I believe almost everything can be turned into a musical.
That doesn't mean everything should be turned into a musical. But I feel with some planning, thought and concepts, everything could potentially be a musical.
And wouldn't that be an amazing world to live in?
You have an idea. It's been formulating for weeks, months, maybe years if you're like me and you've decided to pursue it. Now what?
There are a couple things to do before you start planning your show...
IS IT THEATRICAL?
Is your idea theatrical? Well what exactly is "theatrical"? Technically, anything you put in a theater on a stage would be considered theatrical. But that's not enough. There has to be one or more aspects to the piece that make it theatrical.
I've got a blog coming up about Theatrical Conventions, but for now it's anything that mimics the real-world "with the boring parts taken out."
So a theatrical convention could be "time compression" - reducing a time period either through a black out to show passage of time, or through a song such as "Poor Professor Higgins" from My Fair Lady and "Tonight" from West Side Story. In each case, the song shows a passage of time either through a series of comedic sketches, or by combining 6 separate scenes into one dramatic song.
Another theatrical convention could be a special effect such as a chandelier falling as in The Phantom of the Opera, or a helicopter landing in Miss Saigon, or even a Man Eating Plant like in Little Shop of Horrors.
There are a handful of others, but you get the idea.
Does your idea have a theatrical convention?
IS IT MUSICAL?
Do sections of the story "sing"? Songs usually represent the highest point of emotion in their scenes. Are there any elements to your story that are of high emotion and would be good song candidates?
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE LIKE IT?
The easy part is, does another musical already tell a version of this story? This could be direct such as Sleepy Hollow, vs The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, vs Ichabod Crane.
Or could be a sequel like Love Never Dies is for The Phantom of the Opera.
Maybe a remake such has a movie being fashioned for the stage, or vice versa.
Could be a copycat such as doing a musical about George Washington would inevitably be compared to Hamilton.
Or indirect like Hello Dolly and Mame both centering on a head strong woman character.
And finally, the knock off like Bare is to Rent.
Is there another movie, book, tv show or short story that already tells your story? Of course, that doesn't mean don't go through with the idea - unless you copy directly, your story will always be different because we write through our own experiences.
If there is something similar, it might be worth reviewing to see if you can spot where it "works" and where it doesn't.
WHAT GENRE? Is it too early to identify what genre your story is? For years I played with the idea for my show Short North The Musical, but until I decided I wanted to do something based on pulp fiction magazine stories, did the idea really form completely.
Another way to determine if your idea is ready to be turned into a musical would be by giving it a working title. By starting with a title, you may find your path for telling the story too. Just don't do what I did and get very close with my working title and now that I have to change it - nothing seems to fit. I'm not giving up though, the right title will come along, eventually.
If you can work through all these items with positive response, I would say your idea is probably worth the next step (which is to start the outlining process) but if you are stuck on any of these elements, I would wait with the idea.
Do you think there is anything else that would help determine if an idea for a new musical is ready to move to outlining? Alan Saunders, WRITEineer.com
Friends told me I was late to the game for writing musicals, even though I've been writing them almost my entire life. so this blog is my journey into writing professionally for the stage.
Check out WRITEineer.com for how-to articles and resources for writing your own musical for the stage!