Interview: Behind Megan Thee Stallion's DICKS THE MUSICAL Song

Karl Saint Lucy and Marius de Vries worked with Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson on the music of Dicks the Musical, in theaters everywhere tomorrow.

By: Oct. 19, 2023
Interview: Behind Megan Thee Stallion's DICKS THE MUSICAL Song

Dicks the Musical, the new musical comedy film from A24, has everything. Nathan Lane singing to two "Sewer Boy" puppets, Bowen Yang playing God, and Grammy-winning rapper Megan Thee Stallion performing a show-stopping musical number.

Karl Saint Lucy's journey with Dicks the Musical first began with creators and stars Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson when the show was a sketch musical at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea, NYC, co-writing the music with the pair.

Once the musical was set for a big screen adaptation, Marius de Vries joined in after previously working on the music for movie musicals like La La Land and Moulin Rouge.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Saint Lucy and de Vries to discuss Dicks the Musical's journey from stage to screen, working with Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally, and how they put together Megan Thee Stallion's rap number "very, very fast."

What initially drew you both to the film?

Karl Saint Lucy: So I was an original author on this. Josh [Sharp] and I had been doing musical theater improv for kids with Story Pirates and I was over sharing about some gay drama while we were on tour and he had just been set up with Aaron [Jackson] at UCB.

Josh went back to Aaron and was like, "Oh, we gotta get this person on our team. So yeah, they reached out to me." Like we had a few meetings at a Cap 21 here in New York where we put the songs together. It was a very easy, a very wacky piece and we just kind of threw it together. I guess the rest is history on my end. They had the FOX acquisition in 2017. I was attached to that. When we were acquired by A24, I was attached to that. I've been a part of all of the development and production and post-production on the movie since then.

Marius de Vries: A few years after that, I was in a general meeting with Corey Adelson, who's our lead producer at Churnin Entertainment. We were just chatting about things that we might get to work together. And she said, "I've got this really interesting comedy musical and I'd like you to meet the writers." So she sent me off to have coffee with Josh and Aaron. They were in Los Angeles at the time. It was a long time ago. We had a great coffee and they shared the idea with me and introduced me to the screenplay. I thought the screenplay was the funniest thing I'd seen for forever. So I said to them, "I'm definitely interested in doing something here."

The project was set up at Fox Studios at the time, which gave me some pause because it felt like an unlikely Fox property. And of course, a couple of years later, when Disney bought Fox, it became even more of a strange fit for that studio. But that slowly worked its way out and everyone realized that it wasn't the right home for it. It was in the wilderness for a little while and I was doing other things. Then just before the pandemic, I got a phone call to say that it looked like it was showing some signs of action again. Then they found Larry Charles to direct it and then they found A24 to be the custodians of it and everything felt like a much better fit.

So long story short, after all of that waiting, we came out of the pandemic and jumped straight into a frenzy of activity to try and get this thing made and as is always the way with these things, you wait around for a long time and then it all has to be done yesterday.

So we had to get our skates on. That was the first time the four of us all got together in the flesh just post-pandemic. We met in New York City, locked ourselves in a studio for three days with a piano and a few microphones, and thrashed out basic demos of all of the material, both the adapted material from the stage show and all of the new material that was necessary to turn it from a 30-minute theatre piece into an 87-minute film. Then that was the beginning of actually making it.

Karl, it's so interesting to hear from you because you've been involved with the piece for so long. What was it like for you to expand upon those original songs and the original work from the stage show for the movie adaption?

Saint Lucy: You know, it was a lot more seamless than I expected it to be, in large part because most of the screenplay development happened with the boys and with Larry. So by the time that I was brought back into the piece, there were kind of at least versions of lyrics for, you know, all the new songs and some rewrites for post for the old ones. So, you know, it kind of just felt like I was back in, you know, back at theater camp with the boys. Do you know what I mean?

I will say that when I first found out that we were expanding this into a feature film, I was very hesitant because so many of the jokes in the original show had to do with how quickly they had to change their outfits or put on a wig or anything. So I think they did a really good job of finding a new heart to the piece, to drive the comedy and drive all the action.

Marius, for you, I think Dicks the musical is maybe a bit different from La La Land or Moulin Rouge. So how much fun did you have letting loose and working on this movie musical?

de vries: One of the things I try to do when I choose what I'm going to work on next is I try to make whatever's coming up next as different as possible to what's just come before. So if you look at it in terms of the chronology of order I made things in, it felt like having done a heavy political documentary last year, I would jump into something a little bit more silly and lighthearted. Of course, it wasn't as strategised as that because my first point of contact on this was so many years ago. Certainly, I relished the challenge of doing something that was an out-and-out comedy because I haven't really done that before.

