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Jim Morrison, Reconsidered

KACM Productions examines ‘The Lizard King’

Sep. 23, 2015
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More than nearly any rock star of his stature, Jim Morrison remains an enigma. Depending on the beholder, he’s a rebel, a mystic or megalomaniac. Even Morrison’s Doors bandmates, who have spent the last four decades keeping his legacy alive, have struggled to pinpoint precisely what drove the singer, but it’s in part because of that mystery that he still captures the public’s imagination. 


Those same question marks have also left writers plenty of room for creative interpretation. Oliver Stone’s harsh 1991 biopic The Doors took more than a few liberties in its depiction of Morrison as a borderline sociopath, and playwright Jay Jeff Jones confesses a similar indifference to historical accuracy in his account of Morrison’s final days in The Lizard King. “I was interested in the life of the spirits more than biographical necropsy,” Jones writes in his notes for KACM Theatrical Productions’ resurrection of the show, which hadn’t been staged in more than 20 years.


Maxwell James Tomaszewski plays Morrison, who at the peak of his stardom exiles to Paris with his strung-out lover Pamela Courson (Brittany Noelle Curran). During his unproductive stay, he parties with hangers-on, considers his next move (or whether he even has a next move) and questions his own artistic integrity. In a series of insightful flashbacks, he riffs on the nature of fame with his friend Tom Baker (Coy Wentworth), an actor whose fortunes run opposite Morrison’s. A pretty boy becoming less so by the year, Baker embodies Morrison’s anxieties about growing old, fat and washed up.

Tomaszewski is solid in a tricky role that’s already been famously played to perfection by Val Kilmer. He embodies Morrison’s confidence and even nails his feral growl during the show’s periodic performances, though he’s usually singing over accompaniments that sound more like karaoke music than The Doors’ full-bodied rock ’n’ roll. Like The Doors before it, The Lizard King doesn’t shine much light on Morrison’s art, but it doesn’t set out to. Instead it captures an artist’s decline in often grim detail. It’s less interested in what made Morrison tick than what made him stop ticking.

Though Sept. 27 at Arcade Theatre, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. For tickets, visit kacmtheatrical.weebly.com.

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