This is the seventh 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.
Test and validate your design at each stage to help solve and/or prevent problems that may arise during the design and construction process.
Models can take many forms during the development of a musical, and include models of the sets, prototypes of props, and prototype costumes made of muslin and other inexpensive fabrics. Perhaps the most significant type of model used in musicals is what’s known as a workshop. In an article entitled How a Show Gets to Broadway on the Broadway Educators website, writer Paul Mroczka describes workshops as an integral part of the process when he writes:
“In a workshop, the musical is being developed in every way- the book, lyrics, and music may be changed, rewritten, cut and replaced. Dances are choreographed, scenes staged, and music, lines, and lyrics learned. As the show becomes refined, it will be performed for potential investors. The next step could be a production at a theatre in a large city, such as Chicago; a move to an Off-Broadway theatre, or a full Broadway production.”
Eugene Lee, set designer for Wicked, “auditioned” for the job using a set model he constructed after reading a draft of the script. After building the model, he presented it first to the show’s director Joe Mantello, and later to the show’s writers and producers, talking them through the entire show. While many aspects of the show changed (Lee based his model on a draft script), he estimates that “a good 75 percent of what was in the model ended up in the show in some form.”
Another form of model used in the development of Wicked were Stephen Schwartz’s notebooks. As Cote writes “[E]ach song began the same simple way: with Stephen Schwartz scribbling ideas,s titles, rhymes, and snatches of lyrics in his many notebooks, then sitting at a piano in his home in Connecticut, plunking out various melodic lines.”
One type of model that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire used extensively during the development of Hamilton were demo recordings. Miranda “doesn’t record the musical ideas that swirl in his brain by notating them on lined sheets of paper with keys and sharps and flats. He used the music-recording program Logic Pro to create demos of most of the songs in Hamilton. He played chords on a keyboard plugged into his laptop, and created a rudimentary arrangement with sounds drawn from the program’s library of samples, adding vocals by singing or rapping into the little mic that’s attached to his headphones.”
These demo recordings helped Miranda convey his vision for the show with the creative team and actors, including scenic designer David Korins, costume designer Paul Tazewell, Renee Elise Goldsberry, the original actress who portrayed Angelica Schuyler, and Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, where Hamilton opened in previews. In addition, these demo recordings also played a direct role in the development of the show’s songs and music, as orchestrator and music arranger Alex Lacamoire “[translated] the demos into notated music (the keys, the sharps, the flats) that would allow them to be played by a 10-person band.”
Previous Imagineering Broadway installments:
- Part Two: Prologue
- Part Three: Blue Sky
- Part Four: Concept Development
- Part Five: Design
- Part Six: Construction
- 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? Anyone? Bueller?