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New York! London! Lincoln!
Lincoln? Not exactly an iconic city in the theatre world, but this capitol of Nebraska has an excellent theatre company, TADA, that is currently presenting the regional premiere of our musical ‘It’s The Housewives!’ .
Developing a new musical is complicated business, typically involving workshops, backers’ auditions and rewrites. It is often a ‘stop-start’ process, one that we experienced with our score to ‘Gilligan’s Island: The Musical’, which took 13 years from the initial workshop to the definitive version. Since then has had multiple regional productions, including a national tour.
Hope and I produced the first run of ‘Housewives’ in Los Angeles in 2009, where it had an extended run at The Whitefire, a small Equity-waiver theatre. The score is derived from the repertoire of Hope’s comedy/rock band ‘The Housewives’ which was active in clubs, radio and TV during the 80’s and early 90’s. Her initial inspiration came in 1978 and, since we started writing together shortly after we met in ’81, we accumulated quite a collection of funny, domestic-themed pop and rock songs that seemed natural for a stage musical. How to integrate them into a theatre piece was a dilemma.
Seeing ‘Jersey Boys’ was the catalyst for Hope to imagine it as a ‘juke-box’ musical, creating a ‘fake story of a real band’. Imagine ‘Dream Girls’ meets ‘Spinal Tap’! She collaborated with her writing partner Ellen Guylas on the show’s play book, bringing their TV sit-com script-writing skills to the stage.
The TADA company has not only excelled at providing quality entertainment to the Lincoln community, they have also created a niche in presenting new theatre works. The husband and wife team of director Bob Rook and musical director Cris Rook embraced “It’s The Housewives” and it’s exciting to see their their interpretation of the show. To have such an opportunity hand over the ‘work’ (in the artistic sense) to another team and progress the development of a musical, is entertaining, instructive not to mention somewhat scary.
Unlike my guitar composing and arranging, where I perform my own inventions, with a stage musical, one has to sit back and watch the process unfold in the hands of talented people. My challenge was substantially in the music preparation realm – creating the vocal lead sheets (only a few typos…), backing tracks and transition cues.
In LA, I was musical director, as well as the ‘spreadsheet-wielding’ producer, but in Lincoln, Hope, Ellen and I became audience members.
Costumes, choreography, set and lighting design all contribute to bringing the narrative to multi-dimensional life. A skilled team can find fresh perspectives in the vision of the show’s creators: a clever dance sequence; an atmospheric tableau; an extra-smooth set change; an unexpected twist in the style of a song. TADA have done a splendid job and we are most appreciative of the opportunity that Bob and Cris afforded us.
Regarding a new show, it’s asked “Will it play in Peoria?”, but perhaps the question should be “Will it have legs in Lincoln?”. Judging by the audience reactions, it looks like ‘It’s The Housewives!’ has ‘Wings’…….