WRITER’S WORKSHOP: How a song for a musical gets written

Songs in musicals are written for all kinds of reasons. But often, their indispensability to a show has to do with fulfilling several functions at once.

Nobody Loves You

Aleque Reid as Jenny and Rory O’Malley as Evan in NOBODY LOVES YOU at Second Stage Theatre.

In the case of “The Twitter Song” from Nobody Loves You, my show with Itamar Moses about a philosophy student who becomes a contestant on a Bachelor-style dating show, the first need was for a “time passing” song that allowed the two leads to get to know each other and start to fall in love. However, the rules of our show prevented them from singing to each other during this moment in the story: they were the only two people involved in a reality TV dating show who were anti-romantics, so they weren’t going to be singing anything romantic to each other just yet, and they had just sung a song in the scene before, “So Much To Hate,” in which they bonded over their shared hatreds — e.g. of love songs.

It was Danielle Amato, our producer from the Old Globe theater, who suggested using the song “There’s Something There” from “Beauty and The Beast” as a model. In “There’s Something There,” the cutlery in the Beast’s kitchen sings about how Belle and the Beast are getting to know each other, and how they (the cutlery) can tell that something’s developing romantically between the leads. So the two main characters can get to know each other without singing – furthermore, the cutlery gets to sing, which is cute and funny and undercuts the potential romantic gooiness of the song.

Who was the friendly/goofy witness to the romance in our musical? Not the other contestants on the reality show— it was the show’s audience. In fact, there was a superfan of the reality show, Evan, who appeared later in the musical. Perhaps Evan was blogging about the show in song. Then he could discuss things happening on it, and time could pass, and in between his verses we could see the two main characters getting to know each other better.

Twitter logo

Look familiar? #yes #ofcourse

From blogging, we moved to microblogging, i.e. Twitter. Itamar, my bookwriter and co-lyricist, used Twitter hashtags in an ingenious way, with each of the stanzas ending with a hashtag: #SoExcited, #PleaseProvideIt, #EvanKnewIt, #PleaseJustDoIt. The chorus hook, “I Can’t Wait To See More,” was true to Evan’s character—what he wants most is to see what happens next on the show. Meanwhile, our leads keep getting to know each other over several weeks through a series of snark-filled flirtations.

The song ended up staying in the show because it worked on several levels. It introduces us to Evan and what he loves and wants. It allows the central plot to move forward in a fun way. And it allows the actor playing Evan to pull off a show-stopping patter song. Each of these functions makes the song indispensable, weaving it tightly into the world of our musical.

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