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Thread: Has anyone written a musical?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Has anyone written a musical?

    I'm not a musician, but someone I'm close to is one. We were talking about a play I wrote and turning it into a musical. Is this a crazy idea? I like the idea of working with this person, and I have no problem giving him complete control over the music. Would this mean we co-wrote the play? I'm okay with that, too. I'm just wondering what it means to team up with someone like this.

  2. #2
    A dash of pure Slytherin oceansoul's Avatar
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    I wrote a musical in high school, but not since! It was an absolute blast. I think that if I had better connections to a local theatre troop, I might try it again.

    I think for someone with no theatre writing experience, you're only going to have a market/audience if you develop your play in conjunction with a group who want to put it on.

    There is a 48 hour theatre writing festival in Edinburgh every year. I'm thinking about doing it again next year.
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  3. #3
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gettingby View Post
    I'm not a musician, but someone I'm close to is one. We were talking about a play I wrote and turning it into a musical. Is this a crazy idea? I like the idea of working with this person, and I have no problem giving him complete control over the music. Would this mean we co-wrote the play? I'm okay with that, too. I'm just wondering what it means to team up with someone like this.

    Many, if not most, musicals are written by a composer/librettist team - think Gilbert & Sullivan, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, Ahrens & Flaherty, Stephen Sondheim and his many collaborators. (There are individuals who can do it all, and do it well, but they're less common - think Michael John LaChiusa and Lin-Manuel Miranda.)*

    Often the person who writes the "book" of the musical (essentially, the play) will also write the lyrics, while the composer focuses solely on the music, although some composers will also function as the lyricist. You and your friend can, of course, split the duties any way you choose, but before you sit down to work together, you should discuss your goals and your expectations of each other's participation in the project. If any money is going to be involved, you probably need something in writing.



    *And by the way, if any of these names are unfamiliar to you, you should do some basic research into musical theatre before you get started.
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thanks for the responses. I'm not thinking about money so much and either is my music partner. It's just a sort of side project. I imagine if anything came of it we would just split it down the middle. I don't think I can or should right the lyrics. My partner has been writing and playing music for 10 years. And he already wants to take the music in a different direction than I had originally thought, but it's okay because his idea is better. I know very little about teaming up with theater companies, but I feel like I need to have something finished before I see if there is any interest. And maybe it won't even reach that point.

    When you guys were starting out as playwrights did you think about where your plays would be put on and that kind of stuff? I feel like I'm too early in the process.

  5. #5
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    I would love to!

    I have had nine short plays produced. I wrote a rock opera for the stage out of NON-ORIGINAL material, just to do it. I think Heart's Dreamboat Annie is built for the stage. It's a story of empowerment and feminism and freedom, yada, yada, yada...I wrote Dreamboat Annie, the musical. (-:

    I want to write an original musical.

    I know a collaborative team and the one gets credit for the music and the other for the play. Occasionally, they sit down and slam one out together...in which case they give each other credit in both. If the music is going to be written separately, I say your collaborator gets credit and you get credit for the play. But if you team and they are so integral to each other...which in most cases musicals ARE...then a team credit probably works better. The lyrics are dialogue, right? (-:
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  6. #6
    You can see this occasionally happening--even at the absolute beginner's level--in the greater New York area, obviously due to the theater scene. I've seen librettists seeking for songwriters, or vice-versa. Collaborations are common due to the split-nature of the product itself. I wish you best of luck. Go for it!

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mr.Bohemian's Avatar
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    I have written a play with music and dialogue. In this experience I can suggest finding a pianist on fiverr, like I did. What I did was describe the scene, the feelings, and had them come up with something. Then I worked my script around what they created, which was not what I expected, but well done, and cheap.

  8. #8
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Bohemian View Post
    I have written a play with music and dialogue. In this experience I can suggest finding a pianist on fiverr, like I did. What I did was describe the scene, the feelings, and had them come up with something. Then I worked my script around what they created, which was not what I expected, but well done, and cheap.
    How do you ensure that your $5 investment is an original piece?


  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mr.Bohemian's Avatar
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    You're right to second guess me there. I found great new talent by chance My character judge of her is the only telling consideration. I actually payed her plenty more outside of fiverr for the job so well done.
    Merci,
    Au revoir,
    Mr. Bohemian
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    "I don't think I can or should right (sic) the lyrics."

    Then, unless your composer/collaborator is totally in tune with your plot, characters, development etc. to the point where, having delivered the non-musical bits, you're redundant to the project, I'm afraid you may be heading for disaster.

    The songs in a musical - certainly in this day and age - are an essential part of characterisation and storytelling. They're not just bits of music stuck into a prose play. Every song should, even must, advance either the narrative, or the characterisation, preferably both. The very fact that a song takes the audience out of the normal dialogue situation, points to the fact that this is a majorly important part of the story, a highpoint, something so significant that spoken dialogue is not enough to convey what needs to be conveyed. Songs can be an emotional short-cut, saying and showing in a few lines what it would take a great deal of lengthy dialogue to express, and without the added emotional benefit which the actual music brings. There are numerous great examples of where a song transcends the normal theatrical narrative and gives a deeper, more impactful insight into characters and their motivations. May I cite - and this is surface skimming off the top of my head:

    Don't cry for me, Argentina, I Know Him So Well, Defying Gravity, Mr. Cellophane, Some Enchanted Evening, My Boy Bill, Bring Him Home, Oh What A Beautifil Morning and, even, Let It Go.

    To my mind the songs in a musical, especially their lyrics, are an integral part of the whole thing and, I believe, should, preferably, be written by the person responsible for the 'book.' After all, it is he/she who is closest to the story and characters. Of course, it's perfectly possible for someone to write the 'book' of a musical (i.e. the structure, scenes, spoken dialogue etc.) but he/she will always have an eye to where a lyricist and composer will work their magic. Very often, such writers work in close collaboration with the lyricist and composer, exchanging ideas, virtually 'growing' the piece as they work and feeding off each other's expertise. No matter who writes what, the songs in a musical are always paramount, not only for their tunes, but also for their power to tell the story better and with more emotional impact than spoken dialogue.
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