Hell Hath No Fury – Musical Bitchin’ from the Basement of Hell is set to turn up the heat, and the volume Downstairs at The Maj, at His Majesty’s Theatre, from Thursday, July 29 until Saturday, July 31 (get more info and tickets here). The original production, starring local singer-songwriter Zalia Joi, and renowned actor/singer Fiona Cooper, will feature a stellar live band performing anthemic original songs in the style of Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Lady Gaga and more. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Zalia Joi to find out how writing the show was an expression of her own liberating journey through relationship hell to redemption.
Congratulations on your original production Hell Hath No Fury premiering this month. Can you pinpoint where the idea for this show began and how has it changed to what we are going to see on stage?
Thank you so much. The idea began when I found myself in a very, very, very dark place. I was sitting at my piano playing C to F minor back-and-forth for 45 minutes, in a pretty lost and upset place. This idea just kept tapping at my consciousness – “Hell Hath No Fury” wouldn’t let go.
When I said yes to the idea, all of a sudden, a torrent of songs flooded through me. I would basically sing what I was thinking. It took nine months for all the songs to come out and I really do feel that I just stepped aside and allowed them to come through. I feel I didn’t write them. They wrote themselves and brought an energy of their own.
Not long after the initial idea, there was an Expression of Interest from Downstairs at the Maj for their 2020 season and I pitched the “Hell Hath No Fury” idea and they said let’s do it! Then COVID hit and it was re-slated for this year.
The idea has definitely morphed and the “Bitchin from the Basement of Hell” part was added this year as I started to write the script for this year’s season, which comes from a more graceful and kind view. The content has definitely changed in that I have specifically not written any swear words into the show, though there are couple of expletives in one of songs, but I specifically wanted no swearing in it. There were quite a few in the first draft and it was a choice to take them out.
I also have a rap song, which was initially going to be a slam poem, and that is super exciting as the band really brings it. I feel so privileged to be doing that with them.
I also became very conscious of writing material that will uplift the audience and not scare them or steer them into a bad place, so my intention was to always be mindful not to make it dark. It’s a black comedy but the focus is on inspiration and how to find hope and courage when the chips are really down, like being in the Basement of Hell!
And how do you feel this show is different from what you have done previously? Was there something you wanted to do with this show that you hadn’t had the chance to explore or try before?
This is the first show that is 100% of my own original material, though I did co-write two of the songs. I wanted to explore in this show the cross genre of movement, theatre and rock music. I have done some workshops recently and explored how to express through movement and different acting styles, what the music and text is communicating. When I wrote the music there was a lot of emotion behind the lyrics. So when it was time to write the story it was already really there in the music. I just then wove the story around the songs.
A show like this simply couldn’t happen without quite a team behind it. Who else have you brought on board to bring your ideas to life and how has that shaped the result?
I have got an amazing team behind me and I totally agree, it couldn’t be done without a wonderful bunch of people. They are all incredible professionals.
I have as my co-star, Fiona Cooper who is an absolute delight and an amazing actor and incredible singer. She brings such life to the songs and the first time she sang her character’s song I was moved to tears. Having her sing my songs and sing with her is an absolute joy.
The band consists of Reilly Stewart on drums, who has played with me for five years and being a DJ has such a huge selection of musical styles to draw upon, it is so easy to workshop with him.
James Vinciullo on bass has also played with me for over seven years now. He is also an amazing creative and assisted greatly as script editor offering some fantastic suggestions for the script.
Shaun Davis on keys is the Musical Director of the show and brings with him the knowledge of having worked on many musicals such as Footloose and Matilda, plus many more, and he has this ability to weave musical magic into the show.
Matt Milford on guitar is a phenomenal talent with an incredible voice and he’s a wonderful actor.
We also have a guest appearance from a new talent Jesse Brewer, an amazing lead guitarist, only 18 years old. He plays the solo on my soon-to-be-released single Bomb Shock and it was only fitting that he played for the song which opens the show. He is a gun!
And of course, there’s our wonderful director Nichola Renton Weir. With decades of experience in theatre, she brings a magic and creative eye that allows us to trust the creative process and get the best work out of anyone that works with her.
And we also have the fabulous AJ Winters who has been the mastermind behind our promo videos. She is also a creative force to be reckoned with and an incredible writer, actor, producer in her own right.
And not to forget my amazing publicist, Tracy Routledge, who has done an amazing job of getting people like your good selves on board with this original show.
So yes – a whole team!
While this show deals with some serious content, it ultimately seems to be conveying a message of hope and triumph. What is the main message you hope audiences will take away from the performance?
Yes, it is dedicated to never giving up. That no matter how hard life can be there is always, always, always a way out of the darkness. I hope that the audience will take away inspiration to create their own future, let go of the story of the past that holds them back and be inspired to live their best life. My intention is that they can love their world a little more deeply, that they can forgive a little more easier and that they can connect with themselves a little more sincerely.
Do you feel this show might be the beginning of more original productions from you? Is there anything else lined up we can look forward to you in the future?
Absolutely! Though the process of writing Hell Hath, I have reconnected with my very early creative impulses from when I was a child, which was to story-tell though music. With that in mind I have three other productions in the pipeline – Bad Boys and Wicked Women, Life – the Musical and Rock’n’Roll Love Stories.
I often find one of the ideas will start taking strides and that will be the one I run with. I would really love to tour with this current show. I feel it is just the beginning of its creative journey.