A decade ago, while watching “one of those weird cable channels,” Rich Morel found himself drawn to a documentary on the phenomena of people who have been struck by lightning, and the things that happen to them. “One of them was this postal worker who was struck by lightning,” he says. “And all of a sudden he was able to play [as] a pretty decent classical pianist, and he had never done any music prior to that. I was watching it, and I was feeling probably not that creative at the moment.” He remembers thinking to himself, “Maybe that would help.”
Rather than wait for lightning to strike, Morel let his imagination run until he sparked the idea for a new pursuit — to compose a new musical, Struck. “It’s about a faded rockstar who’s totally past his prime and starts to believe that if he could get struck by lightning, he would get his musical ability and all of his mojo back,” he says.
Morel recruited Alan Cumming to help flesh out the show’s lead character. The D.C.-based electronic/rock musician and DJ/producer — who has worked with everyone from Deep Dish to Bob Mould — had gotten to know Cumming while working with Cyndi Lauper.
After years of earnest development and quiet collaboration with artists including Cumming and book writer Joshua Sanchez, Morel shocked the world — or at least his longtime fans and followers — with the recent release of Struck, a concept album available on all major streaming services. It was a move inspired, in part, by Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a concept album before it became a global smash musical. “I can make records, that’s what I do,” Morel says. “I thought, ‘We’ll use this as a springboard.'”
For the moment, the focus has been on promoting the record, which features Cumming along with Betsy Wright of D.C.’s punk band Ex Hex, Jesse Clasen of the indie-electronic act Foreign Air, Martina Topley-Bird, the English artist known from her work with Tricky and Massive Attack, and Jason Barnes, better known as local drag queen Pussy Noir, who previously performed with Morel in the duo Sistr Mid9ight.
The obvious question is when might the show see the light of the stage? The short answer is not any time soon. “There’s a lot of stuff kicking around as far as what to do,” Morel says. “We’ve talked about different ideas, about possibly doing little live bits of this show, but nothing’s on the table right now.”
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