NEW YORK – Eighties New Wave icon Boy George flustered Reagan-era America, faded away like the last chords of a Moog-heavy pop tune and then bounced back in the late '90s as an in-demand DJ.
It seems the cultural chameleon has enjoyed his share of good karma, and it isn't over for the White Boy — a musical based on his life is due to hit London in November.
"It's all about the New Romantic era and all the characters from that period," George's spokeswoman, Dee McCourt, said. "All of those characters will be in the play, which will be based on George’s life."
The musical will take its plot from George's experiences in the late 1970s and '80s, but it won't just be about him. Major characters will include musicians like Visage's Steve Strange and London club fixture Leigh Bowery. The show will be directed by Christopher Renshaw, who was nominated for a Tony award for the 1996 Broadway production of The King and I.
George told Next magazine that the musical, which has already been written and scored and is entitled Taboo, will include "odes to camp like 'Ode to Attention Seekers' and 'Give Me a Freak.'"
"It's like Valley of the Dolls meets Rocky Horror," he said.
But despite the long list of new songs, diehard Culture Club fans needn't fret — Taboo will include favorites like "Karma Chameleon," McCourt said.
"It's a quality musical," she said.
Open auditions for the show were held Aug. 10 and were attended by hordes of people, including many Boy George lookalikes.
The stage is a natural fit for a life story that sounds like a musical drama. In the late 1970s, he was George O'Dowd, a glam-rock devotee who became a minor celebrity among London circles for his cross-dressing and heavy makeup. It was an admirer of George's fashion sense, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who broke George into the music scene as a singer for Wow. The musical takes its name from a club George and his friends frequented about this time.
By 1981, George was the lead singer of the Sex Gang Children, which changed its name to Culture Club. Soon enough, the U.K. and the U.S. were flooded with melodies like "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" and that anthem of the disaffected mall girl, "Karma Chameleon."
All the while, androgynous George, who remained coy about his homosexuality, kept entertainment rags busy recording his cool, sharp bon mots about a prudish society.
But "Love is Cold" and "White Boys Can't Control It." With all the timing of a VH1 biopic, the band began falling apart about the same time George became addicted to heroin. In 1986, keyboardist Michael Rudetski died of a heroin overdose, George's romance with drummer Jon Moss began to self-destruct, and their album From Luxury to Heartache tanked.
The year proved so tragic that George's arrest for possession of marijuana that summer now merits only a footnote in the disintegration of the band and George's life. The following year, he announced that Culture Club was over.
In 1992 George's cover of "The Crying Game," for the movie of the same name, revived his solo career in America, and he steadily gained a reputation in Europe and then in the U.S. as a top DJ. He wrote about his life in his 1995 autobiography, Take It Like a Man. A hit musical would seem to cap off his comeback.
But, as for the possibility of Taboo hitting Broadway and becoming the next Cats, McCourt was modest but hopeful.
"We'll have to wait to see how it goes, but I imagine it would be our dream," she said.
Taboo opens Nov. 13 at Notre Dame Hall in Leicester Place, London.