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Shirley Mitchell and Heywood Banks talk about their musical Swamp Opera

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Wife-Husband Team Shirley Mitchell and Heywood Banks translate classic story into musical Swamp Opera.

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When Shirley Mitchell wrote the script and lyrics for a musical version of the  folk tale “Froggy Went A-Courtin’,” she asked the man she calls “the King of Melody” to turn her words into the songs in “Swamp Opera.”

No, it wasn’t Barry Manilow.  It was her husband Stuart, best known as Heywood Banks, who has been delighting, inspiring, amusing and sometimes even mildly grossing out audiences for years with such songs as “If Pigs Had Wings,” “The Weasel”  and the Christmas classic “You Ain’t Gettin’ Diddly Squat,” among many others.  Shirley and Heywood’s collaboration has yielded a creative retelling of the animal tale embellished with songs that range from country and bluegrass to blues and rock.  The songs are markedly different than the more novelty-type songs Heywood fans are familiar with (to a great degree because the lyrics are Shirley’s), but to this listener (Dave) they still have subtle Banks wry touch (you can hear them all here).

Writing the script based on the Froggy folk tale was a natural for Shirley, who has always been a writer, as she explains on the Swamp Opera website.

Writing has always been a love of mine. I’ve not been passionately devoted to it, but I have written consistently throughout my life. I wrote lyrics for country songs for a year with my folk singing husband, later turned comedian. I’ve written children’s stories, articles, kept journals, then one day after my second child left home, I got this idea to write a musical play. I don’t know why I thought I could do it. Mainly, not asking anyone if they thought I could, was key to jumping in and doing it. I spent a year writing twenty songs-there are seventeen in the play-and beating my husband with a big stick to come up with the music. {He will freely admit to this.} He is an incredible musician and I am lucky to have his music.

The play is pure fantasy based in real life situations. The characters have taken on their own personalities and speak their own minds. Most of the time, I just went along for the ride. Now, in a few months I will be able to see what it all looks like. That will be a thrill.

I have been surrounded by wonderfully talented people throughout this project. This play can’t help but be successful because of it. I believe it will enchant, delight and entertain people for many years to come. I am grateful for everyone’s help and now may it be released to the universe.

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Heywood Banks

The musical has been produced in Shirley and Heywood’s home town of Howell, Michigan, and other productions are in the offing.   They joined the Geeks for a fun half-hour or so talking about how the play came about, how it became a musical, and what it’s like collaborating as husband and wife.

For information, production arrangements and more check out the Swamp Opera website.

Of course, Heywood continues to perform and appear on radio shows, such as Indianapolis’ Bob and Tom Show.  His upcoming gigs, recordings and more can be found on his website at http://www.heywoodbanks.com.  From the website:

Heywood has been featured in “Rolling Stone Magazine” and “People Magazine.” He won First Place in the Johnnie Walker Comedy Search Contest.

Heywood Banks has appeared on A&E’s “Evening at the Improv,” MTV’s “1/2 Hour Comedy Hour,” CNN’s “Hollywood Minute,” “Caroline’s Comedy Hour,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Showtime Comedy Club Network,” “Dr. Demento Show,” “12th Annual HBO Young Comedians Special with Paul Rodriguez” and is a frequent guest on the national Bob and Tom radio show.

Bonus! Heywood’s Christmas Playlist on YouTube compiles the entire Heywood Banks Xmas Oeuvre.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9jRPbPkY55AOjCw8qNoRqE5LOayd3BA0