Birth of a Musical

I should have known this was coming.

I’ve been writing songs and instrumentals since I was 4 (my first was a song about Tigger that I have the sheet music for around somewhere – my father transcribed it for me), but at some point became dissatisfied with my lyric-writing ability. My straight play Hemlock (it’s a gay play, but versus a musical it’s a straight play) wound up with a song, and has recently picked up a second song, both meant to be a cappella.

Anyway, when I was writing the straight (non-musical) version of Evil Fan (which is also straight (non-gay)), there is a line where Beauregard the ghost demands his killer Dolores del Valle, supposedly a famous singer, sing for him. She replies that she cannot. And I thought, if this was a musical, she’d sing “If only I could sing again.” And that started it. At various plot points songs started popping into my head.

What happens for me is a lyrical hook (as little as a phrase or at most a couple lines) pops into my head, then the music for the whole song arrives almost fully formed, then I struggle for the rest of the lyrics.

So, after last year’s staged reading of Evil Fan, I decided to adapt it as Evil Fan: The Musical, and first-drafted all the songs (or so I thought), making that my New Years’ project. To deal with my block on lyrics, I committed myself to a crappy first draft. That took away the fear. I started choosing random pages from a rhyming dictionary, picking arbitrary pairs (or sometimes trios or quartets) of rhyming words and building lines to go with them, thus completing the song first drafts.

I’ve just completed putting the songs into the play, taking out dialog as appropriate, and starting my revisions of lyrics (and some of them are not so bad, in my opinion).

I’ve starting taking the Act I to my playwriting group (book and lyrics). As for what I’ve said here on the Purge about getting feedback too early often blocking my creativity, I don’t think it applies here. I’m not writing a whole new play, I’m adapting my own story that I’m already familiar with.

In fact, it’s working the opposite way. Just like some playwrights say that characters start telling them what to write, dialog is telling me it wants to be a song. And I spotted places where it feels like there’s a lot of dialog between songs, looking for the most emotional moment, and replacing it with a song. And the song writing is going even faster, implying I’m getting my lyrics muscles in tone again. (Although I’m a little less sure about some of the new music. We’ll see.)

My biggest challenge is that I don’t play an instrument, don’t read or write notation, and don’t fully understand chords. Fortunately, there are apps that can help with that. I’ll get it down slowly, but I’ll get it down. (Including the piano accompaniment, which I can hear in my head along with the melody if I listen for it.)

I’m having a lot of fun. The songs are earworming me like crazy, and I often burst into song. (I try not to do this in the work area at work.)

I eventually expect Evil Fan the play and Evil Fan: The Musical to coexist.

This is fun.

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