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The Unwieldy Power of a Showtune

Updated: May 31, 2019

I heard something interesting last night about writing showtunes.

It was mentioned in a TedxBroadway talk with Benji Pasek and Justin Paul of Dear Evan Hanson and The Greatest Showman fame.

Click here to watch


A showtune should not tell a complete story A to Z. It should move the plot, story or action along from A to B.

That's a very powerful statement that helped me through an issue with my current project Short North The Musical.

I've been struggling with two numbers...

Or... I've been giving them too much power - over me and in the show.

Early in the show, my antagonist has an "I Want" song, but since this is Science Fiction, I've been referring to it as the "Villians Grand Plan" song. I've probably written at least 12 versions of it, but none of them have been right.

Oh they are right for a day or two, and then after I use my "lock it away for a day" technique, when I check back, I read it wondering what the heck I was thinking.

The other struggle number is the 11 o'clock number for my protagonist, I've been referring to it as "Eve's Mirror Moment."

The first thing that helped me nail both numbers down was that comment from TedxBroadway. The second help was from...

Todrick Hall, Behind the Curtain - which is available on Netflix.

Paraphrasing again...

You have to dig into the subject and see if you have an experience from your personal life that you can write about.

It was then that I realized, I hadn't looked at these numbers from a personal standpoint. I was putting myself in their shoes when I should have been putting them in mine.

So today, I have two new versions for these songs that have been a struggle for two years...

I'm going to lock them away and see how they look tomorrow!

The takeaway:

1. Don't tell an entire story in one song - use it to advance one step in the story.

2. Find the personal in your song, then write about that.

Alan Saunders,

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 for how-to articles and resources for writing your own musical for the stage!

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