This is the second in an 8-part series that looks at the process by which Broadway musicals are conceived, developed, and produced through the lens of the Imagineering Process.
Prologue: Needs, Requirements, and Constraints
Define your overall objective, including what you can do, can’t do, and must do when developing and building your project.
The Need behind a Broadway musical often starts as an idea and desire to tell a specific story on stage through music and song. The majority of Broadway musicals are adaptations of other works, including both Wicked and Hamilton. Examples of other Broadway musicals adapted from other works include West Side Story (inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), My Fair Lady (inspired by the novel Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw), Man of La Mancha (inspired by the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes) Phantom of the Opera (inspired by the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux), Les Miserables (inspired by the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo), Legally Blonde: The Musical (inspired by the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the film of the same name), Matilda: The Musical (inspired by the novel by Roald Dahl), and many others. It’s the desire to retell these stories on stage that drives the rest of the process.
In the case of Hamilton, the Need was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s desire to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton through hip-music hop after he started reading Chernow’s biography. As Miranda described it when introducing the first song he wrote for the show at a cultural event at the White House in May of 2009, his initial idea was to write and produce “a hip-hop album – a concept album – about the life of someone who embodied hip-hop – Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.”
For Wicked, the Need was a desire on the part of a number of people to develop a theatrical adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Universal had obtained the rights to the novel and producer Marc Platt was working to develop the story into a movie, struggling to get a workable screenplay written (Platt would eventually become the producer of the musical). After composer and song writer Stephen Schwartz read the novel, he felt it should be adapted into a musical and pursued obtaining the rights himself. He eventually contacted Platt with hopes of persuading him that the story was best told as a musical. The Requirements and Constraints of the project would be based largely on whether the project would end up as a movie or a musical, since both formats have their own types of requirements and constraints.
Next: Blue Sky!
Previous Imagineering Broadway installments:
- The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
- Hamilton (musical)
- Hamilton: The Revolution
- Wicked: The Grimmerie, a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hit Broadway Musical
- How Lin-Manuel Miranda Shapes History
- Technical Rehearsal
- How a Show Gets to Broadway
Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!