"Is this a dagger I see before me . . . or a pizza? Mmm . . . pizza . . .," drools Homer Simpson as Macbeth in MacHomer, Rick Miller's one-man, many-voices show that casts 60 Simpsons characters in an abridged production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.
"In his time, Shakespeare was pop culture," notes Miller. "If his original audience was around today, they'd be watching TV. We're not dumbing down Shakespeare; we're bringing it back to pop culture. I think he would have liked it. He would have liked it more than another crappy production of Macbeth."
That's for sure. Onstage, Miller flies through a repertoire of Simpsons voices to tell the story of the ambitious Scottish lord who kills his way to the throne, with a little help from his manipulative wife. Marge, of course, is Lady MacHomer.
Righteous Ned Flanders is Banquo. The trio of witches are Sea Captain McAllister, Principal Seymour Skinner, and Moe Szyslak ("Uh, yeah, double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble," mumbles the cantankerous bartender). And, setting down his goblet of Duff mead, town drunk Barney Gumble plays the avenging Macduff.
MacHomer took root a decade ago, when Miller was playing the tiny role of Murderer No. 2 in a Montreal-based touring production of Macbeth. Bored, he sat backstage and imagined the population of Springfield in the roles. (Simpsons creator Matt Groening gave his blessing to Miller, even though he's not officially linked to MacHomer.)
The show is a faithful recreation of the Bard's classic tragedy, claims Miller, who doesn't change costumes to get into character. Instead, a giant screen beams pictures of Springfield residents dressed in Elizabethan garb, as Miller speaks their parts.
"With this show, kids tend to understand Macbeth more than they would otherwise," says Miller. "Kids tell me all the time, 'I understand it now. I actually like it.'"