooked on a Feeling” from Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Reservoir Dogs (respectively), a set that transitioned intuitively between each scene while perfectly recapturing the emotions and enticing us with impressive choreography and passionately sung lyrics.
I’d wondered prior to the show what to expect, and while it wasn’t difficult to picture Tarantino’s films translated into a rock musical, I was in no way prepared for the Broadway level of talent I was presented with. I did not expect these iconic scenes to be capable of inciting the same emotions as their film counterparts; did not expect to be singing alongside other audience members, or to laugh as riotously as the first time I heard Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta debate foot massages in Pulp Fiction, for my heart to swell with emotion as Django triumphantly belted the lyrics to “Freedom“.
The first act, Side A as it was called, focused on scenes and songs from the films that defined Tarantino’s macabre style, captivating us with familiar, over-the-top gore and long-memorized, side-splitting one-liners. Side B took on the heavier attitudes within Tarantino’s work, opening with the tense scene from Inglourious Basterds when Col. Hans Landa is surveying the French countryside for stowaway Jews. Later on, a take on John Legend’s “Who Did That To You?” from Django Unchained would receive a standing ovation for its raw fervor and ardent delivery.
The cast of Tarantino brags some of the most well-respected names in show business, including Rumer Willis in a surprisingly moving performance as Kill Bill: Vol 1 and 2‘s Bride, General Hospital‘s Reign Morton, Glee‘s Lindsay Pearce, original Death Proof actress Tracie Thoms and more. Over the opening weekend Tarantino attracted a myriad of celebrity faces, including Quentin Tarantino himself, who appeared visibly entertained during the Friday night showing.
I was impressed by Tarantino director Anderson Davis’ care in paying equal homage to the standout dramatic scenes as well as the emblematic musical tracks from Tarantino’s films. The live band included world-renowned musicians Nicholas Perez on guitar, Joel Gottschalk on bass, Kiel Feher on drums, Philip Dizack on trumpet, Hitomi Oba on saxophoone and conductor Christopher Lloyd Bratten on piano. Emmy-award winning stage and lighting designers helped set the mood for each scene and allowed for unobstructed views of the lively, interactive performances.
As familiar as I am with Tarantino’s work, by the conclusion of Tarantino I found myself compelled to watch and reexamine his filmography, to remain swept up in its senseless, glorified violence and triumphant revenge. Tarantino indulges with provocation and moral ambiguity, encouraging us to laugh at the scenes that first made us cringe or startle. The musically immersive concert experience guarantees to entertain from the moment curtain draws until the final bow.
For the Record has presented Tarantino to receptive audiences in New York and Austin’s SXSW. It’s residency at DBA Hollywood runs every Thursday through Sunday until May 17th. The live cabaret will head to Montreal Jazz Festival this summer.
Photo credit Kwithy Kat
Quentin Tarantino Photo Credit Rony Alwin.