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What a Doll: Amanda Palmer lends indie cred to Lexington H.S. show

By Jenna Wolf | Sunday, May 3, 2009 | | Celebrity News

Music hipsters are planning to flock by bus, train - even aeroplane, over the sea if need be - to see suburban high school drama students interpret an obscure indie album, with a bit of help from a not-so-obscure Boston musician.

“These kids, this experience, is so inspiring and so passionate,” said Amanda Palmer, one-half of the punk-cabaret Dresden Dolls and a 1994 graduate of Lexington High School, which is putting on a musical based on the indie cult album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” “It’s thrifty, profound, high-quality theater that happens to have been created by high school students,” she said.

Palmer will perform in the workshop-style production of “The Needle That Sings in Her Heart,” which was conceived, written and composed by 23 students in less than two months. The musical is based on the 1998 record by Neutral Milk Hotel, which most of the students had never even heard before.

“Most of us thought it sounded really weird at first,” said sophomoreSophie Harari, 15, the production’s assistant director. “After a few listens, it hit me how beautiful it is. Now, we can’t stop listening - before school, at work, even at bedtime.”

The play centers around Anne Frank, as well as violence, death, and apocalypse - all themes of the obscure concept album.

“It’s really about imagination, creating and entertaining,” said drama teacher Stephen Bogart. “It asks the question, ‘As performers, what would we create for our loved ones if the world was going to end?’ ”

And it’s not just loved ones who intend to be entertained over three nights - May 7, 8 and 9 - in the stuffy Lexington High School auditorium. The production has garnered attention from highbrow music tastemakers such as Pitchfork Media and Brooklyn Vegan, and ticket sales have been swift. As of Friday afternoon, approximately 1,100 had been snatched up.

Fans across the country are planning pilgrimages. “I’m expecting something gorgeous, heartrending and transcendent,” said Margaret Jo Hargis, 17, of Dallas, a high school senior who will fly out next weekend to catch the show. “This is exactly the kind of drama program I’d have killed for in my high school.”

For Lauren Sheehan, 19, of Norwood, a freshman at UMass-Amherst, to see the album acted out is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She and her roommates will skip college parties in favor of trekking two hours by car to see the $10 show.

Harari said she and her peers aren’t getting caught up in the hype, focusing instead on the hours of work left to curtain call. “Mr. Bogart always tells us, ‘Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art,’ ” Harari said. “So that’s what we’re doing.”