About “A Beating Heart”

Music by EJ Reyes
Lyrics by Thomas Sheehan – Extra Lyrics by EJ Reyes
Book by Thomas Sheehan and Claire Barré


Dorian Gray, a young man, has his portrait painted by the artist, Basil Hallward. Tempted by Basil’s old friend, the cynical Lord Henry, Dorian makes a wish that he remain forever young while the portrait ages. The wish is granted and the angel-faced Dorian now enters into a life of gradual dissipation. Soon student surpasses master. Dorian’s lust for power leads him to acts of debauchery and degradation.

In the process, Dorian causes the suicide of a young actress with whom he has become infatuated, wrecks the lives of a multitude of others around him and ultimately commits murder. However, his features, year after year, retain the same youthful appearance of beautiful innocence, while the shame of his hideous vices becomes mirrored, year after year, in the features of his portrait.

Finally, with his life in ruins, drugged, isolated and alone he decides to destroy the now grotesque portrait. The painting immediately reverts to its original beauty, while Dorian, a skeleton, hangs suspended from the knife in the portrait’s heart.


In our adaptation we have given musical voice to the principal characters from the novel. We have combined and enlarged others: for example, Victoria, Henry’s wife, now has a major role as a witness. We have also given the portrait itself a prominent place in the unfolding musical dialogue. Dorian has a series of musical interactions with the portrait that serve as signposts along his trajectory of evil.

Those who have died because of him reappear as ghosts, haunting him until the end. In addition, we have adopted a storytelling technique that plays with time ( past, present and future ) and space, giving a somewhat cinematic flow and expression to the unfolding tale.

The music lives in worlds ranging from classic dramatic musical theatre to electronica to appropriately theatrical pop/rock.

This a story that continues to ring true today in the light of the current culture of narcissism, the fascination with and fixation on youth and beauty, and the continuing themes of corruption and abuse of power.