Richard Thompson Taps Harry Shearer for Tour of the Underworld
11/16/2010 (updated 11/16/2010)

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Richard Thompson's Cabaret of Souls Lifestyle
Chuck Crisafulli

As a songwriter, master guitarist Richard Thompson has always seemed to take particular inspiration from the dark, the disquieting and the depressing. Now, in a new theater piece conceived and created by Thompson, he asks the audience to join him on an exploration of the land of the dead. In Cabaret of Souls, theatergoers are essentially witnesses to a musical reception held for the benefit of newly deceased souls.

The “Keeper of the Underworld” serves as an emcee, pulling sometimes reluctant, older souls from the darkness to entertain the new arrivals, and then adds his own musical critiques on the weakness and absurdity of humans. The piece gets its west coast premiere this Friday, November 19, in Los Angeles at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Of course, Thompson has often spiced his morbid musical themes with a dose of black humor, and humor’s very much a part of Cabaret of Souls as well. That’s made clear by the on-stage narrator of the show’s events, Spinal Tap/Simpsons veteran Harry Shearer. Thompson will provide vocals and guitar-work, leading a group that includes vocalist Judith Owen, bassist David Piltch, percussionist Debra Dobkin, and multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn. Thompson also composed orchestral backing for the piece, which will be performed by the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra.