Rocker Donovan Leitch has a new ‘Gypsy Glam’ musical

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Donovan Leitch has done Hedwig. Now he’s the co-creator and star of a heady new musical in which he gets to go Wilde and cry over Woolf.

The Bowie-loving son of Donovan, the ‘60s folk-pop troubadour, has long fronted the L.A. glam-rock covers band Camp Freddy. Now he’s rehearsing to camp out on stage as Freddy Nietzsche.

Long story short: Leitch is the librettist, second-chair songwriter (with L.A. rock veteran Lanny Cordola in the lead) and star of ‘The Dark Root of the Dream,’ a musical that will have a one-performance workshop-cum-showcase June 6 at Largo at the Coronet Theatre.

Leitch starts out as Mr. E, superstar-provocateur of rock and other media, who happens to be the guilt-ridden fictional son of the novelist Virginia Woolf. Burdened by his mother’s suicide, he delves into deep, dark literary caverns and starts believing that he is a one-man pantheon of alter egos, including Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche.


All this plays out to a soundtrack performed by a Gypsy orchestra in a style Leitch has dubbed Gypsy Glam.

‘I know it all sounds heavy,’ the rocker-actor says. But he promises that the show will also have some humorous relief and a love interest.

Leitch’s stage credentials include a lead turn off-Broadway in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch,’ followed in 2006 by a well-received staging of ‘Hedwig’ at the Roxy in which he was both star and producer. He also played a troubled British rock star trying to get back to his musical roots in the Mississippi Delta in the Geffen Playhouse’s 2003 production of Stephen Jeffreys’ drama ‘I Just Stopped by to See the Man.’ Leitch says he recently auditioned for a leading part in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s September premiere of the stage musical version of ‘American Idiot,’ the concept album by the rock band Green Day.

‘The Dark Root of the Dream’ took root about a year and a half ago, Leitch says, when Cordola invited him to be the singer for a recording project of darkly theatrical pop songs a la Scott Walker, the American expatriate who achieved stardom in Swingin’ Sixties London. Somehow, the sessions metamorphosed into a two-man study group delving into such eminences as Nietzsche, Emmanuel Kant, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Kenneth Anger. Out popped a story incorporating the songs — among them ‘The Harlot’s House,’ a noir-ish Oscar Wilde poem set to music.

Ken Roht, an L.A. stage veteran who worked with Leitch on the Hollywood production of ‘Hedwig,’ is the show’s director, choreographer and co-star, playing Truelove, Mr. E’s guide on an inward journey. Leitch, who lives in Studio City, says the piece was influenced by holistic psychoanalysis, a form of therapy he’s undergone that involves analyzing one’s dreams. Rounding out the ensemble are three other actors and a six-piece onstage band, Fishtank Ensemble, that specializes in Gypsy music and features a musical saw along with the typical accordion, guitar and violin.

Asked whether the show might resemble ‘The Black Rider,’ the stage collaboration between Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs, Leitch said he’s imagined that show’s director, Robert Wilson, as ‘the dream director for this one.’

For now, Leitch is hoping the show’s first outing, for which he is footing the bill, will attract investors who can help push it along toward a local residency, the Edinburgh Festival, a tour, or whatever other opportunity might be in the offing.

— Mike Boehm