We tend to stay in our lane with local music, but every now and then a musician pulls us into some new territory. This weekend, it’s theatre.

The Exultant Stag / Photo by Ann Dean

When word got out earlier this year that Jeff Stolz, of Frightened Stag and Drakkar Sauna fame, was putting together a musical, the buzz was already strong. At the musical’s debut on Friday night, we could see why. The Exultant Stag is a fun and entertaining romp between dreams, reality, and mythology.

The story follows our main character, Sonny, as he uses therapy to work through a troublesome and recurring dream he experiences. The audience is taken along this journey as he uses dream training to achieve his mental health outcome. It’s difficult to convey a dream in any setting, whether it be the stage or on film, but having the powerhouse talents of the Lawrence Arts Center conveyed this beautifully.

The Exultant Stag / Photo by Ann Dean

The musical divides time perfectly between performance of the acting and musical kind. The Frightened Stag band members provide live instrumentation to the show– and combined with strong lighting and eye-catching costuming and props, it’s easy to rally for our protagonist in the story.

Several local musicians make appearances, including Heidi Gluck, Hannah Novaria, Raven Naramore, and Wallace Cochran, who plays the main character. The audio in this production is particularly sharp, which is no easy feat when you think of what it takes to balance between dialogue and music. In all, production made meshing the dream and real worlds together a more enjoyable experience.

The Exultant Stag / Photo by Ann Dean

You can expect to hear some Frightened Stag fan favorites in this production, such as “Aceton.” But there are a good amount of new songs as well. The vaudeville-esque “Twenty Million Hits” featured joyous choreography, and “The Sound of Advice” gave us a groovy and psychedelic interlude. We found “Earthly Gods” reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s “Secret World” tour (don’t argue, we binged this on YouTube during lockdown).

The Exultant Stag / Photo by Ann Dean

We love listening to Frightened Stag at live shows, but a performance like this gives us a chance to appreciate and experience local music in a new and exciting way. It all hits differently in the theatrical scope of the play, especially one written through the gaze of a longtime local musician. The audience on opening night was heavily engaged, and at one point cheered heartily for the main character’s climax. You can be cheering right alongside them, thanks to a handful of showings this weekend. Here’s where you can buy tickets before it leaves the stage.

Bonus: All the tracks were recorded and available to listen to:



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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