Musicals — I love them! South Pacific. Carousel. The King and I. Just sign me up and drop me off at the theatre. But here’s the thing about these shows — they’re all fabulous Rodgers & Hammerstein productions adapted from books. Today, there’s another dynamic musical duo making theatrical waves : Composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey. The two teamed up to create an original-concept show called Next to Normal, which started out small but became a hit on Broadway. Now they’re working on another project called If/Then which, like the film Sliding Doors, explores two different paths that a woman hoping for a new start might take.
Starting out with an idea and building a drama around it isn’t easy and the road to Broadway has been a rocky one. While If/Then benefited from workshop productions, a pre-opening run in front of live audiences in Washington revealed some major problems. “It’s so educational,” says Tom Kitt, “We realized there was more work to do; the show needed more clarity.” “People were confused,” Brian Yorkey added. “They didn’t know which story they were watching. Some of them couldn’t even tell there were two stories.”
With Next To Normal, the team had more than a year to work out the show’s kinks before heading to Broadway. For If/Then, the time frame is much tighter: they had just a couple of months to straighten out the problems and give the show a clearer, more logical arc. But instead of panicking, the two got down to business and made the fixes they believe will give the show its best shot.
Here’s what I admire about these guys: They love what they do and they seem to have a lot of trust in their ability to create and fine-tune something entirely original. Even though they received some negative feedback from audiences, which must have been tough to take, they still had confidence in the story they were telling. To me, that’s so inspiring!
Here’s what I’m thinking: We each need our own creative “trust fund” — a deep reservoir of belief in the value of the work we’re doing — whatever it is. That way, when things get rough, instead of becoming frustrated or having a meltdown, we can dip into our own personal well of calm and self-confidence — and find the equanimity we need to take a clear-eyed view of what’s wrong and then focus on fixing it. So let’s dump the angst, opt for a positive attitude, and write on.