This is the third 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.
Create a vision with enough detail to be able to explain, present, and sell it to others.
When developing a musical, the Blue Sky stage is where the creative team develops a vision for what the show will be. This stage often starts with a single creator’s vision, be it a book writer, composer, lyricist, etc., but over time as the vision is developed, a creative team will often come together as the final form of the show is ironed out.
Wicked’s Blue Sky stage got its start when Schwartz was able to convince Platt, as well as author Gregory Maguire, that the best format for a theatrical version of the story was a stage musical.
One of the issues that Platt and the writers working with him faced was the difficulty of conveying the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. As Platt says in The Grimmerie, “What are these two women doing in the same frame? The screenplay didn’t quite get at that…In order to get at that kind of story, we needed inner dialog, which is very hard to accomplish cinematically.” The solution to this challenge came when Platt met with Schwartz, and according to Platt
“Stephen asked ‘Have you ever thought about turning this into a musical?’ And a light bulb went on, and I thought ‘This is exactly what is missing from the screenplay.’ First, we all think of Oz as musical world: For many of us, the main reference point is the 1939 film. Second, music lends itself to the heightened nature of a fantasy world. Third, in a musical, a character can literally turn to the audience and sing about what he or she is feeling.”
Once the decision to go with a musical had been made, Schwartz and Platt brought in Winnie Holzman to write the book. From early in his thinking on the project, Schwartz knew how he wanted the show to begin and end, and he and Holzman worked out the basic overall story and themes of the show: Wicked would tell the story of two women and their relationship, and would explore the concepts of “good” and “bad”.
Hamilton’s Blue Sky stage started as Miranda began writing songs for “The Hamilton Mixtape” the name of his hip-hop concept album. By the time he first performed Alexander Hamilton, the show’s opening number, he had started working with music director and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, who played piano for his initial White House performance. As he wrote more songs, Miranda would slowly gather a creative team around him, including Lacamoire, director Thomas Kail, and even author Ron Chernow who served as a historical consultant. As he developed more and more songs for his “mixtape” the team around him encouraged him to consider developing it as a musical rather than a concept album. Following a performance of songs from the “mixtape” at the Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series in 2010, the vision for the show eventually solidified as a musical.
Miranda’s show would follow the story of Alexander Hamilton from the early days of the Revolutionary War when he served as General George Washington’s secretary, through his courtship and marriage to Eliza Schuyler, through the birth (and death) of his son Phillip, through his appointment to Treasury Secretary, to his eventual death during a duel with Aaron Burr. In order to tell this story, Miranda’s songs would include both traditional musical selections and show tunes as well as hip-hop and rap, and the show’s cast would include African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities in its portrayal of America’s Founding Fathers and other historical figures. As Miranda would describe it, Hamilton is “a story about America then, told by America now.”
Next: Concept Development!
Previous Imagineering Broadway installments:
Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!