First, there was news of a movie starring a much-loved hapless superhero published in Nutty, The Dandy and The Beano. Now, for the first time ever, Bananaman will soon be live on stage.
Created by Steve Bright and writer and editor Dave Donaldson (best known for his work on The Broons) and initially drawn by the late John Geering for Nutty comic in 1980, the quintessentially British Bananaman is the superhero with “the muscles of twenty men, and the brains of twenty mussels”. He’s brave, he’s bold… but he’s not very bright!
Now, Bananaman is destined for the stage in a part parody, part slapstick comedy musical for the whole family and an industry launch for the musical will be held on 2nd February in London, with a full production due to be staged in Autumn 2016.
Bananaman The Musical, written by the award-winning writer and composer of Wolfboy, The Famous Five, Scary Musical and Monte Cristo Leon Parris, will be directed by Mark Perry (producer, director, actor and founder of Sightline Entertainment).
The new show will be choreographed by Grant Murphy and prodjuced by SightLine Entertainment in partnership with publishers DC Thomson.
Leon is the winner of numerous awards and, as well as writing screenplays, musical theatre and fiction, he is a trained vocal coach.
Bananaman, the accident-prone superhero alter ego of Eric Wimp, was a flyaway success in comics from the get go, transferring from Nutty when it was merged with The Dandy in 1985, before joining the world’s longest-running comic, The Beano, in 2012. A send-up of the likes of Superman and Batman, he was the star of an eponymous, hugely popular television cartoon that ran between 1983 and 1986 for three series and 40 episodes on the BBC and featured the voices of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie from The Goodies.
Casting Notice Reveals Show Clues
A casting notice for the musical indicates the producers have been looking for one actor to play schoolboy Eric Wimp, who becomes Bananaman when he eats a banana – the latter a handsome hero who may have a jaw line you can see from space and the snazziest of tight lycra outfits, but he’s not the sharpest tool in the box. In fact, he doesn’t even know where the box is.
With supervillains Doctor Gloom and General Blight attempting world domination who can we call? Superman’s on holiday, Spider-Man’s not picking up – our only option, our very very last option is … Bananaman.
With a useless hero and some equally clueless villains, Bananaman’s winkingly clever, delightfully silly type of humour has been sealed into the memories of those who saw him first, and will now spark the imagination of a new generation of Bananafans.
Part fond parody of the super-hero genre, part riotous comic slapstick, this is a potassium fuelled action comedy the whole family will love.
The producers have been looking for actors with comic timing and the ability to play caricature characters (“female parts will be mezzo-soprano with strong belts.”, they suggested) and prompted aspiring performers to view episodes of the Bananaman animated series to get more of an idea of what they were looking for
ERIC: playing age 14-17. A nerdy but brilliant schoolboy. Eric works in his mum’s fruit shop and attends Bash Street High, where he excels academically but struggles romantically, trying to win the affections of his classmate Fiona. Bullied by his classmates, Eric yearns to be stronger and cooler. Following a meteor strike on Acacia Rise, Eric eats a banana and turns into Bananaman. He was originally bored with his simple life, the daily dull routine from home to school to the fruit shop and back again, but once faced with his new chaotic life as the dim witted Bananaman, Eric begins to appreciate what he had. Eric fancies Fiona, and we follow his attempts to ask her out. By the end of the show, we see Eric as the real hero, able to defeat the bad guys without being in the guise of Bananaman.
BANANAMAN: playing age 25+. Eric’s alter ego, and his complete opposite, Bananaman is described as having ‘the muscles of 20 men and the brain of 20 mussels.’ Finds it impossible to enter a room through a door, and barges through walls. In trying to help out, he often causes more trouble than there was to begin with. He is a parody of traditional superheroes like Superman. Vain, dim-witted, well-meaning, huge biceps and terribly well-spoken.
CHIEF O’REILLY: playing age 30-50. Acacia Road’s Irish police chief. Loves the simple things particularly his food, his life on Acacia Road, and generally having nothing much to do. A terrible police officer but utterly loveable. Constantly distracted from his duties by a nice slice of cake/ a doughnut/ an eclair etc.
GENERAL BLIGHT: playing age 25-35. Bananaman’s number one enemy, and always striving for world domination. When the show opens he has been working alongside Dr Gloom tracking a meteor said to possess limitless power, on it’s current trajectory directly towards Acacia Road. He?s a parody of Adolf Hitler and criminal masterminds in comic strips through the ages.
DR GLOOM: playing age 25-35. Another arch enemy of Bananaman, and partner/sidekick to General Blight if they can stop squabbling long enough to agree. Spends much of the show disguised as the new teacher at Acacia High, ‘Professor Bloom’. He assembles all the villains to work with him on his evil plan. He?s the evil genius that we all love to hate.
MAD MAGICIAN: playing age 25-35. Magician and villain, who under the guise of performing at Fiona’s birthday party, spirits the birthday girl away. Perhaps loves the performance side of his villainy a little much: relishing in the showmanship, he arrives everywhere in a puff of smoke, which often annoys his fellow villains. He’s a dark, quirky version of Derren Brown ? who’s just in it to rip off unsuspecting members of the public.
Principal Female Roles
FIONA: playing age 14-17. An incredibly bright and driven school girl, Fiona is a budding journalist, desperate for something really exciting to report, and runs the school news blog tracking anything remotely interesting that happens in Acacia Road. Eric is in love with her, but Fiona doesn’t appear interested in anything but the latest scoop. That is, until she meets Bananaman who, by complete accident, saves her from General Blight’s clutches. She briefly develops a crush on Bananaman, but by the end of the show, Eric has proved himself to be a better match. She?s clever, independent and with more than a little Lara Croft about her when she needs it.
MRS WIMP: Playing age 30-40. Eric?s mum. Loving, kind, well meaning, but terrible at making sandwiches. It is in her picnic that she makes for Eric to take on his night time look out for the meteor with Fiona, that the banana is found. And later it is her plan to make banoffee pie which provides Eric with fuel to be his alter-ego even after Doctor Gloom has taken all the bananas. Loves Eric, and probably knows exactly what he?s up to all along.
CROW: playing age 20-30. Eric’s only friend. A cheeky cockney/bird that can talk – but its only the strike of the meteor which allows the other characters in Acacia Road to understand what saying..unless its cockney rhyming slang at which point no-one understands any of it. Crow is the wittiest character in the show and the brightest. Always on hand to try and help Eric in his terrible attempts to woo Fiona and always trying to lead Bananaman in the right direction ? but pretty unsuccessful in both those endeavours. Crow is the sidekick. The brain to Bananaman’s brawn. Think Timone?but more cockney?and more feathers.
As for that unconnected movie, there still doesn’t seem to be anything happening just yet, with only a promotional poster released back in 2014 and the official web site at www.bananamanmovie.com gathering tumbleweed… if anything slips about it, we’ll let you know!
Bananaman The Musical © 2016 Sightline Entertainment Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Bananaman Characters © & TM 2016 DC Thomson & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.