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“Epic” musical adapts The Odyssey for a new generation

Epic+musical+adapts+The+Odyssey+for+a+new+generation

The Odyssey is the most famous and epic story ever written and told. The story written almost 2,700 years ago is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Western literature and one of the most studied and compelling tales ever. And the impact of this legendary tale inspired Jorge “Jay” Rivera-Herrans to write the most beautiful, heartbreaking, blood-rushing, and overall vibe of a musical called Epic. In anticipation of the penultimate album of the first act, “The Circe Saga,” which is releasing on Valentine’s Day, I will give you the ultimate rundown on this pure adrenaline rush of a musical.

Background and development
Back in 2019, Rivera-Herrans while in his college dorm was inspired to start writing a musical that was heavily inspired by video games and anime to “emulate their addictive sense of progression.” So for the next two years, Rivera-Herrans worked on the very rough drafts of the series. On Jan. 17th, 2021 he blessed us with the introduction of his series with a draft of “Full Speed Ahead” on TikTok, where he sang a snippet of it.

And it was only up and beyond, as he documented Tik-Toks on the process of his musical, slowly gaining a loyal and wonderful (cult) following. Between finishing the first draft and the final draft, Rivera-Herrans grew a blossoming community and even searched for actors and musicians in the community to help bring his music to life.

The first of his wonderful crew was the glorious and godly Talya Sindel (now his girlfriend) as Circe and later bringing on Armando Jullian as Odysseus’s second-in-command, Eurylochus and having (for the rough draft of Polite’s songs) voiced Macy Mateer, later recast as Steven Dookie. As time went on the voice cast grew with the electric Luke Holt as Zeus, the rockstar Steven Rodriguez as Posiden, the powerful Teagan Earley as Athena, and much more.

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After a while, Blair Russell was brought aboard to be the musical’s producer, as well as JP Warner to be the Sound mixer. Then the musical was revealed to be coming out in Sagas and would have nine sagas in total, split into two acts. Act One consists of five total acts (including, “The Troy, Cyclops, Ocean, Circe, and The Underworld Saga”) running in at approximately an hour and nine minutes. Act Two is a bit shorter than Act One but only by two minutes (consisting of the Thunder, Wisdom, Vengeance, and The Itacha Saga). Revealed in late 2022, the sagas were going to be released separately over time, starting with “The Troy Saga” on Christmas day 2022 followed shortly on the 27th of January 2023 by “The Cyclops Saga,” and then last Christmas “The Ocean Saga” was released.

Musical Genius
Epic isn’t just a masterpiece of storytelling and pulling on heartstrings; it’s also a musical masterpiece. When Rivera-Herrans was young he watched “Peter And The Wolf,” a musical composition in which each character is represented by a specific motif and instrument. This inspired the musical language of the mortals and gods. Rivera-Herrans had split two different forms of music for the characters based on whether they were gods or not. The gods had more electronic music as the music got more divine, whilst the mortals had more traditional music with such instruments as guitars and drums.

Examples of musical instruments matching specific characters such as Zeus being represented by an electronic bass and drums, Athena by a piano with clock sounds when she is in quick-thought, and Poseidon by Trumpets and brass, on the electronic side. On the more traditional side, it gets interesting. For the upbeat and optimistic Polites who “like to greet the world with open arms,” to accompany his playful vocals, he is represented by a kalimba and marimba. Odysseus is an interesting case where his instrument changes based on his tone and mood, for more challenging moments he is represented by an electric guitar but, in his more vulnerable moments, he is represented by a nylon guitar.

Eurlylochus is the most interesting case as he isn’t represented by a specific instrument but he leads us into one of the most important parts of the music, The Ensemble. Eurlylochus is the second-in-command as well as the voice of the fleet, so he is usually backed by the vocals of the soldiers. This leads us to the difference between the god’s Ensemble and The mortal’s Ensemble. while the mortals are backed by characters who are usually there in person, whilst gods use an Ensemble that was created by them to emphasize the emotion and feels of the moment; which all but, certifies these songs as certified bops.

The Troy Saga
The album is a perfect introduction to the musical language of Rivera-Herrans and his perfect act for developing relationships between the characters and switching between scenes almost flawlessly. The theme explored in the musical “Ruthlessness is mercy” starts slow yet impactful in the opening songs. The instruments like Odysseus’ electric guitar, the crew-backed ensemble of Eurlylochus, and the playful and carefree notes of Polites, set off an amazing musical odyssey for the listener to hear.

