Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors

Invincible – the Musical world premieres November 30th at The Wallis (with previews beginning November 22nd)

By: Oct. 25, 2022
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Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors

Invincible - the Musical world premieres November 30, 2022, at The Wallis (with previews beginning November 22nd). Tiffany Nichole Greene directs this reimagining of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet weaving in the catalogue of hit songs of Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo. I managed to catch Bradley Bredeweg, the book author of Invincible, between his multi-tasking of juggling multiple commitments.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Bradley!

What was the nucleus of this collaboration with Pat and Neil?

The initial idea came to me about eleven years ago. I love the classics, and I read them as much as possible. It had been years since I read Romeo and Juliet and so I picked it up one day, gave it a quick read, and then hopped into my car for a road trip up north for a visit with my cousin. I grew up loving Pat and Neil's music so on my road trip, I decided to pop in their BEST OF album. As I'm listening, I started to realize that there are about twelve or thirteen songs -- if you line them up in a certain order -- that perfectly tell the story of Romeo and Juliet. While I'm driving, I'm making notes about which song goes to which story beat. That night, I sat in bed, obsessing over the idea, and I started a first draft of the book. But I wanted to completely take the story of what we thought we knew about Romeo & Juliet and turn it all upside down. Mostly because as a young gay kid growing up loving the classics, the classics always felt very distant because there weren't any stories -- love stories in particular -- that genuinely reflected my own feelings and experience. I secretly wished the classics would somehow transform and speak to a wider demographic of people and readers -- not just white, straight, cis readers.

Pat and Neil were rules breakers from the very beginning of their careers - they broke all of the traditional rules and carved their own path in the music business!

So if I was going to dare take a classic, do it my way, incorporate more diverse stories, more diverse characters and break all of the rules of storytelling -- who better to partner with than Pat and Neil? After all, their music is iconic, anthemic, and mind-blowingly groundbreaking. At the time, they weren't my partners yet, but their music was the inspiration that gave me permission to just go for it!

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors Years later, I walked into a bar in Los Feliz that used to put on small little shows and cabarets, walked up to one of the producers at the time, and convinced them to let me do the very first production. After two weeks of rehearsal, we put up the show in a small little bar! The show sold out and became a little bit of a sensation. In fact, it ran for six months -- no small thing in Los Angeles, generally film and TV town. The show created such word-of-mouth that Pat and Neil eventually heard about us. I was incredibly proud of the show and was desperately trying to get them to come see it, so I was emailing their manager, Tom Consulo, inviting them to be our guests in that small little bar!

Little did I know at the time, Pat and Neil were developing another show using their music with hopes of going to Broadway. Eventually Tom came to see our show and a few weeks later, we received a cease-and-desist letter that eventually forced us to shut down. About a year and a half later, I got a call from producer Jamie Cesa inviting me to go to the east coast to meet with Pat and Neil. I immediately jumped at the opportunity. They apologized for the cease-and-desist but said that the show was so good, they had to shut it down. We laughed and laughed, because at the time it had been quite painful, but it eventually brought us all together! After hours of chatting and days of following up, we finally agreed to work together and figure out a way to blend all of our fantastic ideas into one bigger, badder, bolder version of the show.

I have to say, we all work so damn well together. Pat is incredibly hands-on and has been from the very beginning. She and I have been joined at the hip since our first meeting. Spyder [Neil] is a musical genius -- everything he touches turns to gold! He's such a rule breaker and disruptor. What he and Pat are doing with the music in this show to pay tribute to some of your favorite hits while modernizing the vibe and storytelling (along with our musical director, Jesse Vargas) -- is quite profound and mesmerizing! So now, here we are a few years later, about to world premiere the show at The Wallis.

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors When were you first introduced to the music of Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo?

