This is the fourth 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.
Develop and flesh-out your vision with enough additional detail to explain what needs to be designed and built.
The Concept Development stage for a musical is where the creative team (including the composer, lyricist, book writer, and possibly director as well) fleshes out and develops the show’s story, characters, songs, and other details necessary to define what the show will eventually be. Much of this work overlaps into the Design stage and provides guidance for the show’s designers.
Concept Development for Wicked consisted of an extended period of time during which the story, songs, and other aspects of the show were worked out (in an initial version, the first act alone was two hours long). This process involved several readings of the script, and numerous workshops in which the story beats, music, and other aspects of the show were developed. As David Cote writes in The Grimmerie, “By May 28, 2001, when the curtain rose on Wicked’s first preview for a paying audience at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, the material had been in development for three-and-a-half years. The script had gone through countless permutations, songs had been written, rewritten, and scrapped. Whole story lines had been built up and others trimmed back. And the work still wasn’t done.”
Concept Development for Hamilton was the period during which Miranda wrote additional songs and the book for the show. Unlike many shows in which songs are often written out of order and moved around as the show is developed, with a few exceptions the songs for Hamilton were written in show order. One exception was the song “The Schuyler Sisters,” which was inserted into the show as a means to introduce Eliza and Angelica Schuyler (and to a lesser extent, Peggy) before they play key roles in the songs “Helpless” and “Satisfied” that portray how Hamilton met his future wife and sister-in-law. Concept Development also included a workshop production at Vassar College in 2013 comprising all of Act I and three songs from Act II. The workshop’s creative team featured Miranda as well as director Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and musical director/orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. As the show took form during this period, Miranda would also begin to gather the actors who would be in the show’s original cast, including Daveed Diggs who portrayed Marquis de Lafayette (in Act I) and Thomas Jefferson (in Act II), Chris Jackson who portrayed George Washington, and Leslie Odom, Jr., who portrayed Aaron Burr.
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!