Sometimes, "high concept" can be a little too high concept. That’s what Elfchild concluded.
Formed in Orlando in 1999, Elfchild was the passion project of precocious high school junior (and self-taught bass player) Henry ("Thurston") Howell. Gathering some like-minded spirits from his AP Literature class who possessed rudimentary skills on guitar and drums, Howell set out to write an entire song cycle based on the 24 chapters of the 1850 classic The Scarlet Letter—which the class had just completed. Howell had broad musical tastes, from the Beatles to Black Flag to pop-punk and emo—and decided to explore them all. He sketched out the music first, figuring the lyrics would come later; walking through the songs, the group picked up the rather simplistic structures easily. Within two weeks, they had recorded all of the instrumental tracks in Howell's garage. (Because there were 24 songs, the average length was just over one minute, 47 seconds—with the exception of their opus, “X. The Leech and His Patient,” which clocked in at 9:06.)
Tragedy struck when guitarist and vocalist Alphonso Greene (and his date Wendy) had an unfortunate run-in with a gator while paying a moonlight visit to a local public golf course. With Greene indisposed, and unable to find another singer, the band decided to soldier on as a trio without vocals (in part, because Howell’s lyrics notebook stopped at “XIII. Another View of Hester.”) They booked a few gigs, but the songs made zero sense as pure instrumentals, and Howell’s attempts to explain his concept to the audience generally were met with indifference. (At one show, the crowd was openly hostile, having mistaken them for a Norwegian black metal band with the same name.) Before too long, the group saw the writing and decided to change directions. After several personnel changes (which included drummer Brad Trowser’s termination for poor time management), the group morphed into Perry Likes Geese—and remarkably, became one of the top multi-platinum emo acts of the early 2000s.
In early 2010, Howell discovered the digital recordings of the Scarlet Letter project (which he had tentatively titled Dimmesdale after his favorite character) in a closet. As a joke, he suggested to his second wife Melinda—who had impetuously formed her own solo contemporary dance company despite never having danced—that she put some choreography to his long-shelved project. With fervor, she did.
Dimmesdale, The Musical (book by Tim Rice) ran for several years on Broadway.