Initially All is Forgiven? was planned as just a standalone album, then as a staged musical, but now it has evolved into an Original Cast Album and a seven episode podcast which premiered on May 1 and is available for download on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Castro, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, etc. Onus Productions is posting the finale on May 29.
In 1993, “Serene” Dominic Salerno’s graphics editor job moved him from New York City to Phoenix, AZ and within a year’s time, mob informant Sammy “the Bull” Grevano was also relocated to to the Valley of the Sun under the Witness Protection Program. After turning on his overbosses in the Gotti crime family, Gravano didn’t stay clean for very long in the desert and in 2002 he was sentenced to twenty years for drug trafficking. Around the time of his release in 2017, Serene Dominic had already begun writing songs from the viewpoint of a low-level mob informant trying to adjust to his loss of Italian culture touchstones and the relative boredom of his new assumed life in Sunnyslope, AZ. Dominic plays the Baccala-out-of-water main Vic Masterone, informing the fictionalized character with many of his own personal feelings of displacement.
Serene: “Coming out to work in Arizona after living most of my life in The Bronx was a bit of a culture shock, but in a good way. It felt like being on a never-ending Club Med vacation for the first few years. Then came a point when I started thinking, ‘This is all well and good but shouldn’t I be going home by now?’ and having that feeling that I was never going to go home again was the impetus for writing All Is Forgiven? That and the realization that there hasn’t been an organized crime musical since Guys and Dolls. That’s bullshit.”
In recent years Dominic has had an odd sideline of writing stage musicals which he says he does because he can think of no better way to prop up even an more antiquated art form, the long playing album.
Serene: “We’ve gotten away from the idea that we sit and listen to an album and not do something else. Once upon a time we could do that but now we have to be on the go or driving or hiking just to listen to music. Doing a staged musical forces people to sit down, watch a performance and listen to a bunch of songs with an overarching story line and not try to do the dishes.
“And if you take away the musical aspect of this, you can say we’re reviving old time radio serials like ‘Lights Out,’ ‘The Shadow’ and ‘Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.’ Yep, all the bygone entertainment delivery systems!”
He did that with the crew of Pan Productions for Swimming in The Head (a musical retelling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo) in 2015 and again with the noir musical Dark Lullaby in 2018. The Mafia aspects of it may be loosely based on real-life events but the story goes off on an odd, almost supernatural tangent where no existing mob story has gone before.
Taking a musical that would normally have run 90 minutes and serializing it meant structuring each podcast almost a soap opera with a running time of roughly 25 minutes and having each episode ending with a cliffhanger. And each episode contains three songs, including some bonus songs not on the Cast Album and incidental music by Serene and Musical Director Steve Asetta (Moonlight Magic, San Jacinto Prison Band). The podcast’s narrator is former Phoenix New Times editor and columnist Peter Gilstrap. He currently produces for radio and writes scripts in Hollywood, USA!
In addition to Serene Dominic, this first-ever Onus podcast contains the acting and vocal talents of JOOBS (who plays the villain Gemeleye), Dayna Donovan (who plays the exotic dancer Shanabella), Jude Jehad (who sings lead on three numbers) and acting cameos from all seven members of San Jacinto Prison Band. Plans to rerecord some of the show’s songs for an upcoming new album are up in the air since the pandemic but will hopefully occur by the fall. There are also tentative plans to possibly serialize Dominic’s last musical Dark Lullaby in podcast format to follow up All Is Forgiven? in the fall.
Serene: “In some ways this project, which was conceived before the pandemic has weirdly predicted a lot of what has happened to us in the past seven weeks. Even putting it together was done in a kind of social distancing environment that was completely alien to everybody involved in previous theater productions. No two actors were ever in the same room doing their lines at any point in the production so hopefully one day we can have a Zoom get together so all the cast members can actually meet each other. I hope that this kind of podcast finds an audience and that those who tune in each Friday in the month of May will find something hopeful in its characters or that it provides a suitably weird distraction from our current malaise.”
If you would like to learn more about this podcast, Onus Productions and the cast album please contact Serene at firstname.lastname@example.org.