Yep, the little old lady with the funny voice from the infamous commercial, despite being long dead, has her sights set on Broadway.
First there was 80s nostalgia: the Transformers movies, the remakes of 21 Jump Street and Footloose. Throwback Doritos packaging. The return of leggings. That whole electroclash thing.
Then came a tsunami of 90s nostalgia: revived Kurt Cobain worship. Endless seas of flannel. Stampedes for Doc Martens and the fanaticism around Surge. The head-shaking exhumations of Boy Meets World and Full House.
And now, in the sick sad world of 2015, we're nostalgic for just about anything. Doesn't matter whether we actually liked it at the time or not—the mere brain tickles provoked by revisiting something last explored in childhood or adolescence is enough to send people into a frenzy of delight.
The latest progression of this epidemic desire to emotionally time-travel is this: a musical … about the old lady who grunts, "Where's the beef?" in one of the best known-commercials of the 1980s. You know, for Wendy's hamburgers.
It's irrelevant whether you actually like or eat the food from Wendy's. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the intention of this new musical, Clara and the Beef, is to celebrate the life, career, and character of Clara Peller, the little old 80-something lady who so desperately wanted a meatier hamburger in the 1984 TV spot. And before you hoist the red flag about the exploitation of her image for the sake of selling burgers, know this: the musical was written and is being peddled by Peller's daughter Marlene Necheles, who owns the full rights to her mother's legacy—not the fast-food chain.
Apparently, Clara and the Beef—despite parking at the URL "wheresthebeefmusical.com"—is not just about the infamous Wendy's campaign. It's also an exploration of her trials and tribulations as a single mom, a determined salon owner, and eventually, a rare case of someone finding fame late in life. Featured (and surprisingly synth-heavy) songs on the musical's website, which were composed by Geoff Shell, include "Looking for the Beef," "American Cattlemen (Where's the Beef?)," and "I Want to Be My Own Boss."
The play is also somewhat autobiographical for Necheles. (Peller died in 1987.) "Our play begins in the present, when Marlene receives a telephone call from Wendy's. The Wendy's representative tells her that Wendy's wants to reuse the commercials featuring Clara's image," as the website describes. "Clara has been dead for many years. The request triggers questions in Marlene's mind about how to handle this. She has a special closeness with her mother, and does not want anything to intrude upon it. Marlene seeks answers, and the play begins."
It's interesting that she would choose to adopt her mother's life into a musical if she "does not want anything to intrude upon" their mother-daughter relationship, but maybe her interpretation of privacy and sanctity is different than ours.
Anyhow, it will still be a little while before you can buy front-row seats to this emotional roller coaster ride—Necheles and Shell are currently shopping around the musical in search of the right theater company to make their beef sing.
Did we mention that Shell runs a website called Rad Universe, which is a hub of 80s and 90s nostalgic content collected from around the 'net?
It's all coming full-circle. Or square, if that's how you prefer your patty.