DREAM PAIRINGS: New Musical Theatre Writers and the Comics They Should Adapt
Being into musical theatre isn’t all that different from being into comic books. Everyone has their favorite Green Lantern (John Stewart) or Mama Rose (Patti LuPone), there’s always something to nitpick when the movies come out, epic costumes are crucial to your daily survival, and normal people never know what you’re talking about.
I can’t really speak on the infamous Spider-Man musical because I never got to see it, which I’ll probably always be a little bit sorry about. But whether it really was a complete and objective disaster or just suffered an endless beatdown of terrible luck and even worse press, I can’t agree with all the naysayers saying it’s the end of superhero musicals now and forever — The Scarlet Pimpernel bombed and it’s not like everyone decided, “That’s it, no more musicals about the French Revolution ever.”
Ever since I read this write-up of the Scott Pilgrim movie (which I unabashedly loved, by the way) calling it a musical with fight scenes instead of musical numbers, I’ve always dreamed of seeing a stage adaptation. Many comic book storylines feel inherently theatrical, with their colorful characters and epic scales and oh, the feels. So of course, I spend a lot of time dreamcasting my favorite comic books with my favorite composers.
THANOS by RYAN SCOTT OLIVER
The one that started it all. I don’t even remember what I’d been thinking about before that led me to this, I just remember staring at the cover of Thanos Rising and thinking man, Ryan Scott Oliver should totally write this musical. He’s all about the dark and epic, and would have no trouble giving this operatic villain the chilling treatment he deserves.
DEADPOOL by DREW GASPARINI
Who else could write the merc with a mouth quite like the guy who goes from writing sensitive rock musicals about serial killers in love to barside laments about accidental incest? Irreverent, hilarious, and catchy as hell.
IRON MAN by JOE ICONIS
As a composition major at NYU, Joe Iconis was known to the faculty as “that writer who plays too loud.” Now as a major staple of the new musical theatre scene, no one rocks harder than his band of merry musical misfits, Joe Iconis and Family. And would Tony Stark accept anything less?
THOR by PETER MILLS
I think Thor and I think Shakespeare; I think Shakespeare and I think Peter Mills. He’s already tackled feudal Japan in Honor, his adaptation of As You Like It, so alien Norse gods can’t be that much farther behind, right? His lyrics and music are both lovely and complex, with a sly and often subtle wit that would do the Asgardian prince proud.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST by TOM KITT AND BRIAN YORKEY
Maybe Kitt and Yorkey don’t exactly count as NMT given their Pulitzers and all, but how perfect would this be? They already have experience writing angsty teens from Next to Normal, and time-twisty parallel universe fare in If/Then. (I actually haven’t seen or heard anything from If/Then, but by all accounts it seems like a musical version of Sliding Doors. And I loved Sliding Doors, so I’m kind of all over this.)
DARK PHOENIX SAGA by NIKKO BENSON
Come on, guys: he wrote a song about a phoenix! This is just a gimmie.
X-MEN by JULIA MEINWALD AND GORDON LEARY
I’ve had three completely separate parties of people tell me I absolutely had to read the new X-Men, and now I need to figure out who they all were so I can thank them with my tears. In case you haven’t heard, it’s an all-female line-up, and it’s brilliant for every reason apart from but also including that. And who better to bring the girls to the stage than Julia Meinwald and Gordon Leary, composers of The Pregnancy Pact and one of my all-time favorite new musical theatre girl power anthems?
SPIDER-MAN by SAM SALMOND
Hey, if there can be two Phantoms, there can certainly be two Spider-Men. Isn’t it about time for another reboot anyway? Patron composer of losers and nerds too smart for their own good, Sam Salmond could infuse the well-told tale of Peter Parker with both the wit and the heart that it craves and requires.
FABLES by KAIT KERRIGAN AND BRIAN LOWDERMILK
Storybook characters stuck in the hard knock real world? Better call Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, who construct their story songs with honesty and realism and conversational awkwardness better than anyone else. It doesn’t hurt that their music is dreamy and gorgeous and frequently surprising, to catch all those dark and twisty twists off-guard.
THE FLASH by SAM CARNER AND DEREK GREGOR
I always associate Carner and Gregor with running because I like singing their songs on the treadmill to work on breath support, which they’re the best for because it’s so many words. Everybody talks really fast in Carner and Gregor Land, which is probably why I feel so connected to their material; lucky for the rest of the world, they’re also a lot funnier and smarter than I am. And the music is, of course, stunning enough to even stop the Flash in his tracks.
FANTASTIC FOUR by JOSHUA SALZMAN AND RYAN CUNNINGHAM
I knew Salzman and Cunningham would have to have a team to write for because their harmonies are just heart-stabbingly gorgeous. And given their penchant for writing ensemble pieces centered around a Nerdy McNerderson who’s just trying to do right by everyone (most of the time), the obvious choice was the Fantastic Four. Besides, wouldn’t Colin Hanlon make a fabulous Reed Richards?
AVENGERS ARENA by GABY ALTER AND ITAMAR MOSES
Gaby Alter and Itamar Moses recently had an off-Broadway run of their musical Nobody Loves You, set in the cutthroat world of reality dating shows. After dealing with public humiliation, heartbreak, and insane Twitter fans, writing a musical about a bunch of teenage superheroes who kill each other Battle Royale-style should be a piece of cake.
