Cry-Baby

Last Saturday, while I was in New York, I met the four writers of Cry-Baby the Musical for brunch -- the two songwriters, David Javerbaum (late of The Daily Show and The Onion, and author of the new book, What to Expect When You're Expected: A Fetus's Guide to the First Three Trimesters) and Adam Schlesinger (half of the alt pop band Fountains of Wayne, which was one of the many stylistic inspirations for Tom Kitt's High Fidelity score), along with Cry-Baby's two bookwriters, Mark O'Donnell and Tom Meehan (the team responsible for the Hairspray book, as well as other shows individually).

I don't think I've ever had such an entertaining business meeting! They're just like me and my friends, riffing off each other, piling jokes on jokes on jokes, but these guys are way funnier than we are...

I wanted to meet with them mostly just to get a sense of how they see Cry-Baby, what their intentions were, what's important to them about the show, what about the Broadway production they did not like (a lot), etc. They've agreed to do some rewrites on the script, to reduce the show from the Broadway cast of 32 to a New Line-sized cast of 16; and also to re-orchestrate the score from a Broadway orchestra of 19 to a New Line-sized, 6-piece rock band, which seems to be the sound they wanted all along.

When I work on a show, my favorite thing in the world is to be in conversation with the writers, and I get to do that more often than you'd guess. Failing that, I like to find actors who were in the original production and talk to them about what the director and writers talked to them about. Often times, our production will be nothing like the original, but understanding what the original creators were thinking and working toward helps me so much. For one thing, it helps me remember that directing a show should never be about showing the audience how clever I am by imposing my ideas on the show; it should be about understanding the story as fully as possible and telling it as clearly as possible.

These four writers are all really nice guys and they're all very psyched that we're doing Cry-Baby, hopefully giving it renewed life like we did for High Fidelity in 2008, which has now had several productions around the country, all facilitated by New Line. A friend at one of the licensing agencies in New York told me that they can't pick up a show for licensing to theatre companies, unless they know for sure that quite a few large, regional theatres will commit to producing it. And apparently, many of those regional theatres won't touch a musical unless it's gotten great New York reviews. So because High Fidelity and Cry-Baby suffered from shitty original productions and got (mostly) shitty reviews, they'll probably never be licensed. Luckily, we have the internet now, and so companies can find both shows through us!

This has somewhat broadened New Line's role in the art form beyond our local focus, but we welcome this, if it means wonderful, quirky shows like this can continue to live on through adventurous theatre companies like ours...

All four writers said they'll try to make it to St. Louis next season to see the show. If they can, maybe we can arrange some kind of small party after the show, so the audience can meet them. They deserve some love for this beautiful, weird musical they crafted... Hnmmm, maybe John Waters will come too!

Stay tuned. Much more news on Cry-Baby to come in the months ahead. And soon, we'll tell you about our whole 2011-2012 season, which is totally in place and which will be KICK-ASS...

Long Live the Musical!
Scott

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