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Octet (musical)

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Signature Theatre Promotional image
MusicDave Malloy
LyricsDave Malloy
BookDave Malloy
ProductionsMay 2019 Signature Theatre Company

Octet is a chamber choir musical written and composed by Dave Malloy and directed by Annie Tippe. The show "explores addiction and nihilism within the messy context of 21st century technology."[1]


Eight internet addicts gather in a support group called "Friends of Saul" in a church basement and share their stories, in a score for an a cappella chamber choir and an original libretto inspired by internet comment boards, scientific debates, religious texts, and Sufi poetry. [2] The musical is structured around a series of hymns and "shares," as the group members explain their relationship to technology. Each song corresponds to one of the Major Arcana, the picture cards in a tarot deck. [3]

Musical numbers[edit]

Part 1
  • I. "Hymn: The Forest"
  • II. "Refresh"
  • III. "Candy"
  • IV. "Glow"
  • V. "Fugue State"

~coffee break~

Part 2
  • VI. "Hymn: Monster"
  • VII. "Solo"
  • VIII. "Actually"
  • IX. "Little God"
  • X. "Tower Tea Ceremony"
  • XI. "Beautiful"
  • XII. "Hymn: The Field" [4]


The program's bibliography cites several sources of inspiration, including:

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; John Cage, Silence; Nicholas Carr, The Shallows; Chuang-Tzu; Ernest Cline, Ready Player One; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion; Philip K. Dick, Valis; James Gleick, The Information; Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind; Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near; C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters; Angela Nagle, Kill All Normies; Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind; Catherine Price, How to Break Up with Your Phone; Jon Ronson, So You've Been Publicly Shamed; Rumi, “A Great Wagon”; George Saunders, Tenth of December; Wallace Shawn, Essays; Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash; Alan Watts, The Book; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; Pete Walker, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

Caryl Churchill, Love and Information; Marvin Hamlisch, Edward KlebanJames Kirkwood Jr. & Nicholas Dante, A Chorus Line; Stephen Sondheim & George Furth, Company

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot; Kim Krans, The Wild Unknown Tarot

Altered States; Black Mirror: S01E03 “The Entire History of You”; S03E01 “Nosedive”; S03E06 “Hated in the Nation”; Blade Runner; The Matrix; My Dinner with Andre

Reply All; Dear Sugar

Candy Crush; Cookie Clicker' Everything; Inside; Journey; Universal Paperclips; The Witness; World of Warcraft

Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives; Luciano Berio, Sinfonia; Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach; Meredith Monk, Dolmen Music; Nico Muhly, Two Boys, Mothertongue; Sacred Harp; Caroline Shaw, Partita for 8 Voices; Toby Twining, Chrysalid Requiem[5]


The piece premiered on May 19, 2019 at the Signature Theatre. The production starred Adam Bashian (Ed), Kim Blanck (Karly), Starr Busby (Paula), Alex Gibson (Henry), Justin Gregory Lopez (Toby), J.D. Mollison (Marvin), Margo Seibert (Jessica), and Kuhoo Verma (Velma).

Directed by Annie Tippe
Music Supervision & Music Direction by Or Matias
Scenic Design by Amy Rubin & Brittany Vasta
Costume Design by Brenda Abbandandolo
Lighting Design by Christopher Bowser
Sound Design by Hidenori Nakajo
Production Stage Management by Jhanaë Bonnick[6]

Critical response[edit]

The piece was well received by the New York press, Ben Brantley of the New York Times calling it "a sublime chamber opera" that "promises to be the most original and topical musical of the year." [7]

Sara Holdren of the Vulture wrote "Octet is that rare and thrilling thing: a new musical that really does feel new. Formally, it’s both unique and invigorating — and it’s rigorous and straightforward enough in its structure for its ideas to spiral into rich, dense fractals. In the face of a virtual world where “there’s no coming back / No rehabilitation / No nuance / Just noise,” it takes a bravely unequivocal yet generous stand. It sings of darkness, blindness, and fear, but it sings also of complexity, connection, redemption, and hope."[8]


  1. Signature Theatre website. [1]
  2. Soloski, Alexis. "What Inspired a New Musical? Conspiracy Theories. And Yodeling.", NY Times, May 3, 2019
  3. Holdren, Sara. "Octet Takes Flight on 8-bit Wings", Vulture, May 20, 2019
  4. Malloy, Dave. "Verified lyrics from Genius.com"
  5. Octet Playbill insert. [2]
  6. Signature Theatre website. [3]
  7. Brantley, Ben. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/theater/octet-review.html "The Human Voice Versus the Internet in Octet"], NY Times, May 19, 2019
  8. Holdren, Sara. [https://www.vulture.com/2019/05/theater-review-octet-takes-flight-on-8-bit-wings.html "Octet Takes Flight on 8-bit Wings"], Vulture, May 20, 2019

Category:2019 musicals Category:Off-Broadway musicals Category:Concept albums


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