At 20 years old, College of Charleston theatre major Henry Riggs has just two years of higher learning under his belt. But he’s also got the writing, music, and direction credits for a full-length theatrical musical that’s been produced in both Charleston and Chicago. Not bad for a fresh-faced kid who technically can’t even buy a beer yet.
Riggs’ Hobo: The Musical came together at the end of his freshman year, while he was rehearsing a part in CofC’s Titus Andronicus. It went up at Theatre 99 last spring to packed houses and strong reviews, then had another two shows early this summer at Chicago’s Playground Theatre. Hobo is the story of Kenneth (Riggs) a panhandling vagrant in the city of Justice, who thwarts an evil “final solution”-style fix to the city’s homeless problem that’s been cooked up by the mustache-twirling mayor and his goons. It also stars a passel of local comedy fixtures, including Jessica Chase, Eric Doucette, and cowriters Chris Gingrich and John Brennan.
Like every musical, Hobo‘s elaborate plot is driven by both live music numbers and narrative dialogue. The result is a remarkably sophisticated, and very funny, total package that’s as much Tenacious D as it is Monty Python.
“I’ve always been so fascinated by the concept of a musical,” says Riggs between theatre classes. “It’s the most ridiculous of things, but in the best of ways. With Hobo, we were trying to make real the most silly of silly things. That’s tough. That’s why Monty Python was so great. They took an outrageous, silly idea and played it for all it was worth.”
Riggs also regularly treads the Theatre 99 stage in the improv group The Sofa Kings, and he’s spearheading publicity for CofC’s Center Stage this season. Theatregoers may also recognize him as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from Footlight Players’ production of Amadeus last winter. He’s hoping to have a full band for accompaniment at Hobo’s next staging, on Sept. 15-16 at Theatre 99, and he’s also considering beefing up the story into a two-act musical.
Beyond Hobo, Riggs says he, Brennan, and Gingrich are nose-deep in writing another musical, which he describes as “sort of a cross between The Incredibles and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.”
After graduation, still at least two years away, Riggs sees not grad school but a move – perhaps back to Chicago and its Second City improv school. “I’d rather live it, do the starving artist thing, go to Chicago and climb those ropes,” he smiles. “When you’re there, you can almost touch it.” –Patrick Sharbaugh
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