If you are a fan of Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s, you have probably wondered what his deeply emotional and visual music would sound and look like live. Well, now you can experience it as a full theater production in The Theater Equation, the wonderful fruition of a dream and the latest creation of this wizard of heavy metal prog. The Theater Equation is an adaptation of Lucassen’s masterpiece Ayreon double album from 2004, The Human Equation, as a theatrical production with most of the original vocalists and musicians. Vocalists James Labrie, Heather Findlay, Marcela Bovio, Magnus Ekwall, Irene Jansen, Eric Clayton and Devon Graves all reprise their characters with other leading vocalists drafted in to replace those who could not participate; Jermain ‘Wudstik’ Van der Bogt plays ‘The Best Friend’, Mike Mills is ‘The Father’ and ‘Rage’ with Annke van Giersbergen portraying ‘Fear’.
Although a live production of Lucassen’s Ayreon collection is a long sought after grail for fans, imagine the cost in terms of time and money to bring such a production to the stage. The pre-production planning, preparation and rehearsal time took two years to complete. Lucassen describes his trepidation in creating this production within the accompanying 10-page booklet; “Being a perfectionist, compromise isn’t something I’m particularly good at”. However, Lucassen found the perfect producer in Joost van den Broek who was able to master the production to a level that was beyond his expectations. Joost worked with Arjen on the Star One, Ayreon and After Forever projects and has done an excellent job in producing the musical elements of this production, re-creating the brilliance of the original work on stage for a few lucky live audiences at the Luxor Theater in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 18th, 19th and 20th September 2015. The filming for this release took place on the 20th.
Rather than cover each song or describe the entire production, I will limit my comments to the overall production and interpretation of this classic through the performances on stage in the DVD/CD version of the package.
First of all, this is a brilliant production which richly captures the emotion and visually stunning ideas behind one of Lucassen’s best creations. All of the vocalists are at the peak of their performance, as if they were back in the studio trying to capture the power of the drama. Often, while producing his latest works, Lucassen will share some of the “in-the-works” vocal excerpts on the Internet, but this is much more powerful as you get to see the vocalists interacting and displaying the emotion of the living story before your eyes. As a fan or global audience member you are welcomed to the experience, and immersed within it.
Every single encounter between the vocalists/actors is a unique opportunity to see this classic work of art come to life, in the comfort of your own viewing room. The stage props – a wrecked vehicle; a child’s playroom; the hospital bed – create real scenes that are used well to dramatically explain and enhance the portrayal of the story. A beautiful choir scene, featuring The Epic Rock Choir who were assembled especially for this production, uses all black robes to become another highlight of the production. In fact, the choir is used well throughout the production to enhance the overall vocal performance.
The music on The Human Equation is very theatrical, telling the story of the post-traumatic recovery from a serious auto accident of James LaBrie’s character, and all the many physical and psychological obstacles he encounters on his way back to full consciousness from a life threatening coma. During this process the character re-examines his life in order to decide whether or not he actually desires to return to reality. The psychological characters from his life and past are brought to life as the singers reprise the parts from the audio album.
The musicians do a stellar job of supporting the vocalists. Ed Warby, Lucassen’s favorite drummer, puts in a fantastic performance. Mult-instrumentalist Jeroen Goossens, who plays flute, digeridoo, lute and all the woodwinds, is by far my musical highlight, especially when he gets the stage to himself. Marcela Bovio’s husband, Johan van Stratum, plays bass. I wish they had let Marcela play violin, but she was already busy with acting and singing throughout the production and Ben Mathot does an admirable job in her absence.
The DVD performance is the key to this production and seeing this live is required viewing for any Lucassen fan – one of the biggest highlights is the appearance of a special guest who arrives at the end of the production in a unique way – however, you can also listen to the entire show independently via the two well mastered CDs.
If you missed the rock operas of the 1970s, like Tommy, Hair, The Wall, Godspell, Grease or – Lucassen’s favorite – Jesus Christ Superstar, then please purchase this one of a kind experience. Few people can create these elaborately produced albums, as well as put them on stage and record them for your viewing pleasure. Don’t miss this opportunity to see and experience it all.
01. Day One: Vigil (1:45)
02. Day Two: Isolation (8:12)
03. Day Three: Pain (4:50)
04. Day Four: Mystery (6:05)
05. Day Five: Voices (6:52)
06. Reprise Pain 1 (0:34)
07. Day Six: Childhood (5:10)
08. Day Seven: Hope (2:22)
09. Day Eight: School (4:27)
10. Reprise Childhood (1:08)
11. Day Nine: Playground (Adaptation of Edvard Grieg’s Morning mood) (2:06)
12. Day Ten: Memories (3:52)
13. Reprise Pain 2 (1:39)
14. Day Eleven: Love (4:07)
01. Day Twelve: Trauma (9:41)
02. Day Thirteen: Sign (5:06)
03. Day Fourteen: Pride (4:46)
04. Reprise Vigil (1:09)
05. Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:09)
06. Reprise School (1:24)
07. Day Sixteen: Loser (4:15)
08. Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:16)
09. Reprise Pain 3 (0:53)
10. Day Eighteen: Realization (3:05)
11. Reprise Trauma (2:14)
12. Day Nineteen: Disclosure (3:49)
13. Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:27)
14. Dream Sequencer System Offline (1:15)
Total Time – 109:39
CAST & MUSICIANS
Returning from ‘The Human Equation’:
James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as ‘Me’
Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) as ‘Wife’
Irene Jansen as ‘Passion’
Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as ‘Pride’
Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) as ‘Love’
Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as ‘Agony’
Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as ‘Reason’
New Cast Members:
Jermain “Wudstik” van der Bogt as ‘Best Friend’
Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) as ‘Fear’
Mike Mills as ‘Rage’ and ‘Father’
Anita van der Hoeven as ‘Mom’
Peter Moltmaker as ‘Doctor’
Nienke Verboom as ‘Nurse’
Katinka van der Harst as ‘Nurse’
Arjen Anthony Lucassen as ‘Forever of the Stars’
Returning from ‘The Human Equation’:
Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) – Musical Director
Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) – Drums
Jeroen Goossens – Flutes & Woodwinds
Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) – Guitar
Freek Gielen – Guitar
Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) – Bass
Erik van Ittersum – Keyboards
Ruben Wijga (ReVamp) – Keyboards
Ben Mathot – Violin
Maaike Peterse (Kingfisher Sky) – Cello
Epic Rock Choir – backing Vocals
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 17th June 2016