ANT-MAN by TIM ROSSER AND CHARLIE SOHNE
Rosser and Sohne have never met an idea they couldn’t set to music. They can take the most outlandish ideas and impossible premises and turn them into something beautiful and amazing. I’ll admit I was one of those assholes who rolled their eyes at the Ant-Man film announcement until Edgar Wright came on board and now I can’t wait; similarly, I’d love to see what Rosser and Sohne could do with this unlikely superhero. (Like, does he talk to ants? Is that his superpower?)
SUPERMAN by WILL VAN DYKE
Unpopular confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of Superman. I know. I hate America. Maybe this is why I’m getting deported. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually hate America, please give me a visa.) But I keep waiting for a Superman story to come along and knock me off my feet and show me how good it can be. Enter Will Van Dyke, who’s known for his collaborations with Broadway darling Matt Doyle in addition to his own arrestingly gorgeous new musical theatre compositions. Naturally I wanted to think of a project they could work on together, and since Matt’s made a name for himself by playing Boy Scouts who still manage to be interesting, they could be the dynamic duo to give me the fully realized Superman I’ve been searching for.
THE MUSIC MEISTER by ADAM OVERETT
Adam Overett wrote this brilliant meta-musical called My Life Is A Musical, about a guy whose life is — you guessed it — a musical, with people busting out four-part harmony and perfect choreography all around him. Only problem is, he hates musicals. (I know, hard to believe, but suspend your disbelief here a second because it’s amazing.) Chaos and earnest hipster bands ensue. You seriously need to check it out. And as it happens, one of my favorite Batman villains of all time is the Music Meister, voiced brilliantly by Neil Patrick Harris on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, who controls minds with the sound of his voice and induce all those around him to combust into spontaneous song and dance as well. The Emmy-nominated score was written by Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis and Kristopher Carter, and with Adam Overett joining their ranks, they’ll create something epic for sure.
WONDER WOMAN by KATIE THOMPSON
This one’s easy: Katie Thompson pretty much is Wonder Woman. She won’t even have to try.
RUNAWAYS by JONATHAN REID GEALT
Complicated family issues? Check. Stubbornly loyal friendships withstanding every test? Check. Fierce as hell music that can transcend every genre? Check. The characters in Jonathan Reid Gealt’s songs have this way of making themselves their own selves immediately, but still fitting so well into this larger musical landscape that can be no one else’s, which I love and think would be perfect for this unlikely team of evil-born superheroes. Plus I hear he’s gotten super-into cello, which is always a double plus. (Hear that, composers looking for easy ways to make me love you?) (I mean, tequlia also works.)
THE WINTER SOLDIER by BLAKE PFEIL
Blake Pfeil’s music does something to me that I can’t quite articulate but leaves me somewhere between brutally gutted and emotionally drained. The first time I heard this song, all I could do for days on end was sit immobile until it was time to hit repeat again and be kind of depressed but not exactly sad about it. A lot of his songs are like that for me, actually, and maybe someday I’ll go through them all with a music theorist and search for subliminal messages. For now, I’ll tell you it’s about the same reaction I had when I first read Winter Soldier, having not been the biggest Captain America fan previously. (There I go again, finding reasons to get deported.) Needless to say, I’d watch the shit out of this. And then I’d stay in my seat until the next show started, and not even stop to take a cupcake break.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER by DREW FORNAROLA
Hey, Buffy comics totally exist. As I’ve said, Drew Fornarola is already the Joss Whdeon of new musical theatre — it’s a match made in… Hellmouth? And I know a Buffy musical exists already and that Joss wrote the music himself, but stop and contemplate a full-length that these two would collaborate on. Yeah. That’s right. You’re welcome. (I’ll buy you new pants.)
HARRY POTTER by BENJ PASEK AND JUSTIN PAUL
Okay, now we’re really stretching it — I don’t think Harry Potter comics even exist. (Yet.) But between their Tony-nominated score for A Christmas Story and the adaptation of James and the Giant Peach they’re developing, Pasek and Paul have already proven themselves fizzing whizbees at turning beloved children’s classics into musical smash brilliance, and college favorite Edges shows they can handle pubescent confusion and grown-up angst just as deftly. Bonus: they can pair up with Team Starkid, creators of A Very Potter Musical and fellow Michigan alums.
And in case you think I forgot:
SCOTT PILGRIM by ADAM GWON
So Scott Pilgrim’s kind of an asshole, right? Not only that, he’s a loser. I mean, he plays in a supposedly awesome band and gets laid by a supposedly decent number of hotties (Mary Elizabeth Freaking Winstead and Ellen Freaking Wong and Brie Freaking Larson are you Freaking Kidding Me) and I guess when you put it like that, his life does seem kind of awesome. But I had a hard time getting into Scott Pilgrim because I had a hard time getting into Scott Pilgrim. The remedy? Adam Gwon, who is scientifically impossible to hate and gives even the worst of his twenty-something slacker characters enough depth to make anyone root for them. And given that he’s arguably best known for soaring emotional ballads and the kind of classy fare that the likes of Audra will hand-select for her albums, I can’t wait to see what he does with a video game musical.
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