When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, you know who you’re gonna call.
This weekend and next, a cast of dozens descends up on Metz Park to deliver an epic theatrical treat of ectoplasmic proportions. Ghostbusters: The Play!, put on by the same kind and generous tribe that staged The Princess Bride at Boggy Creek Park this past summer, retells the classic film with a local twist.
Ghostbusters was a cultural phenomenon when it hit theaters in 1984. It spawned cartoons, video games, comic books and the inevitable sequel, along with action figures, logo swag and plastic proton packs galore. Nearly 30 years on and the mania is still going strong, with two new video game properties released in the last few years and rumors flying about a third movie.
In case you somehow missed the original film, this is the brave story of a trio of parapsychology researchers who start a business specializing in “professional paranormal investigations and eliminations” after being ousted from university jobs. Naturally, hijinks ensue, city officials get involved, and a metropolis is accordingly imperiled and consequently saved (spoiler alert!).
In Ghostbusters: The Play!, the university is UT, the mayor is a corn-fed Texan and the metropolis is our beloved Bat City itself. In the film, famous disc jockey Casey Kasem makes a cameo appearance during a montage depicting the Ghostbusters’ initial success. Just try to guess who fills that role in Austin. Go on, guess. Think mornings on KUT... Yep. It's John Aielli.
Director Lucy Kreutz is a film industry veteran who organized her company’s first DIY theater show just to have a laugh with friends. Donations from kindly audience members covered their out-of-pocket production costs. The special effects of Ghostbusters, however, presented an extra challenge this time around.
“It’s been harder than we realized, but we’ve got some friends who are engineers,” Kreutz says, “which has helped a lot. They found some great stuff for the proton packs and built us a levitation platform.”
Live music for the production is provided by Tobin’s Spirit Guide, a band aptly named for Egon Spengler’s go-to piece of reference literature. The ensemble is composed of players from Minor Mishap, Austin’s resident around-town marching band, who also contributed one of their members to the production as the female lead.
Even if you’re forced to miss the paranormal extravaganza this month, it won’t be the last we'll hear from Kreutz and company. After the close of Ghostbusters, the team plans to seek out grants or local sponsorships to help make further productions even more spectacular. Plans for the future include a second staging of The Princess Bride once its full cast is back together in Austin later this year.
“We’re really enjoying this concept of accessible theater,” says Kreutz. “There’s a theater scene in Austin but what you get is mostly big-budget stuff or these out-there experimental productions. We’re down to earth and just having fun with it. I think people appreciate that.”
Ghostbusters: The Play! runs March 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th at Metz Park on Canterbury and Pedernales, just north of Lady Bird Lake. Admission is free.