One song I really love is the song “Just a Man.” This song is a heartthrob and pokes deep into Odysseus’ mind. He must search in his heart and in his brain to find the solution to this problem, a question that has plagued modern history. “What if you traveled back in time and killed an Evil person as a Baby?” This gets put on full display in the song, where Odysseus is stuck in a dilemma: kill baby Astyanax to prevent a grand loss of life or, let the kid live and kill every one of the Greeks sacking Troy.

Overall the song put Odysseus in between a rock and a hard place. Another song that brings out the true glory of the album is the song “Open Arms,” in which two opposing ideologies go head to head in an upbeat and folky tune. Yes, ironically one of the most pivotal moments in the album and the musical as a whole is the most upbeat song (except for “Wouldn’t You Like,” which hasn’t come out yet).

The song shows Polites, Odysseus’s best friend, having a special moment with the captain as he tries to convince him to let go of his worries and “greet the world with open arms.” This song dives into Odysseus’ thoughts and worries after the end of the war, and it also sets up the next album perfectly.

This album is very amazing, although I have one grievance with it. It sets up a couple of very important characters in this album, but only three end up appearing later. Not to spoil it, but I wish more was done with the character of Polites. Overall, the album gets a 9/10.

The Cyclops Saga
The perfect segue to the theme’s true introduction and the album where the choices change the whole journey of Odysseus and his men’s voyage home, forever. And it all started with one sheep’s death. Musically the album is roughly the same as the previous one, a musical buffet. However, unlike the Troy saga, “The Cyclops Saga” has more heavy instruments with instruments such as guitars, and violins, and old-fashioned ensembles add the rock effect to multiple songs, mixed with actual sounds of the environment. The music leaves you with nothing but pure dopamine.

A song that perfectly blends the lyrical genius with the instruments and action-filled rock moments is the song “Survive”. Odysseus with, Eurlylochus and Polities leads a small group into a cave and ends up fighting in this song after killing the owner’s sheep. Unfortunately for them, the owner of the cave is a giant one-eyed beast, Polyphemus.

This leads into the next song I really love, “Remember Them” where Odysseus snaps out of the carnage and leads the rest of the survivors on a mission; escape the cave at all costs. The music rises and grows heavier as Odysseus orders the crew to stab Polyphemus in the eye so they can escape.

I love this album even more than the last one, however one thing wavers it down slightly, with forty songs in the musical this album was made into four songs instead of the last ones five. This ultimately, rushes the pace of the album by a smidge. Overall, that doesn’t matter when the album rushes you with a frick ton of pure unregulated energy. A 10/10 for this album.

The Ocean saga

Out of all the previous albums, this album had the longest time in development and also had the most hype because so much was to happen in the Album. The album took the music level of the last saga and built upon it tenfold. A Lot of new instruments were used, such as trumpets and brass, and old instruments such as the electric guitar, and the return of multiple old melodies and much greater build-ups and releases. The ensemble is also turned up a notch with it not only being used by Eurlylochus but also by the two other gods that appear in the album.

The stand-out song that felt more different than any song before it is “Luck Runs Out”; you can smell the mutiny seeds being planted here. This song has Odysseus confronted by Eurlylochus and asks the question “Why do we take these risks when they ultimately get us killed?” While Odysseus tries his hardest to answer, Eurylochus pleads and the fleet cries. Ultimately the fleets’ cries are ignored.

The problem of putting trust in the captain ultimately leads into the album’s climax “Ruthlessness” where the fleet is confronted, judged, and punished for the actions of Odysseus on the cyclops’s island. The fleet is surrounded by the man-eating giants known as The Laestrygonians and faced with the most chilling, and brutal threat ever, Poseidon. This album is ultimately the only album I cannot find any weaknesses in as the songs in the album are perfectly written and performed, and for that, this album gets a perfect 10/10.

So the first three albums of this musical-in-progress are (pun intended) epic and very promising. The albums perfectly create a vivid atmosphere for each and every moment and manage to pull at the heartstrings of the listeners and make them yearn for more. If you want to support Rivera-Herrans and keep up on Epic’s progress, you can find him on his Tiktok, Instagram and Youtube. You can also check out all the mentioned songs so far before “The Circe Saga” here on this video I made, or check out this playlist with all the songs on YouTube and Spotify. I can’t wait to see what the Epic crew has cooked up on the next album and see you all again on Valentine’s Day. And if you enjoy Epic, check out Rivera-Herrans’ other musical “My Heart Says Go.”

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