After last winter’s run of Spread The Nudes shows, it didn’t take long for inspiration to strike writer Chris Holoyda again. Following one of the performances, a conversation with friends during a post-show meal spawned an idea for a musical with an unorthodox theme: brain surgery.

“We realized we had this strange lobotomy knowledge between the four of us. Someone was like, ‘That should be your next show,'” Holoyda says. “The more I thought about it, and the more I researched stuff about Walter Freeman—he was the main guy behind the thrust of lobotomy during the ’30s and ’40s—I was like ‘Wow, there’s kind of a lot here.'”

Using knowledge gleaned from his undergraduate studies as a psychology major and some independent research, Holoyda crafted Lobotomy: The Musical!, a story that simultaneously explains Dr. Freeman’s rationale behind performing approximately 3,500 lobotomies, while also examining the ethical dilemma associated with the long-discontinued procedure and society’s tendency to lock away and medicate its mentally ill.

“I think the main question is are you really treating the person or are you just sort of numbing them and putting a quick fix on them so you can shove them aside and you don’t have to think about them anymore?”

Instead of penning a serious dramatic work, Holoyda—a guitarist in long-running ska band Something To Do—wanted to tackle the weighty and controversial topic as a musical.

“It seemed like a fun way to tell the story,” Holoyda says. “I hadn’t really considered a straight play. A musical seemed like a more fun way to do it.”

In addition to calling upon his band mates to write a song, Holoyda asked Avenues, Lady Cannon, and Not Dead Yet to contribute to the musical’s soundtrack. There will also be a band (which includes Holoyda) playing live during each show. While the musical is set during the 1930s and 1940s, the heyday of lobotomies, the score will take on a slightly more modern and unexpectedly gritty sound to pair perfectly with the crude procedure.

“The music veers towards kind of Ramones-y, later ’70s punk stuff, but is not really per the period,” Holoyda says. “A lot of the subject has the whole punk rock, rockabilly, Tales From The Crypt sort of iconography. At least that’s what I associate with it, so it makes sense for the music to fit.”

Outside of the house band the show’s writer assembled for the occasion, a six-actor cast boasts members from Evil Dead: The Musical, a former collaborator in The Improvised Musical, and thespians who are just coming off The Importance Of Being Ernest and The Secret Garden.

The actors and musicians will take the Alchemist Theatre stage August 5, 6, 12, and 13, with a post-show concert at Frank’s Power Plant on the final night featuring Something To Do, New Boyz Club, and more. Tickets for the four-show run are still available.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.