Writing a new Musical: where do you start?
I've been listening, reading and watching as much content as I can lay my hands on really.
Some highlights so far:
- the entire National Theatre At Home Collection
- Broadway HD, which has some older classics that are great references on what to do and possibly more importantly, what NOT to do!
- taking a trip down memory lane and watching the entire two seasons of the HIT television show SMASH! Honestly, if you ever want to get in the mood to work or maybe not work in the musical world, SMASH will inspire you either way!
- SIX: The Musical soundtrack which has been written by the talented Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
- and more recently Everyone Is Talking About Jamie written by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae.
There is so much content you can engage with these days, that it is almost overwhelming.
But I've started on my new project and so far it's going well!
So where did I start?
I should start by saying, I am by NO means an expert. And there will be a thousand ways to write your own musical, but this is how I've gotten started. And maybe it'll help you too!
Before you even start to think about anything ,you need these four materials:
- a whiteboard and a space to visually work in
- various coloured sticky notes
- various coloured whiteboard markers
- brain food
It started with an idea, which of course I totally understand sounds easier than it actually is.
I've spent the better part of this year doing very little with my time, but really taking moments to take time to properly think through ideas and one has now stuck.
Once I had the initial idea I started writing characters. Fleshing out their dreams, their personalities, their flaws. Once I had become emotionally attached to these characters it was much easier to keep going.
I then started to imagine scenes or moments between characters. Things that I wanted my story to highlight. Things that I thought were important. I created my world.
I then decided that I should follow more of a structure and I read the book Writing the Broadway Musical by Aaron Frankel. It is based on more traditional musicals such as My Fair Lady or Cats - which for me is not particularly relevant. But it shows a really great way to approach that first step of writing the story. It asked me to summarise the story in one sentence. Where you can understand who the story is about, and what they want to achieve.
For me, I want to tell a story about three mums raising teenage boys.
From there, Frankel talks about Spirit and Timing, which made me think more in depth about the scenes that I want to include and the overall story.
I then went into a research phase: I researched how to raise kids in the current age, talked to parents, kids, boys - basically anyone I could. My logic: everyone has been a kid at one point so must have an opinion one way or another.
I wrote a set of interview questions for parents and boys to answer. Once I got those back I had a really clear idea of what story I want to tell and how I want to tell it.
From there I started to think about the overall structure and the entire story: the complication, the resolution etc.
I have now fleshed out my structure completely, but every time I look at it, I change things around: I highlight bigger moments versus more intimate moments between characters, I scrap numbers, add some, move entire progressions.
In the past week, I have started to write some music. It is worth noting that I have been thinking of how musical numbers would fit in and compliment the story the entire time. It is a musical after all. The music needs to highlight and show an audience what words or dancing can't do.
Now, I am just writing. Writing scenes, music, ideas, moments between these characters that now feel like they are a genuine part of my life.