Jon Kaplan, aka Jonathan Z. Kaplan (born April 6, 1976) and Al Kaplan, aka Alexander Kaplan (born July 23, 1978) are American composers, lyricists, comedy writers and brothers. In a career spanning two decades, the Kaplans have found success and fame creating musical versions of classic films including Silence of the Lambs (Silence! The Musical; 2002) and various Arnold Schwarzenegger films such as Conan the Barbarian, Predator and Commando. Their most successful projects were born on the internet, with early viral sensation SILENCE! The Musical expanding into a live stage production in both London and New York City.
Early Life and Family
Jon and Al Kaplan were born in Manhattan and grew up on Staten Island, several minutes drive from the Fresh Kills Landfill, at the time the largest garbage dump on the face of the earth. The Kaplans' father Nathan was a music teacher/composer-turned dentist, who exposed his sons to concert music, film music and musicals at an early age, before eating himself to death. Their mother, Elizabeth Kaplan, now referred to as Liz Alt, continues to teach chorus at P.S. 53, and was furious that a rival Staten Island elementary chorus was chosen to perform at the 83rd Academy Awards, until she saw how awful the 2011 Academy Awards were.
Jon and Al moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to study concert composition and film music at USC with aspirations of becoming the next John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. After surviving three brutal years under the film music-hating faculty, they finally made it to the film scoring program and graduated in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Fresh out of school, Jon and Al went to work at the offices of Film Score Monthly magazine, where they did everything from write and edit articles to stuff thousands of subscription renewals into envelopes. This period would see the Kaplans pursue screenwriting, with the brothers penning several spec scripts, none of which sold. Their most notorious project was Peni5 (1999), later titled Bigger, the story of a high school student with a small penis who takes black pills to make his penis gigantic, but he overdoses and his penis keeps growing and starts to murder people.
Silence! The Musical
In 2002, Jon and Al composed, performed and produced a nine-song Silence of the Lambs musical, Silence! The Musical, which they put online so that they didn't have to burn CD-Rs of it for their eight friends. Despite the fact that social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace had not yet taken hold, Silence! quickly became a viral sensation, appearing in magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and Maxim, and on radio shows like Opie & Anthony and Howard Stern's 100. The musical's popularity endured for years, with the show achieving a cult status.
In 2005, the brothers composed several new songs and expanded Silence! into an actual musical. They wrote an Airplane!-styled screenplay, Silence! The Musical, that was adapted for the stage by Hunter Bell, and the show was mounted by director Christopher Gattelli at the 2005 NYC Fringe festival, where it won the "Overall Excellence Award" for Outstanding Musical. In 2010, Silence! re-opened in London at the Above the Stag Theatre to positive reviews. In June 2011, Silence! returned to New York, opening Off Broadway at Theatre 80, starring Brent Barrett as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Jenn Harris as Clarice Starling.
24: Season Two: The Musical
In 2008, Jon and Al composed their second full-length musical, 24: Season Two: The Musical. Despite being a quantum leap above Silence! The Musical in terms of composition, conception, production and performance, the 24 musical was largely ignored by the public. One reason for the show's colossal failure was due to the Kaplans' ignoring of the rise of YouTube and social networking sites.
The Schwarzenegger Musicals
In 2010, Jon and Al finally embraced society and technology, launching a series of viral one-off musicals on their YouTube channel "Legolambs" that would feature entire movies distilled into single songs in a matter of three to four minutes. The most successful of the videos featured Al performing the singing voice of the legendary Austrian superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conan the Barbarian: The Musical, Predator: The Musical, Terminator 2: The Opera, Commando: The Musical and Total Recall: The Musical are among the Kaplans' most widely seen works to date.
Other successful Jon and Al musicals target Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part II and Peter Weller in RoboCop. Some commercially unsuccessful Jon and Al musicals include Schindler's List and Rocky IV, which the Kaplans often cite as their finest artistic achievements.
Film and TV Music
In 2006, Jon and Al landed their first television scoring assignment as two of several dozen composers providing uncredited music for the NBC reality show Starting Over. (They were hired by another composer who was a fan of Silence! The Musical.) In 2007, they scored (for clarinet, violin and piano) the John Ford silent film entitled Just Pals, which was included in the Ford at Fox DVD Box Set. The Kaplans also wrote all of the Super Nintendo-styled underscore for G4's cartoon series Code Monkeys, which ran for two seasons.
In 2010, Jon and Al scored The Hills Have Thighs, the controversial erotic film that aired on HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and TMC, and also co-scored with Chuck Cirino the Syfy Channel original film Dinocroc Vs. Supergator, for which they delivered the spaghetti western theme that plays during the main title and several other times during the picture.
After writing on several unsold pilots, Jon and Al were hired to write comedy for the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, where the final show featured their Best Song presenter patter for Leighton Meester and Lil Wayne.
The Lonely Island Medley
While working as comedy writers on the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Jon and Al arranged Andy Samberg's "Lonely Island Medley," which was performed by LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak and Forest Whitaker. Mega-producer Mark Burnett was so pleased with the result that he ordered two of his development execs to meet with the Kaplans the following week. The brothers were so boring at the meeting that the only subsequent job they were offered was to write "fart jokes of the week" for a toy company website. After the Kaplans offered an unreasonably high quote for authoring the fart jokes, their emails were no longer returned.
Reviews for the songs of Jon and Al have been largely positive. The original nine Silence! songs made Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" in 2004: "Cannibalism is deliciously served up in this tuneful and crass re-telling of Silence of the Lambs." On the Opie & Anthony Show in 2004, Jim Norton said "['Put the Fucking Lotion in the Basket'] is your 'Welcome to the Jungle'...it's fantastic." In reference to the 2005 staged production of Silence!, Rob Kendt of The New York Times called the songs "terrible (and vulgar)." The reception of the London run of Silence! was met with considerable praise, with Carole Gordon of whatsonstage.com declaring, "****. Totally crack-pot, yet brilliantly hysterical parody of the multi Oscar-winning movie." Clare Webb of totallytheatre.com said of the same Above the Stag run, "****. Uproariously funny and jaw-droppingly outrageous in equal measures, and chances are you will never again see anything quite like it." Reaction to the Kaplans' Schwarzenegger songs has been even more enthusiastic, with favorable write-ups in Salon.com, perezhilton.com, ew.com, ifc.com, toplessrobot.com, io9.com, cinematical.com and many more.