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I'm going to create a new Broadway musical.

Musicals have three parts; the music, the lyrics to the songs, and the book upon which everything else is based. No matter how glorious the music, no matter how witty or trenchant the lyrics, it is a truism that no musical can succeed without a strong book.

"Yes, they can."

I know there are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between.

"One word, Cats!"

Buried under the spectacle in the structure, even Cats tells a simple implied tale reaffirming a belief in an afterlife. It may not have a formal book as such, but it encompasses some of the basic elements necessary in a musical. And what is present in the story touches on a potent, almost universal human belief in some sort of greater power.

"So you need a book."

Some people don't think so. But, I believe a strong book is the best place to start.

"Where do you find it?"

I have several options. The musical could be based on a play.

"Like Chicago or Fantasticks."

Or a book.

"King and I, Pimpernel, Jekyll & Hyde, Les Mis, Phantom, Ragtime."

And countless others. Or, it could be an original idea.

"Capeman, Last Session, 1776, The Life, Miss Saigon, Titanic. Or even a movie like Lion King or Beauty and the Beast."

You're getting into this, aren't you?

"Yea! What are we going to base our musical on?"


"I can help, can't I?"


Possibly. How much money do you have to invest?


I'm the producer. I raise the money and hire the talent. Do you have any talent?

"I can whistle."

Anyone can whistle. What else can you do?

"Well. . . ."

Sing? Dance? Act? Direct? Design? Manage?

"All right already, so I got no talent."

Which means you would make a wonderful producer.

"You're the producer."

There is no limit to the number of producers a show can have. When we have the lawyers establish our producing company, which will be a limited partnership, I will be the general partner and you will be one of many limited partners or investors.

"You said I could be a producer."

It's a matter of billing. Since you are going to put up the front money we need to get this project started.

"I am?"

You are going to get billing as an associate producer even though you are technically an investor.

"I don't know. . . ."

I'll let the lawyers explain why this arrangement is to your benefit later.

"What do you need front money for?"

Among other things, to option the property we will base our musical on.

"Is this some sort of set-up?"

It's a short story titled The Return to Neverland. Go read it and then come back.

"This is a Broadway musical?"

No, right now it's a short story. But I think it's a good starting point for a musical.

"Why? How? I don't see it."

It has a lot going for it. A location, a Pennsylvanian coal mining town in the mid 50's. We have a transition, two actually, the increasing prosperity of the Finn family and the rites of passage of the two boys. We have two main characters; Billy, the young entrepreneur and risk taker, and Garrett, the older protective brother. There is a pivotal experience, seeing Peter Pan at a young and impressionable age, which will influence the boys outlook on the world for the rest of their lives. There is also a turning point, when Billy subjects Tommy and Freddie to the very real physical dangers of the washing machine (my mother had one just like it) with Garrett suspicious and just beginning to realize that life isn't all fun and games.

"Where's the music?"

Start with the sound of 50's music playing on the radio and television. Add the rhythmic sounds of the whistle and the pulse of the machinery from the coal mine and rag factory. The carnival music of the imaginary amusement park. A mother singing a bedtime story to her sons. A group of neighborhood boys at play, singing challenges as they goad each other onto greater feats of daring-do in their imaginations.

"I can hear it!"

We need to option the property. Then we need a dramatic treatment. Perhaps the author will be willing to do it himself. If not, we need to find a playwright. But first, you write me a check. Need a pen?

With any luck the author of Return to Neverland has read Dana Singer's Stage Writers Handbook : A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Librettists. Written in a straightforward manner, with complicated matters clearly explained, Stage Writer's Handbook is truly a book no writer for the stage can afford to be without. Here is the information stage writers need to conduct their careers in a businesslike manner, with all the protections the law provides. Subjects covered include: copyright, collaboration, underlying rights, marketing and self-promotion, production contracts, representation (both agents and lawyers), publishers and such developing areas as authorship, author's relationships with directors, radio drama, videotaping and electronic rights.

Book Image


Stage Writers Handbook:
A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Librettists

by Dana Singer

List: $16.95
Published by Theatre Communications Group
ISBN: 1559361166


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