Sing Me a Story: Five Rockers Whose Work We'd Like To See On Broadway
An Arcade Fire backdrop for the band's Woodlands show last year
Photo by Marc Brubaker
Rocks Off has had musicals on the brain lately. Between Once, featuring music by The Swell Season, dominating the Tony Awards and Rock of Ages, featuring music by the cream of the '80s hair-metal crop, hitting theaters tomorrow it's been a pretty good week for musicals that aren't cut from the traditional Broadway mold.
For the average rock fan, these types of musicals have a greater appeal than those normally found on the Great White Way. Hard as it may be for some people to believe, not everyone is into the stylings of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Gilbert and Sullivan.
The merging of songs from a particular band or era with a plot is sometimes referred to as a "jukebox musical," and it's proved to be a pretty successful way to get non-musical-theater types into the building. Beyond Once and Rock of Ages are musicals based on the work of Green Day, Queen and Abba.
Knowing that producers are always looking for the next big thing, Rocks Off has decided to push the process along and give them a shortlist of other artists whose work they can mine for fun and profit.
5. Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie): Why single out one member from a group? Truth is that for a long time I was cold on Death Cab for Cutie. I could understand the appeal of the group but they didn't really do much for me.
Then I happened to catch Gibbard live on his solo acoustic tour and it made me give him a full reevaluation. Stripped down of the excess and taken back to the just acoustic guitar and vocals, it finally clicked in my brain just how talented of a songwriter he really is.
If you use the songs from Plans as a base and picked accompanying songs from the rest of the DCFC collection, you could probably build a pretty solid story around love found and love lost. And if you do go that direction, don't forget about Gibbard's time in The Postal Service; "Nothing Better" is as strong as anything else he's released and "We Will Become Silhouettes" sounds great sung by a crowd.
4. Marilyn Manson: For long time fans who've given up any hope of his novel Holy Wood coming out, a musical might finally be the chance to make sense of the storyline that works through the trilogy of Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood (In the Shadow Of The Valley of Death).
It would be a controversial story and a difficult sell, but for a director looking to do something avant-garde without all the hassle of writing new material Manson provides a lot of upfront. That's not just the songs either; there are characters, storylines and iconography ready to be molded into a cohesive whole.
Watch a live performance of "Antichrist Superstar" that features the pulpit and the banners and you start to get an idea of what the second half of the show could be like before the big climax. And while we're at it, doesn't "Coma White" seem like a great Act 1 closer?
3. Coheed & Cambria Claudio Sanchez is a guy with a lot of big ideas. We are, after all, talking about a guy who dedicated himself to a five album narrative that also included text and graphic novel tie-ins. The Amory Wars started off as a Star Wars-esque space epic before getting in to a weird thing about the battle between an author and his work. It's all rather confusing, but I assure you the music was pretty good.
Not to go all second-guess on the guy, but if someone did make the choice to try and translate it to the stage they'd be wise to cut out all the stuff that didn't feature high space drama. The stuff with The Writer might have been interesting on wax, but with only two hours to work with and five albums of material something has to go. Not to mention I'm not sure the technology is in place to properly realize a talking bicycle on stage.
Space battles, new planets, robots -- it's a sci-fi lover's dream wrapped in catchy hooks and guitar solos. It could also lead to some great set design and costuming.
2. Kanye West: Here's your logline: a man reflects on years of hedonism and heartbreak while trying to find his place in the world. A more accurate description would be My Beautiful Dark Twisted 808s and Heartbreak. Not that his old work isn't great, but there's a certain emotional energy that we'd like to see tapped in to that's really only manifested in his later autotune assisted work.
It would be a lot like that one man play your buddy has been working on for the past five years, but instead of being a guy that mopes around his bedroom in his underwear it's about a tycoon who mopes around his mansion in sunglasses.
Find the right actor and just let him tear in to the songs full force. The songs are already incredible, and you have to think that given the chance Kanye himself would at least be interested in the prospect. Maybe not performing mind you, but the show would need a costume designer and I'm sure he has ideas.
1. The Arcade Fire: Some would argue that we take in stage productions to get away from the banal nature of our own lives. Musicals are ultimately a form of escape for the audience; there's also an argument that there's something comforting about art that reflects our own life. It's with the latter thought that the Arcade Fire come into the equation.
While the Album of the Year award might not have made them a household name, it did introduce the band to new audiences who've gone on to discover The Suburbs and found it resonates.
Most jukebox musicals have to really stretch to find a story to tell with the songs, but The Suburbs gives a lot right from the onset because most people know what actual suburbs are like. The scenery, the costumes, the haircuts; all of these things would be familiar to anyone who has lived in or near a big city.
With the right characters and plot, you could take the songs to some familiar yet powerful places.
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