For Immediate Release
April 1, 2021
“Can you imagine a Broadway show based on The Collected Works of Erasmus?” What started as a throwaway joke in a Reddit conversation has become an innovative new way to disseminate scholarly research to a popular audience. University of Toronto Press (UTP) has produced an online musical based on the life and letters of the philosopher, classicist, and theologian Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus who lived from 1466–1536 during the European Reformation. “Erasmus! Erasmus! – The Zoom-usical,” with a cast of 25, produced and directed by Jane Kelly, UTP’s Director of Sales and Marketing, will stream online for an exclusive one-show-only premiere, today (April 1) at 4:07 am ET on Zoom. A promotional video can be found here.
Reddit user “OldHeadYoungShoulders78” joked about an Erasmus musical, which inspired dozens of replies from theatre artists. A thread on the “r/ErasmusIsBAE” subreddit soon became a chorus of ideas for songs, costumes, and music. Kelly asked creators who posted on the thread if they wanted to turn their concepts into a show. Convinced that an Erasmus musical was too ridiculous to be real, contributors were mildly taken aback by Kelly’s offer. “It was like being invited to ride in the first-class section on the Titanic,” said a noted actress who asked to remain anonymous. “Tempting until you realize that the voyage can only end in utter disaster.”
Determined to use the musical theatre format to promote UTP books, Kelly opted to helm the show herself and recruited her co-workers. “Most of our current staff don’t have any stage experience,” she says, “but we figured, how hard could it be?” These collaborators also didn’t know anything about Erasmus or that he coined popular adages like, “in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” but that didn’t stop them from hastily writing a feature-length musical about his life. “The early drafts did remarkably well in peer review,” says Kelly. Against all odds and even common sense, the show was propelled into existence.
A few songs from “Erasmus! Erasmus! – The Zoom-usical” are starting to connect with listeners. “Paraphrase This! (I’m in Love),” for instance, has been downloaded 2.8 times from Soundcloud alone. “With our ‘Pump Up Your Vols. 1–89’ promotion,” says Kelly, “scholars can pick any volume from the 89-volume set of The Collected Works of Erasmus on our website and get an exclusive digital download of the original cast soundtrack.”
UTP’s “Pump Up Your Vols. 1–89” download includes interviews with the cast and crew of “Erasmus! Erasmus! – The Zoom-usical,” and various versions of all of the songs:
When I Get A Little Money (I Buy Books; and If Any Is Left, I Buy Food and Clothes) (Overture)
Have You Seen the One-Eyed King?
Paraphrase This (I’m in Love)
To Know Nothing (Is the Happiest Life)
Did You Get My Letter?
When I Get a Little Money (I Buy Books; and If Any Is Left, I Buy Food and Clothes) (Instrumental)
An Old Head on Young Shoulders (Everybody Hates a Prodigy)
Paint Me, Holbein!
An Ounce of Prevention
Don’t Cry for Me, Martin Luther
When I Get a Little Money (I Buy Books; and If Any Is Left, I Buy Food and Clothes) (Reprise)
“Pump Up Your Vols. 1–89” is available as a digital download, MP3, CD, and limited-edition vinyl.
For information about “Erasmus! Erasmus! – The Zoom-usical,” visit utorontopress.com.
University of Toronto Press (UTP) has published landmark scholarship since 1901. One of the largest university presses in North America, UTP releases over 180 new scholarly, course, and general interest books in both print and ebook format and 47 journals each year. In addition, UTP also operates UTP Distribution through warehouses in Toronto and Buffalo along with campus bookstores across the University of Toronto. For more information, visit utorontopress.com.
Chris Reed, Publicist, University of Toronto Press
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