Q: Here is something several of us noticed about Act 2: The cobras almost seem to plateau on their level of scariness. We know they aren’t supposed to be angry or straight-up evil all the time or anything, but there are definite times when they’re deliberately malicious, like the scene where they rip down the dance decorations. In Act 2, they don’t seem quite absolutely threatening enough to warrant straight up running away, especially when the humans previously decide to fight right before intermission. Are the cobras snakey enough to be literally venomous and/or capable or willing to commit actual physical harm to people? Does the humans’ fear of the cobras reach beyond the mind control aspect?
KATIE: That’s an excellent question. I haven’t discussed this with Rob yet, but here’s what I think: Hannah absolutely is willing to do actual violence, as you’ll see in the restructured ending. (Everyone gets decobrafied, Hannah can’t recobrafy them, and she can’t let them go because the Know Too Much, so she’s going to have to kill them all. Thus, Mungus must do her mung-fu.) In Act 2, the cobras are super creepy (glowing eyes in Mouse in a Maze), and kidnap Mouse, Rikki, Darzee, Zen, Chuck, doing who knows what to them. So they’re certainly doing harm, but I get your point. Here’s the thing: from the perspective of the humans, you don’t know what they’re willing to do. That’s pretty terrifying.
BRIE (student): Ooh can I just say that I love the idea of Hannah deciding she must kill all of them. That gives her a cool edge and she’s just such a classic (well developed) villain and I love it!
One thing a few of us were wondering if the Cobras will have a scarier song. I mean, they have a few eerie numbers, like where they’re so calm that it’s incredibly unnerving, but will there be a straight up, outwardly dark (and belt-y because there are amazing belters as Cobras) song for them? Like, to just be mean and threatening? They are poisonous snakes, and the eerie songs work so well because they’re also these really mesmerizing, hiding in the shadow-type creatures, but I wonder if they had a more outwardly scary song, since it could give us more motivation to break down, but then become even stronger to defeat them.
ANNA (student): WAIT WHAT IS THAT REALLY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE END NO WAY
KATIE: You know, there was one when the cobras come in during the dance, Trash Mammal, but we cut it because we thought it was TOO aggressive. I’m not sure if there’s a place for it to come back. We talked about putting it when Mouse gets captured, but it felt really yikes there.
And Anna, it really is. Yes.
Okay, so. The music you haven’t heard yet. Mouse in a Maze – super creepy, driven techno in the dark. This is the least formed of the Act 2 songs at the moment, and it occurs to me that there’s a possibility of incorporating some of the super-aggressive Trash Mammal material here (based on your observations), maybe. We’re talking about it.
Then there’s Shed Your Skin, which, we’re reassigning the solo at the beginning from Hannah to Coral, and Hannah doesn’t actually sing that one at all now, she just kinda conducts her minions as they torment their former friends. But it’s that big, super-major, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” (do you guys know that number? From Cabaret?) thing where our last 5 humans are almost sucked in, and then Kelly yells to run, she and Shinn grab each other’s hands and one grabs Bee and one grabs Kick and they make a run for it. Sorry, Chuck. When they debrief after this song, Bee will observe that she felt herself getting sucked under, but then she felt Kelly’s hand and PHEW.
Next up, Hawkins drops by with a choir of Tori Amos to sing Lady & the Legend. It’s bluesy gospel piano rock, a la Tori Amos and me when I’m in that kind of mood. Hawkins, who’s sorta functioning as fairy godmother here, in addition to the thing about snakes that exists, will point out that if the mythology is clear on one point, it’s that you don’t want to look into the snakes’ eyes.) Fortunately, we think Hawkins is the sort of person who probably absentmindedly has glasses stashed everywhere (on top of the head, pockets, etc), so the remaining 4 get equipped with sunglasses.
Then we’ve got a “hero” version of the Kelly the Destroyer music, after which our humans shade up and march in to fight the cobras… and also to test Kelly’s hypothesis about what might work to decobrafy their friends.
They go back in, and Come Back to Bite you is this crazy R&B, Tina Turner thing, which is Hannah’s victory lap. It’s fun and frantic and there are opportunities for belting one’s face off. So Hannah decides she’s going to pick on Kick first, and he’s like, you’re gonna have to catch me first, and leads her on a mad chase, off stage with Vi in tow.
It’s at this point that Kelly gets a chance to test her hypothesis, as she has a confrontation with snake-Rikki. As snake-Rikki goes to knock Kelly’s sunglasses off, Kelly reaches up and grabs her hand with both hands, pulls her a little off balance, and won’t let go. And in that reaching out and grabbing her friend’s hand (like an otter!), Kelly de-cobrafies Rikki. Hypothesis confirmed! So the humans start reaching out to their friends and turning them. Rikki rescues Whip, Bee Addie, Addie Mouse, Shinn Chuck, etc. Last, Kick bounces back in, still unscathed and turns Savannah.
So then Hannah comes back (without Vi) to find her army of cobras decobrafied. And she’s all I LEAVE FOR ONE MINUTE and YOU ARE THE WORST MINIONS and DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MYSELF. So then, as I said, she can’t turn them back in to cobras, because once you wise up to that sort of thing, you can’t really be hoodwinked (cobras! hoodwinked!) again, and they know too much, so now she’s going to have to deal with them once and for all…
So she transforms into a giant cobra. And everyone looks to Kelly and they’re like, “What do we do? What’s your plan?!?” And she’s all, “…I had no plans involving giant cobras.” And then we think that Mungus darts in, says her mung-fu line, and then we see, projected or something, Rikki’s comic book version of the ensuing fight, along with see the reactions of the crowd. That’s not set in stone, just our current thinking on how that gets executed. So then Hannah’s defeated, everybody’s like…so now what? and then we end up at Turn the Page, where the relationships are restored, etc.
Does that clear anything up?
ROB: Katie & I talked about incorporating “Trash Mammal” into the “Mouse In A Maze” moment, and that seems to accomplish a lot of goals: a peak to the aggressive-cobra-ness (which as Katie said didn’t seem right in Act One) — and some real belt-yer-face-off singing. And ratchets up the tension as we hear from one group and then another and people are getting ambushed in the shadows. Then … “Shed Your Skin” is sort of a different tactic…. Hannah is training Coral & Vi & etc to be as cult-ishly charming as she is … if you’ve ever seen Jurassic Park: The Lost World, it’s the bit where the T-Rexes are training the baby T-Rex to hunt. Also, as Katie says, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange controlling everyone like a conductor…