Four Chords and a Gun

Leading live-entertainment company Starvox Entertainment is thrilled to announce the Canadian premiere of FOUR CHORDS AND A GUN, an acerbically comic and explosive new play about the infamous punk band the Ramones written by John Ross Bowie (actor from “The Big Bang Theory”, “Speechless”). The Canadian premiere will be directed by long-time Toronto Star theatre critic and director Richard Ouzounian, running at the Fleck Theatre April 2 – 28, 2019. Once the Toronto run has wrapped up, the production including Canadian cast are headed south for a run in a major US city.

On May 1, 1979 New York’s iconic punk band, the Ramones, went into Gold Star Studios in Hollywood and started recording their fifth album, End of the Century, withlegendary producer Phil Spector. The clash of political and musical sensibilities, not to mention five gigantic egos, resulted in walkouts, betrayals, and broken hearts, but also a transformation of the Ramones as a band. The album was the band’s biggest seller, even though the eccentricities of Specter nearly killed them.

FOUR CHORDS AND A GUN follows these tension-filled 1979 recording sessions for the Ramones fifth studio album – now the stuff of musical legend. Conflicting stories of that period of their career abound, some insisting that Spector pulled a gun on the Ramones and held them hostage to keep them in the studio, some insist it never happened. The Starvox production opens almost 40 years to the day that these historic events unfolded.

Based on Bowie’s exhaustive research, the script delves into the personal tensions between the band members themselves as well as their often violent struggles with Spector. It’s a powerful story both funny and touching – which explores the Ramones, Linda Daniele (the woman who loved two of them) and the charismatic, destructive Spector.

Starvox producer Corey Ross and Ouzounian have assembled an exciting cast of Toronto theatre talent to bring Bowie’s script to full life. Justin Goodhand (Retreat, Great Expectations) as Joey, Cyrus Lane (Bunny, Twelve Angry Men) as Johnny, Paolo Santalucia (Animal Farm, Bed and Breakfast) as DeeDee, James Smith (Rose, Lessons in Temperament) as Marky, Vanessa Smythe (Bullet for Adolf, Domesticated)as Linda and Ron Pederson (The Wonder Pageant, “Mad TV”) as Phil Spector.

“This production is incredibly exciting for us for many reasons,” says Starvox Entertainment Founder & CEO Corey Ross. “Bringing a highly dramatic, edgy, and really darkly funny new piece of theatre about one of the most legendary bands in music history to life is of course exciting – and I think in Toronto we have such a vibrant music scene and fans that there is going to be a great audience for it. But additionally, one of many strengths Richard brings to the show is that he has an amazing eye for talent. I think we have assembled an outstanding cast of authentic and compelling performers who are going to amplify the tension and drama in this great play.”

Unlike many stage shows about rock bands to date, FOUR CHORDS AND A GUN is not a musical. However, each night after the show is over, the cast (who all play instruments) will return to the stage for a jam session of classic Ramones tunes.

“When I first read this play, two thoughts instantly struck me,” director Richard Ouzounian adds. “First, what an exciting, dramatic story to tell! And second, what an astonishing showcase for six talented young Toronto performers. Every music fan knows who the Ramones and Phil Spector were, but it’s not as well known that they spent a few weeks of hell together in a recording studio, with Spector messing around with their heads and eventually pulling out a.45 revolver to seal the deal. I also love the fact that it isn’t a “jukebox musical,” but a serious play that celebrates the Ramones music in a concert after the tale was told. And best of all, I saw a way to work with people like Justin Goodhand, Cyrus Lane, Paolo Santalucia, James Smith, Vanessa Smythe and Ron Pederson, whose work I admire tremendously.”

Speaking to the impetus to write the play Bowie says “I always loved the fact that there were so many conflicting stories about how all the stuff went down with Phil Spector. There are versions where he’s drawing a gun on them constantly. There’s a version where he just puts the gun on the mixing board to threaten them. There’s a version where he keeps them hostage in his house until late the following day. I love that this incredibly recent history is as disputed as the Crusades. But first and foremost I wanted it to work as a piece of theatre, so what’s on stage here is based in fact with my imagination filling in blanks to hopefully create the most satisfying theatrical experience.

He adds, “As for the people who do know the story of the Ramones, here is a way you’ve never seen it told.”

Backstage, Ouzounian is joined by an award-winning team including Nicholas Blais as production and lighting designer, Ming Wong as costume designer, and Sharon Ryman as wig designer.

FOUR CHORDS AND A GUN will be on stage in Toronto at The Fleck Theatre (207 Queens Quay W.) from April 2 to April 28, 2019. (Opening night: April 10). Tickets are available from $39.95 to $124.95 and can be purchased at 4chordsplay.com. For more information visit 4chordsplay.com