In a way, Roxanne Lamendola has been preparing to write the book for the musical "Unraveling" her whole life.
The show spotlights South Florida-based rock band China Doll — Lamendola's mother, aunt and uncle — and will get a reading 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 26 in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
"Since I was 7 years old, I would be in the club for sound check with my family," Lamendola says from her home in Broward. "That's just what I knew. I know it sounds like a DCF case, but I wasn't behind the bar doing shots. Most of the club owners were family guys, so they took care of me."
The members of China Doll didn't have the same happy upbringing. Lamendola says "Unraveling" chronicles how the three siblings in the band survived child abuse, both physical and emotional. Music from the band's 20-year career scores the show, including the title song. The band included Rossella Lamendola (lead singer and guitar), Renata Annati (vocals and keyboards) and Matt Annati (bass). They played alongside Joan Osborne, Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp's band the Kids.
"When they were playing gigs, they always got the comment, 'This is so theatrical,'" the 25-year-old playwright explains. "Twenty years later, they got the message. So it was always there. 'Unraveling' was always floating in the background. I had the skeleton of an idea back when I graduated  from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was weird. I am musical theater, and they are hardcore musicians."
She started writing the script — "it's a weird combination of a gig and a musical," she says — in late 2009.
"Obviously, I had to be careful, because this is inspired by real events. This whole thing brought up many emotions in all of us," Lamendola says. "They overcame a tremendously difficult childhood. You know what they say: 'You spend the rest of your life overcoming whatever happened in childhood.' The only reason that they are still together today is the music."
Together as a family or together mentally?
"All the above," Lamendola says. "You can't separate the music from the family. It's all one. It's what we do. You can sit around thinking, 'Why can't we be normal?' or you can just embrace what you are."
She says the family also has embraced the legacy, even the unpleasant parts, and adds that her mother, Rossella Lamendola, was ever vigilant of the cycle of abuse.
"The moment she felt it coming on … she called my Aunt Renata and said, 'I'm getting angry at Roxanne. You need to come over here,'" Lamendola recalls. "Right then and there, she made a decision not to go down that road."
Unraveling stage reading
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Abdo New River Room in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 754-224-8531 or UnravelingTheMusical.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun