While perusing my RSS feeds, my eyes lit upon the announcement of a new Spice Girls musical. Musicals have been on my mind of late, primarily because I’ve been burning off the backlog of unwatched episodes of “Smash“. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to look at new musicals discussed on the pages of Playbill the last month. Note that these are in various stages, from tweeted ideas and concepts to workshop development to regional productions, some announced for Broadway. Many will never make it there.
There Are Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun… Perhaps the most intriguing of the new musicals — at least to me — is Wanderlust. This musical, premiering at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is described as follows: “Set in Victoria, British Columbia, at the beginning of the 20th century, Wanderlust is the imagined story of one of Canada’s most beloved and most successful poets, Robert Service. Inspired by the real circumstances of his life, this new musical presents a man eager to leave his position at a bank for the adventure of the unknown in the Yukon gold rush. Keeping him at his desk in part is his affection for his beautiful co-worker, Louise, who is engaged to another man.” Music and orchestrations are by Marek Norman, with lyrics by Robert W. Service, and additional lyrics by Morris Panych (who is also doing the book).
Stars on Stage. There are loads of musicals proposed that look at the life (or imagined life) of famous musical groups.
Spice Girls. Producer Judy Craymer has announced Viva Forever, a new musical featuring the songs made famous by the Spice Girls and a new original book by Jennifer Saunders. It will play London’s Piccadilly Theatre, beginning performances Nov. 27 prior to an official opening Dec. 11. The story is that of a “beautiful, talented girl and her best friends who get swept up in the obsession of today’s TV celebrity culture. As she follows her dream, the musical charts her journey into the world of overnight fame and its impact on her relationships with her mother and the friends she thought she’d have forever. From London to Spain and back again, as they confront the bitter reality of fame and as the world judges her, she and her mother learn to empower themselves and be who they really want to be.”
Beach Boys. In Las Vegas, Surf: The Musical is set to premiere. Surf is based on the music of the Beach Boys, and there is no particular story, as the description says it “highlights the fun and energy felt in the music of The Beach Boys and the integrity of the music is always maintained”.
Curtis Mayfield. The music of Curtis Mayfield is highlighted in the Broadway-bound SuperFly. The show, currently in the workshop stage, uses the songs of Curtis Mayfield, who earned acclaim for the soundtrack to the 1972 film of the same title, for its score. It also incorporates other songs from the 1970′s R&B, soul, funk and pop era. It will be directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones (Fela!, Spring Awakening), and has a book by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld (Handball, A Brother’s Kiss, The Writing on the Wall). “Super Fly” takes a gritty, yet over-the-top look at the world of drug dealers in 1970′s New York City.
Barry Gordy. Another musical in workshop stage is Motown, which looks at the life of Barry Gordy. The musical has a director, Charles Randolph-Wright, and features the work of various Motown composers. Characters in the musical, according to a previous Actors’ Equity notice, include Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Little Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. The musical is being developed by Gordy, who is also writing the book. The musical promises “a gripping story about the protégés and stars of a uniquely talented musical family who, under Berry Gordy’s guidance, began as ‘the Sound of Young America’ and went on to become some of the greatest superstars of all time.” Update: The musical will hit Broadway in Spring 2013.
Cher. Lastly, Cher has recently hinted that she is developing a Broadway musical based on her life. The musical will incorporate songs from her career, with three different actresses set to play her at various stages of her life. One actress will play a young Cher through her “Sonny and Cher” years, while another will play the icon through the “Believe” tour, with a third to inhabit the star at the current point in her life. The show will incorporate a theatrical conceit that allows all three actresses to talk to one another and perform together. Cher is part of the writing team, but no other creative artists have been named.
Do-Wop Groups. The producer of Million Dollar Quartet and Baby It’s You has announced a new show, Boys from New York City, that is premiering at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood in Fall 2012. The musical is to star Vincent Spano as George Goldner, a music promoter and label head in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll who recorded doo-wop hits from the Flamingos, the Wrens, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and other groups on the East Coast through the 1950s. The musical will feature favorites such as Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Barbara Ann” . Performances begin 9/20 for 8 weeks; the LA Times expects this to jump to Broadway.
Stage to Screen. Of course, a favorite source for musicals is adapting properties that had been on the “silver screen”, as well as the “boob tube”. Here are some that were discussed during June:
Bullets over Broadway. A musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway is planned for the 2013-2014 Broadway season. It will be directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, and feature an adaptation by Allen and will utilize existing music of the period from the Great American Songbook. The musical “tells the story of an aspiring young playwright newly arrived on Broadway in 1920’s New York who is forced to cast a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.”
Rocky. The Sylvester Stallone story of Rocky is musicalized in Rocky: The Musical, premiering in Germany this fall. The creative team is great: The musical (which will be performed in the German language) has a score by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island) and a book by Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray). Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher) will direct.
Sleepless in Seattle. This has been announced before; Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical is headed to the Pasadena Playhouse in Spring 2013. This one is problematic. Originally announced for Spring 2012, it cancelled. Back in 2010, it had Michelle Citrin, Michael Garin and Josh Nelson sharing music and lyric credit. Those songwriters are no longer named as being on the creative team. The book is by ‘Sleepless’ screenwriter Jeff Arch. It is to be directed by Lonny Price.
The Honeymooners. Yup, the Jackie Gleason sitcom is becoming a musical. The book was written by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss with a score by Stephen Weiner and Peter Mills (Iron Curtain). An industry reading was directed by Jerry Mitchell (Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray); there have been no further workshops or productions.
Gilligan’s Island. Sherwood Schwartz’s shows have been ripe for parody; I’ve actually gone to see The Brady Bunch: The Musical. Now there is word that producer Dianne Fraser has acquired the stage rights to Gilligan’s Island: The Musical. This musical was previously seen on a national tour in 2009, has a book by the late Sherwood Schwartz (“Gilligan’s Island,” “The Brady Bunch”) and his son, Lloyd. Music and lyrics are by Schwartz’s daughter, Hope Juber, and her husband, Laurence. It may come to Broadway in 2013 or 2014. The story? “Beginning with the #1 TV theme song of all time, Gilligan, The Skipper, Mary Ann, Ginger, The Professor, and The Millionaire and his wife are shipwrecked and trying to get off the island. Natural disasters befall them, hurricanes, quicksand, etc., as they learn to get along and survive. Their biggest challenge comes from the U.F.O. and its Alien, who monitors their behavior. By the end of the play, the castaways manage to defeat the extraterrestrial and save the entire planet, while staying marooned themselves.”
Just for Geeks. A few shows appear designed just for geeks like us:
Nerds. This is a musical about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It was previously seen at NYMF. Nerds has music by Hal Goldberg and book and lyrics by two-time Emmy Award nominees Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner (The Bomb-itty of Errors, “Robot Chicken”). It is described as “an irreverent new musical comedy satirizing the parallel stories of computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they blaze a path from humble garage inventors to warring titans of the computer revolution.”
Hero. This is a musical about comic book artists. It just premiered in Chicago. It was directed and choreographed by David H. Bell, an 11-time Jeff Award winner, and features a book by Chicago writers Aaron Thielen and music and lyrics by Michael Mahler.
Stories About People and Places. There are a number of new shows about people and places:
Charlie Chaplin. Coming to London is “Chaplin“, a 1982 version of the artists’s story with book by Ernest Kinoy (Bajour, Golden Rainbow, Emmy winner for “Roots”), lyrics by Lee Goldsmith (Shine!) and music by composer Roger Anderson (Shine!). Note that this is different than “Chaplin: The Musical” which is coming to Broadway in August 2012. The Broadway Chaplin features music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis and book by three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Curtis. Lastly, the London Chaplin is also different than the Chaplin with music and lyrics by Anthony Newley and Stanley Ralph Ross that was part of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera season in 1981.
Aimee Semple McPherson. The 1920s evangelist is the subject of a new musical with book and lyrics by actress, writer and talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford, and music by David Friedman and David Pomeranz. Previously seen in Seattle, it may be headed to Broadway. The musical is described as follows: “New musical based on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson, the world’s first media superstar evangelist whose passion for saving souls equaled her passion for making headlines. Set in 1920′s Los Angeles, holiness collides with Hollywood in the extraordinary tale of one woman’s charismatic rise to fame amidst scandalous love affairs and growing controversy, inevitably ending in her much-publicized fall from grace.”
Edith Stein. A musical based on the story of Edith Stein, one of the most controversial Catholic saints. Born a Jew, Edith Stein served as a nurse in the Great War, converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, agitated for the Church to intervene in the Holocaust, and was later arrested by the Nazi’s and executed in Auschwitz. Her canonization and a convent established in her name at Auschwitz would later provoke international outrage. Edith Stein features book and lyrics by Jonathan Matthew Gilbert and music by John Andrew Tarbet. Music director is Cherie Rosen. Currently in the developmental reading stage.
Notable Artists. Lastly, a few musicals by notable artists:
Cyndi Lauper. Lauper is working on the musical Kinky Boots. Based on the 2005 British film of the same title, the musical has a score by Lauper, with a book by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles) and direction and choreography by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell (2004′s La Cage aux Folles, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can). Opens in Chicago this fall, with Broadway planned for 2013. The story is described as “In Kinky Boots, Charlie Price is forced to step in and save his family’s shoe factory in Northern England, following the sudden death of his father. Help comes from the unlikeliest angel, a fabulous drag performer named Lola. Together, this improbable duo revitalizes the failing business, while helping one another grow into the men their fathers always dreamed they would become and transforming an entire community through the power of acceptance.”
The Sherman Brothers. Merry-Go-Round, a long-stalled Sherman Brothers project, has come back to life and may arrive on Broadway in 2013. MerryGoRound, with a book by Paul Butler and Fred Fox, Jr., “is a musical that takes place in the moment between life and death,” according to notes provided by the producer. “It’s the story of a young man who, believing his existence is meaningless, attempts to end his life. He is saved by his estranged father who persuades him to travel back in his memories via a magic lantern to discover the truth behind various events in his past, to convince him to change his mind and ‘stay on board’ the merry-go-round of life.”
The Kitchen Sink. Stars of David, a new musical about Jewish identity, with a book by Charles Busch and songs by a collection of Broadway and Hollywood songwriters — from William Finn to Tom Kitt to Marvin Hamlisch to Marilyn and Alan Bergman is in the workshop stage. The work is described as follows: “It is a snapshot of Jewish identity through the interviews with some of America’s most recognizable public figures, including: Gloria Steinem, Leonard Nimoy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Joan Rivers, Norman Lear and Wendy Wasserstein.”
Lastly, two more items of note. First, I’d like to note the death of Richard Adler. Best known for The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, Adler also penned music for Kwamina, Rex, and Music Is. Second, I’d like to note the Kleban Foundation awards: the 22nd Annual Kleban Prize for the most promising musical theatre lyricist to Marcy Heisler, and the Kleban Prize for most promising musical theatre librettist to Andrew Gerle and Matt Schatz (tie). If you haven’t heard Heisler’s music, it is great. She has two albums: Marcy and Zina and Dear Edwina. Both are excellent.