A year ago I saw Emilie Autumn twice. That’s right, twice.
Although the fact that I saw the show twice came as the result of a problem with the scheduling of my interview with her, I didn’t attend exclusively because of my journalistic endeavors. You see, I actually do like Emilie Autumn, since I believe that she is a very talented musician and performer, and although last year I found the shows to be good, just like her album, this time around my perception was the complete opposite.
If you are familiar with EA, you probably know that she has a passion for theatricality, lately going even further by preparing a musical based on her “biographical” book, “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls”, and the album Fight Like A Girl. While last year’s shows were still shaped as concerts, albeit using some props, on this tour she’s trying to get closer to the feel of an actual musical. The problem is that she is failing miserably.
One of the things that I commented on my review of her album was that it was very weird to listen to a “musical” in which the same person played all the roles: well, this repeated itself in the show, but in a more blatant way than in its previous incarnations, since now there are costume changes and less interaction with the crowd (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll discuss below) in the aims of making it look more like a “real” musical. It’s like a poor circus in which the ringmaster is also the acrobat, the clown and the lion tamer.
Last year’s tour included a big clock, a wheelchair (the presence of which was unexplainable anyway) and several fences positioned around the stage, as well as 3 of her chorus girls (sorry, “Bloody Crumpets“); this year the only prop is a cage-like construction with a small clock on top (stuck on 4 O’Clock, which was a nice touch) together with the occasional wardrobe change and Captain Maggot‘s appearance as a death-like figure on stilts for “Scavenger” (like a poor man’s Eddie T. Head). The fact that now there are even less Crumpets, as Contessa left in late 2012, means that the many roles in the musical must be played by only 3 people, in a downright ridiculous and unexplainable way. You have the same person playing a whore/victim and a customer (buying herself) during “Girls, Girls, Girls” or a patient and a nurse in “Take the Pill”; and while this worked (kind of) when it was simply a concert, when you actually pretend that this is a musical it just looks sad and ridiculous.
I probably would be able to look past all of these things, even EA‘s sad attempt at an “Anne Hathaway” moment on top of the cage singing “Gaslight”, ((In all fairness, I could be wrong on the song)) if it wasn’t because of how serious she wants the show to appear while, at the same time, using the same cheap gimmicks that have propped her up to her current status of idol of the emotionally damaged crowd.
While EA puts up this “musical” (and I’m using the term very loosely) she interrupts the show for 4 things that have absolutely no place in it. None. One of them is a clear product placement deal with “FanFiction.net”. In the middle of the show Captain Maggot will steal Veronica’s “diary”, only to reveal that it is actually from “DOUBLE U, DOUBLE U, DOUBLE U DOT FAN FICTION DOT NET” (which totally doesn’t break the suspension of disbelief) only to repeat the URL 2 or 3 more times. The whole bit is made to justify a faux lesbian scene between Veronica and EA, as written by one of the sad and obese people who actually write fanfiction.
The second interruption is Veronica‘s appearance with her “wings”, dancing sensually on stage, to the delight of the sexually ambiguous crowd. Again, this has no place in the musical, since there is no explanation as to why we went from madhouse torture porn to “check out the goodies of my chorus girl!”. Don’t get me wrong; Veronica is a beautiful and talented performer, so I can’t complain about seeing her, it’s just that I don’t get why we’re seeing her do this.
The third unrelated bit is “The Rat Game”. EA fans will know that during her shows, Veronica will invite a girl “over 18 and who has never kissed a girl” to join her on stage and make out with her, so that she can then become part of those that have been “corrupted” by her. This bothers me to no end. First of all, because it’s completely unrelated to everything that is happening in this “musical”, and it’s only added (as an interruption) for shock value.
Second, and most importantly, it bothers me because it is a cheap gimmick that under the guise of “gurl puwurrrr” actually humiliates lesbians. As you probably guessed for my juvenile jokes, I’m far from a sensitive person, and have been accused of slutshaming, being part of the patriarchy and a lot of other bullshit that I could not give less of a fuck about; and still, the “Rat Game” bothers me. Veronica is not a lesbian, the girls who have “never kissed a girl” are, in all likelihood, not lesbians (maybe barsexuals, but that’s it) they just go on stage to play this faux lesbianism for the delight of others. It’s the blackface of sexuality, it’s the use of a sexual orientation as a gimmick (just like it was done during the FanFiction bit), as a form of entertainment, showing that its existence is a sign of “corruption”. This empowers no one, and actually makes it look like a sexual orientation should be seen as a joke instead of as a natural reality. The irony that this happens right before the song “Girls, Girls, Girls”, about objectifying women, seems to be lost to everyone.
The final unrelated bit is Captain Maggot’s fire juggling which, by the time it happens, just adds even more confusion to the clusterfuck that is happening on stage. ((I think that the fan favorite “The Art of Suicide” was also unrelated to the plot and just added to please the crowd, but it was performed in such a nice way that I’ll overlook that))
Musically the show could have been better. EA‘s voice sounded very damaged during the opening tracks, but that’s probably the strain of touring. The setlist could use some improvement as well; for some reason “4 O’clock” (which used to be performed as opening) was removed and “If I Burn” was not performed, even though it’s one of the strongest tracks of the album; there were also no encores (last time “Thank God I’m Pretty” was included) or violin pieces, which was a big loss. ((She has said that every single “click and sound” in the show represents something, and that the violin just doesn’t belong there and that using her would just be a way to just act like “Look at me! I’m so unique and special!”, which totally doesn’t happen without the violin. I’m guessing that DOUBLE U DOUBLE U DOUBLE U DOT FANFICTION DOT NET does not play a role here.))
Putting up a musical is a very expensive process, and I’m sure that EA, just like many other musicians needs the gimmicks to get some revenue to make it possible, be it being crazy and random, satanic or lesbian; and while I’m really looking forward to see her musical (if it ever materializes) but I just hope that next time she’ll just try Kickstarter.