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Musicals That Began As A *Concept* Rather Than Story

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CapnHook
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I'm studying musical theatre writing for the next couple weeks and had a thought...

Which musicals can you think of began their life as a CONCEPT rather than a story?

Here's a few to get started:

MAMMA MIA! (taking the songs of ABBA and write a story around it)
SEUSSICAL (merging several of Dr. Seuss' books into a show)
INTO THE WOODS (taking childhood fairy tales and meshing them together)
PERSONALS (an exploration of the people who write personal ads)
"The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."
--Aristotle
LadyRosecoe
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The creators of Follies had seen the Gloria Swanson picture of her in the Roxy rubble and the idea of a reunion of old chorus girls took off from there.

Company is all conceptual in that the show is just scenes shown to us of a man's life and the married couples that interact and influence him.
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luvtheEmcee
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But Company didn't really begin as concept; it began as a series of short plays by George Furth. That's the concept behind it in that that's how the story was strung together, but they didn't down and say "Okay, we're going to write a musical about a man who's being pressured to get married." It was, "Let's turn this into a musical; how can we make these characters sing?"
A work of art is an invitation to love.
Updated On: 7/14/08 at 12:23 AM
MungoGypsy8232
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Passing Strange...and that's how it ended.
LadyRosecoe
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luv, this is why I need to read your thesis re: Musicals That Began As A *Concept* Rather Than Story
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ray-andallthatjazz86
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A CHORUS LINE is the first one that came to mind.
Michael Bennett just sat down a bunch of dancers and each and one of them told their stories. Then it became a musical.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
timote316
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Well, emcee, to play a variation of devil's advocate, Company in the sense you describe it as is sort of like Capn's description of Seussical (bet that connection's never been made before... heh). While I agree with you that Company didn't begin as a concept, it does fit in with Capn's "criteria" (Dr Seuss stories -> Seussical, Furth's plays -> Company). Though, I suppose you could argue that Company isn't a merging of the different plays...

Anyhoo, if you count Mamma Mia as a concept before a story, the same could be said about most jukebox musicals, no? What about revues, that don't have a story anyway?
Holbee
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Most thematic reviews, like "Company" or "Assassins" start out conceptually (and uaully end up that way too).
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luvtheEmcee
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Yeah, I realized when I was typing out that post that it was a little bit of a "chicken or the egg" kind of thing. But the point I was trying to make was that it started with a series of texts out of which a cohesive story was created, not an idea around which a text was devised. So yes, I guess Seussical, is kind of similar. It's also, in a way, part adaptation, no? So is Company, I suppose. Musicals are hardly ever purely one "thing" or another, though, they're lots of slippery terms overlapping.
A work of art is an invitation to love.
Updated On: 7/14/08 at 12:47 AM
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KJisgroovy
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"The creators of Follies had seen the Gloria Swanson picture of her in the Roxy rubble and the idea of a reunion of old chorus girls took off from there."

That's not really true though, right? From what I understand... Follies started as The Girls Upstairs... or something like that... which was a murder mystery kind of thing... it was Hal Prince who is associated with the Gloria Swanson picture... but clearly there were one or two elements from the original story incorporated into the later one... at least the song title The Girls Upstairs. At the very least the picture and its concept was not the original genesis.

I think the line between Concept and Story is pretty blurry anyway... I mean... Personals... you are sort of telling the story of these people... so... that's like... straddling the line.

But, Into the Woods did start as a concept... even more basic than fairy tales... I think I remember an interview that aired on PBS after an Into the Woods broadcast that said Sondheim was looking to write a "Quest Musical" and originally considered a Dungeons and Dragons type thing... and moved on to fairy tales... so that's even more conceptual at its start... I think.

kmc
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LadyRosecoe
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"The Girls Upstairs" was an initial idea that was expounded upon and re-directed through the catalyst of the photograph. I think ultimately it was the latter influence that gave birth to the ambition in writing a story more geared towards what later became Follies. But as luv points out, it's really just a chicken/egg deal with the subject of this thread.
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CapnHook
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Yes, I'd say most jukebox musicals and revues began as concept.

"The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."
--Aristotle
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25th Annual Putnam Count Spelling Bee
The Drowsy Chaperone
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"I think ultimately it was the latter influence that gave birth to the ambition in writing a story more geared towards what later became Follies."

I agree with you, but that's not where the musical began. It began as a story. It changed, but that isn't where it began.
Jesus saves. I spend.
Gothampc
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Chess

Miss Saigon

Sunday in the Park with George
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fvalle24
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Like someone mentioned above, the one the came to mind was A Chorus Line. Didn't that sprout out of a series of workshop with dancers? That seems like a pretty good one to write about...
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Chess
Evita
Freudiana
Scarlet Pimpernel
Jekyll and Hyde

lots more too...