SHERIDAN — As part of the busiest season in WYO Theater’s history, “Beethoven’s Wig” makes classical music fun and relatable for audiences of all ages.
“Beethoven’s Wig” is the creation of writer Richard Perlumutter and is a multimedia show that pairs Perlumutter’s zany lyrics with classical music.
“I thought it would be fun to do some kind of a project where I wrote lyrics to big hits of classical music,” Perlumutter said about the inception of the show, which started as a sing along album. “I thought it would be kind of a fun thing for kids and a good way for kids and adults too, to access classical music.”
The show has changed a lot during its years of running. Perlumutter said when he first started, he toured with four opera singers and used a symphony orchestra. The show now includes just him touring with a multimedia crew of cartoon orchestra characters; characters that include a robot, dinosaur, alien and raccoon.
During the show Perlumutter sings and plays guitar and mandolin while interacting with the cartoon orchestra and audience. He said it’s easier to travel as a solo artist and noted he can perform in smaller art centers without a full symphony orchestra. He’s been performing this version for about a year.
The first of his five “Beethoven’s Wig” albums was released in 2002. Perlumutter said it didn’t take long for the music to catch on and he was soon invited as a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered and NBC’s Today Show.
His five records have earned numerous awards including four Grammy nominations and five Parent’s Choice Awards.
“It was all kind of a musician’s dream come true in terms of being a recording artist,” Perlumutter said. “So it was really fun.”
Perlumutter said the writing process takes time because he really researches the composer and song so that the lyrics also teach the audience something about the piece or the composer.
“Instead of singing ‘Beethoven’s wig is very big’ I could have written you know, ‘go to the library, study very hard’ or something like that,” Perlumutter said, “but that doesn’t have any connection to the actual piece of music.”
WYO Theater Executive Director Erin Butler said that when listening to the music from “Beethoven’s Wig” she was really attracted to the lightness of it because classical music can sometimes intimidate people.
“He does make it really relatable and younger students especially will be able to really kind of enjoy and relate and get a kick out of you know the things that he’s done with the music itself,” Butler said. “Because then they begin to feel like classical music can be part of their everyday experience.”
While Perlumutter said he particularly enjoys classical music, he said more importantly he wants to just share the gift of music with young generations in hopes it impacts them the way it has him.
“For me, music just makes me so happy and I just love playing music and listening to music,” Perlumutter said. “And if I can somehow impart my love of it to someone else, then maybe they’ll love it – kind of a nice thing to share.”
The show isn’t just for kids, though. Both Perlumutter and Butler said the lyrics appeal to adults as well. Perlumutter said he’s been told many times by adult audience members that his lyrics are reminiscent of Tom Lehrer, a comedy songwriter from the 1950s and 60s.
“The music is pretty much timeless and appeals to everyone, you know adults and children as well,” Perlumutter said. “But I think the lyrics are pretty sophisticated and can be enjoyed on many, many levels.”
As part of the Children’s Educational and Family Series at the WYO, “Beethoven’s Wig” will be open to the public Sunday, Feb. 12, and will have two matinées the following day exclusively for students and teachers.
“I think it’s one of those shows that people are personally intrigued by,” Butler said, “and secondly it’s sort of warm, like it feels like a warm, fun event, and students and kids are just really going to enjoy Richard as a performer, and of course his content on top of that.”