On a scorching July day, Peter Yanowitz peered through the entrance of 77 White Street in Manhattan, as if looking for ghosts.
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The TriBeCa building, the former lair of the scuzzy Mudd Club, which opened on Halloween 40 years ago, now houses condos that go for $3.6 million. “It looks like such a random, rich person’s place now,” Mr. Yanowitz said. “It’s hard to believe so many amazing things went on here.”
Those things hold such deep fascination for Mr. Yanowitz that he and his writing partner Stephen Trask have spent the last eight years developing a new rock opera set in the New York club scene of 1979. Titled “This Ain’t No Disco,” after the Talking Heads lyrics that name-checks the Mudd Club, the musical toggles between that downtown punk-rock dive and the chic Midtown club it’s often contrasted with, Studio 54.
The production by the Atlantic Theater Company, which opens at its Linda Gross Theater in Manhattan on Tuesday, arrives amid a surge in projects about the night life scene of the “Ford to City: Drop Dead” era.
Over the last year, three books illuminating that lost world have been published, including “The Mudd Club,” penned by its discriminating doorman, Richard Boch. The Museum of Modern Art recently dedicated a show to Club 57, a zany contemporary of the Mudd Club; and a documentary on Studio 54 and a biopic of Robert Mapplethorpe are on their way to U.S. releases.
Mr. Yanowitz, 50, and Mr. Trask, 51, were too young to take part in that scene. Still, Mr. Trask said, “The fantasies of it were formative for me.”
The men, who co-wrote the music, lyrics and book, have ample histories in rock and theater. Mr. Trask created the music and lyrics for the hit “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” while Mr. Yanowitz played drums in productions of that show, after performing in Jakob Dylan’s band the Wallflowers and backing artists, including Natalie Merchant and Yoko Ono.
Their rock opera, directed by Darko Tresnjak, a Tony winner for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” centers on the friendship between a gay hustler and aspiring graffiti artist (Peter LaPrade) and an African-American punk singer (Samantha Marie Ware), whom Mr. Trask described as “a mash-up of Patti Smith and Nona Hendryx.”