Two Olympic figure skaters dueling it out: All-American Nancy vs. Trailer Park Tonya. Add some henchmen, a whack to the knee, and a 24/7 media frenzy — sounds like the perfect daytime special. But this isn’t your ordinary soap opera. It’s “Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera,” showing at the New York Musical Festival July 9-16.
Based on the 1994 controversy between Tony Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, the show premiered in Portland, Ore., and was then produced in LA and Boston (at Oberon in 2011).
Kerrigan’s Stoneham roots aren’t the only local connection. The show features music by Michael Teoli, who attended Berklee College of Music, book and lyrics by Elizabeth Searle, of Arlington, and is produced by Paul Boghosian, of Belmont.
The New York production stars Tracy McDowell (“Motown,” “Rent”) as Harding and Jenna Leigh Green (“Wicked”) as Kerrigan.
“It’s really exciting, the cast is incredible,” Searle told us Thursday, after returning from rehearsals in New York. “The show has never been stronger.”
Searle said she was motivated to pursue this particular story because, like many people at the time, she was obsessed with the scandal as it unfolded in the media.
“It’s literally stranger than fiction,” she said. But she stressed that the show isn’t meant to be mocking.
“If we’re mocking anything,” she said, “it’s the media circus that the girls went through and that imbues our whole life.”
Indeed, she said some of the lyrics are ripped straight from archival headlines: “Icy Showdown,” “Gillooly Colluded,” and “War Between the Skates.”
The production has somewhat of a campy and satirical feel, Boghosian said, noting that it’s about the beginnings of celebrity culture.
“We thought the whole Nancy and Tonya epic would be old news after 20 years,” Boghosian said, but if the 2014 Winter Olympics coverage offers any indication, Americans are still interested in their story. “I guess they might’ve been the Kardashians of their day. Everybody still remembers Tonya and Nancy.”