NEW YORK, NY — Just days before its planned premiere on Broadway, the troubled Fallujah: The Musical has received a further blow after the U.S. military announced it was cutting off all support for the production, Pentagon sources say, citing concerns over its appropriateness.
The show has already received several positive advance reviews, including from Al Jazeera, which described Fallujah as “a relentless and methodical assault on the senses.” The New York Times had equally good things to say: “From the opening number, Drowning Pool’s ‘Bodies,’ to the closing number, ‘Anything Goes,’ Fallujah is a nonstop series of contrasts between good taste and a bloody battle. Faced with the U.S. Marines, good taste never stood a chance.”
But that didn’t stop Phil Strub, head of the Department of Defense’s Film and Television Liaison Office, from suddenly cutting off military assistance.
“After a thorough review we now believe that a song and dance number, complete with a kickline made up of Al Qaeda terrorists, may not be the most appropriate venue to convey the horrors of sustained urban combat,” Strub said in a written statement, referencing show-stopping finale of Act One, “Getting To Blow You Up.”
This withdrawal of financial and technical support could not come at a less convenient time for the star-crossed production, which some critics have already begun derisively calling “The Phantom of the Fury.”
With just 72 hours before the curtain rises, veteran director Horatio “Jerry” Schrader, best known for his work on Kony and the Amazing Technicolor Kalashnikov, now has to find several M1 Abrams tanks and an Apache helicopter that are essential to Fallujah’s final number, “If You Dance With Me, I’ll Kill You All.”
The show has been plagued with a series of other delays and accidents that repeatedly set back the production, most of them stemming from Schraders’ decision to broaden the show’s appeal by hiring native Iraqis for the chorus. The move backfired, as the Iraqis became “problematic,” in the director’s words. Just days after rehearsals began, they lynched the lead choreographer, set his body on fire, and draped it over the entrance to the theater.
Schrader brought in several more Iraqis to act as liaisons between himself and the cast after an on-stage fistfight that started when several former Marines recognized the lead Iraqi dancer as Abu Dishka, a prominent enemy commander during the battle. However the liaisons proved completely ineffective, and ultimately looted the set and fled the Green Room.
“We can make do without them in the romantic number ‘It’s Fun To Come Home With P-T-S-D!'” Schrader said. “But I’m really worried about the finale and the penultimate song, ‘I’m Gonna Blast That Man Right Outa My House.'”
The show is the brainchild of playwright Jason Waterman, who put his lifelong dream of being a Broadway dancer on hold in 2002 to enlist in the Marines as an infantryman. He fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, and was severely wounded while helping clear a house. Though Waterman’s dancing dreams vanished that day, along with his arms and legs, he redirected his passion for dropping bodies towards songwriting and stage production.
Waterman has publicly said he’s confident that the Iraqi chorus will still be able to carry the show, “because they already know how it ends,” but privately was much less optimistic.
“This is going to be such a train wreck of a show,” Waterman admitted, “but at least it can’t be any worse than the actual battle.”
Duffel Blog correspondent Jay-B contributed to this article.