But most of all, I just loved the idea that these were two, from the film point of view, completely unknown writers, and they were attacking the whole thing with such a kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm and a refusal to believe that the task ahead was impossible. It's been great working on this and seeing a bunch of the team who havem't really put anything like this up before, learning on the jon and responding to the challenges and helping to guide them where I could. So from that point of view, it was an absolute delight.

I sometimes think of comedy as being so collaborative, especially with the actors. Since the music had sort of been worked on for so long before the cast had come in, did these musical comedy pros like Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally have any input?

de Vries: Oh, totally. It's just a gift to have such acting and comedic geniuses in the room, responding to your ideas. The songs were pretty well written by the time we got the cast in to sing them for the first time but at the same time, we kept everything super simple. All of the demos were just piano and voice. So it was easy to respond. I would say that as each actor came in and we found out what they were planning to do with their characters, they made a massive impact on the crucial last 10% of composition and the structures and the arrangements that we were cooking up in the background were very responsive to the talent that we were working with.

I love that there are some totally classic movie musical beats. What was sort of the thought process behind that?

Saint Lucy: Well, I will say that the sense that we always wanted to preserve, I think Josh and Aaron talked about this when they when they're interviewed for this, they talk about like, how there was always a sense with the stage show of how you're on a roller coaster and the track is being laid right in front of you, right? There's always a sense that you're on a rickety ride, but eventually, there is this notion that you're being cared for and that there's like a method to the madness.

One of the reasons that I think, so much of that of the action and the nonsense that happens in this movie. Some of the ways that it works are really anchored in the fact that we have this very understandable musical theater grammar that guides a lot of the action and guides the lyrical content. So, you know, the lyrics can go wherever they want because the music is really grounded in diatonic language that we all understand and symphonic resources, which we understand. That's what comedy is. Comedy is about like setting expectations and either meeting them or subverting them. A really solid musical form is all about exactly those things.

Marius, what was underscoring some of the comedic scenes like?

de Vries: I think we had a naive supposition that we wouldn't need very much underscore as we set out on this journey. We thought the songs were really strong and we thought maybe we keep the jazz band behind for an hour and they'd improvise some stuff and we'd be able to pace that in the cracks. I've seen this happen time and time again, you always underestimate how much work the underscore has to do.

It took us a few times to get it right because we were faced with the choice of leaving little underscore and letting the acting just live in the moment. We thought that was maybe a good idea to start with. We always felt that the score should give the movie a heart. So amidst all of the absurdity, we were keen to try and find the emotions were that were in play and try and make the audience feel them as much as possible.

I think we went a little bit too far down that road on our second attempt to write the score. So the sort of balance between emotional underscore and comedic underscore that we arrived at was something that we came to quite slowly. Having shot the movie very fast, post-production sort of slowed down a bit and we had a lot of time to ponder and to make mistakes, which turned out to be a good thing because I think we ended up in a good place, but it was very much a process of exploration and discovery to get there.

There is an amazing rap musical number with Megan Thee Stallion. How much fun did you guys have constructing that for her and working with her on the song?

de Vries: It wasn't very much fun at all because we had to do it so quickly and it was such a panic. I mean, it was a joyful experience, but we didn't have time to have fun because by the time we realized that she was actually cast, it was only a week or so out from the shoot and she was shooting on the first day, so it had to be ready. She was rehearsing for the two days before that, so somehow, having not suspected that we were going to cast a rap queen in that role, the song that we initially had slated for that place was wildly inappropriate for Megan. So we had to reinvent the whole concept of the piece very, very fast. I'm still not quite sure how it happened, but we had to present her with something that she wouldn't reject out of hand. And then she turned her part around really fast. Then a day later she was in there rehearsing it. So yeah, it was really quick but it was fun too.

Saint Lucy: I'll say that the fun for me has been on the back end to see that people are responding to it, right? Whenever you do a musical, one of the things you really have to make clear in the opening is, what musical theater language are we using? In what way does the music serve the drama of the story? Anytime you have someone who's doing something that's very different than you've done, you're very wary that perhaps it might not work or it might not fit in. It's been really fun to see that people do feel like it fits in the world of this piece and and that they like what she did. That's really fun.

Listen to Megan Thee Stallion's Dicks the Musical song here:

Photo Courtesy of A24


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