When Christopher Nolan’s mega-blockbuster Inception came out in 2010, a new fandom was born. Comprised equally of Nolan fanboys, film geeks on Internet forums, and slash fans in fanfiction and fanart communities, Inception fandom surprised everyone with its staying power and ability to make a splash years later despite not being part of an ongoing franchise.
But out of all the theories, memes, and Arthur/Eames fanfic—the dishy duo of characters played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy are particular fandom favorites—one project has quietly proven its own staying power: Inception: the Musical, a not-for-profit production that circulated fandom in a rough stage three years ago and has recently gotten a scrubbing-up. The musical, a clever retelling of the epic Jungian sci-fi saga of dreams, tragic love, and literal mind games, has applied a new coat of spit and polish for a special one-time-only production this Sunday afternoon at The Way Station in Brooklyn:
You are waiting for a musical. A musical that will spoof the far, far most successful film Christopher Nolan ever made that didn’t involve bats.
Composer and lyricist Erica Kudisch, billing the production as a musical spoof, told the Daily Dot that Inception’s running film metaphor for the creative process initially inspired her:
In the official script, Nolan talks about Saito as producer, Cobb as director, Eames as Actor, and so on. So I wanted to try and push that framework into the mold of a classic film musical … Also, the first number I wrote was the Arthur/Eames spin on Jesus and Judas in Godspell, and I knew that if I wanted to share that song with the fandom, it would have to be part of something a little bigger.
Despite promises that the musical would be coming to the Internet, the only footage extant on the Web are two rehearsal clips of the production company, the Brooklyn-based Treble Entendre. Kudisch decided to revamp the musical, which she called initially “really low-rent,” with more professional touches, including an expanded libretto and a cast of performers familiar to Way Station regulars.
The Way Station, a Doctor Who-themed bar, has become a popular fandom hangout, featuring monthly Homestuck nights and nerd cabaret among other geek activities. Kudisch said that the troupe knew they wanted to perform at the Way Station from the start—and for a very special reason:
Hilary Thomas, who will be playing Arthur, approached me about wanting to sing the role and stage the show before she moves to Seattle. Hilary is a Way Station fixture, and this is her farewell-for-now performance, and I'm really flattered that she wanted it to be ItM and to share my music with the community she's built up.
The event has garnered considerable buzz from the Inception community as well; fans are planning to make the trek to the show from as far away as Canada. It might seem like a surprising act of devotion, but to fans who’ve had no new canon for years, getting the chance to see any new spin on their beloved movie is a not-to-be-missed chance.
Fans are also drawn to the musical for shipper reasons: the libretto blatantly indulges the reading of the popular subtext between Arthur and Eames. “There's just a whole lot of flirting going on,” Kudisch acknowledged. “And dick jokes. Lots of dick jokes.”
She also acknowledged that despite being a side character in the film, Arthur, played with sleek competence by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was her favorite: “I go for slick, hypercompetent characters with hard violent edges. Loved JGL's performance, loved the clothes, loved everything.”
Kudisch has been indulging her passion since college, through filks (songs created by fans about fandoms) and other standalone fandom parodies. She and fellow Treble Entendre producer Racheline Maltese have been collaborating since last summer, when they workshopped the geek-friendly musical Dogboy & Justine. They’re planning to take that production, which also features Thomas, to Seattle or Boston later this year.
Fans who miss Sunday’s performance be able to watch the whole show on the Way Station's Gander channel. And Kudisch adds that if demand for a second performance is high enough, “anything’s possible.”
As for the fandom, while Inception fans have long withstood accusations that without any new canon, their fandom should have well and truly died by now, it continues to be surprisingly active, recently celebrating its third birthday with a monthlong “Inceptiversary” and racking up nearly 1.5 million votes for Arthur/Eames in Backlot’s annual slash tournament.
If nothing else, the musical shows that expressions of fannish passion come in all shapes and sizes, from words to music—and that if Inception fandom truly is on its last gasp, it’s going out not with a bang, but with a BRAWMMMMM.
Screengrab via YouTube
Disclosure: The reporter is a longtime active member of the Inception fandom.