After the huge success of Hot Boy Summer, the Grindstone’s Byron Martin and Simon Abbot are back with a new musical satire — based on the maybe-maybe-not Christmas classic Die Hard — that’s set to become a new Christmas tradition.
Let’s get the heavy question out of the way first: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? I mean, I think it’s a Christmas movie. I think any movie set at Christmas can be a Christmas movie. And we have 10 years of improvising musicals at our 11 O’clock Number shows, including at Christmas, so this made sense.
Did you hear Bruce Willis at his roast say it’s not a Christmas movie, it’s a “goddamn Bruce Willis movie.” Thoughts?
Well that’s fair, but for us, in this musical, it’s a Hans Gruber story. It’s written from his perspective. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but our version is essentially a Die Hard Christmas Carol, centering Hans Gruber as Scrooge. Even though we did a breakdown of the film, and researched the book, we’re also really pulling from the original Dickens A Christmas Carol, to kind of parody both pieces at once. So if people love the movie and want an alternative to seeing the Christmas Carol at the Citadel, this can be a new tradition.
What did you discover in your research?
It was interesting, doing some of the background work of reading the book and seeing the differences from the book to the film. And then we also looked at the original screenplay script, and how much different that is from the actual final cut. But as far as our version goes, it’s all about just pulling the comedy from all the pieces.
I actually didn’t know it was a book first, and that in the book, (HUGE BOOK SPOILER) it’s the daughter he’s trying to save, and she falls with Hans Gruber at the end.
Yeah, and she’s not a particularly good character.
Like, good morally or just not well written?
Morally. She’s an adult, and the corporation is portrayed as an immoral kind of corporation, and she’s kind of a representative of that, like the VP of international sales or something. She invites her dad for the Christmas party, and the same kind of thing happens.
I also read that in the filming of the movie, they decided when certain characters would die based on how well the actors performed. Did you and Simon take things that seriously?
That seems a bit harsh, but no. Although we parody pretty much all of the characters from the movie.
That sounds like a lot.
Yeah, part of the fun of the show is seeing five actors play like 20 characters. It’s a very fast-paced show. Ben Blythe plays Hans the whole show, then the other four actors change costume like every two minutes. It’s been a crazy amount of work putting this show together because so much happens in the film that you kind of have to boil it down to its crucial storytelling parts.
And does he do a killer Alan-Rickman-as-Hans-Gruber impression?
Yeah, I think all the impersonations are pretty strong, though I suppose they are satirical versions of each of the characters. Interestingly enough, Blythe went to the same theatre school as Alan Rickman in the UK. Evan Dowling, who’s playing the John McClane character, is very funny. And his real-life wife Sarah plays McClane’s wife Holly in the show too.
Should I bet the over on how many yippee-ki-ya motherfuckers your show has?
Yeah, I can’t say exactly how, but we kind of play around with that. But we definitely satisfy the quota.
Hear all the yippee-ki-yas in Die Harsh: The Musical at the Grindstone Theatre until January 8, 2023.