I'm a child of the 80's, so Pat and Neil's music was always around me -- in my house, car rides to school, and in every mall I stepped foot in. I guess you can say their music was very much the soundtrack of my early life. Growing up, they became my go-to anthem music when things got really hard during my high school years. Growing up gay in the late 80s and early 90s was quite the journey, and Pat gave me the strength to keep going when times got really desperate or scary. In those moments, I'd turn on "We Belong," and I'd somehow manage to find the strength I needed to keep going. Later in my journey, as I started writing, I'd put on their music while sitting at the computer. I also have to say there's always just been this cosmic connection to Pat and Neil's music -- it's almost as if I always knew somehow, some way we'd all eventually work together. I believe in destiny, I suppose.

What did you start with in creating Invincible, (first titled The Romeo & Juliet Project)? A basic story outline? Or their catalog of songs?

It started with my love of their music and my love of the classics and a desire to create a more modern take on Romeo and Juliet. I like to say our show is R&J meets "Game of Thrones" in a modern, post-war, dystopian world. Throw into the mix songs like: "Love Is A Battlefield," "Shadows of the Night," "Hell Is For Children," "Heartbreaker," "Promises In The Dark," "Invincible," "We Belong," and so much more -- and it just felt like we had an epic recipe for something special.

Was it easy to plug in their songs into your narrative?

For sure. It's almost as if many of their songs were written for the show. Come to find out later that Pat and Neil were once called the Romeo and Juliet of the music world. So many within the industry didn't want them to be together, so they were also star-crossed lovers of their time, dodging music execs and managers that tried to tear them apart. Their music is also full of storytelling! Most jukebox musicals suffer from pop songs that fall flat in the storytelling department. But Pat and Neil's layered music already feels inherently modern musical theatre.

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors You mentioned how hands-on Pat has been since you started working together. Was Neil also hands-on in your pre-production process?

They are so very hands on, I'm constantly impressed by their desire and dedication to be involved at every level. In fact, they're usually the first ones at rehearsal and the last ones to leave. Most of the time, people in their position just phone it in or have other people oversee things. But both Pat and Neil are about as passionate and dedicated as it gets. I'm constantly inspired by them on a daily basis. I also consider myself quite lucky because anytime I have a question or just want to talk through something from the show, they're both always available. Not to mention, we've become so close on a personal level. They're like family now, and if you told the ten-year-old me that this was going to be -his reality one day - he never would've believed you.

I expect audiences will be hearing some of their biggest hits. Will they be writing any new songs for this show?

Yes, their biggest hits are indeed in the show, and they have written some new music for Invincible as well. We are also reinventing some of their biggest hits for the stage in order to match the tone and journey of our very modern post-war, dystopian version of Verona.

What has the gestation period for Invincible been?

So it went from that little bar show that received a cease-and-desist letter to partnering with Pat and Neil. We then did several readings. The first actually took place at The Wallis. [The Wallis' Associate Artistic Director Coy Middlebrook and I have been dear friends for many years, and he's always been so supportive of this show from the very beginning. He gave us the first opportunity to hear the book and lyrics out loud once we all became partners. That led to a big outdoor concert in the Hamptons with the Bay Street Theatre in 2019 where we performed a semi-staged concert of the musical for the first time in front of thousands of people. Those performances in the Hamptons are where everything started to really shift for us. We were trying some really interesting new things with the book and music, and the audiences really responded to our very modern take of Verona where the patriarchs on each side died from a very long civil war, both families are now run by the matriarchs, Paris is Chancellor of Verona, and the Montagues are barely hanging on by a thread. Not to mention, we have several LGBTQ+ characters taking on storylines once dominated by more traditional archetypes.

The great response in the Hamptons gave us the energy we needed to keep developing during the pandemic. We'd hoped to do a workshop in New York City in 2020 but COVID obviously shut that down. All of this led us to do a showcase of the show in Los Angeles at the Bourbon Room in the fall of 2021. Tremendously helpful feedback from that experience then led us back to The Wallis, where we are now about to world premiere our first major production.

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors This is not your first time collaborating with The Wallis. Was Headless your first production there in 2017?

Yes! Coy Middlebrook and I did a workshop of another musical I've been developing for a few years called Headless. It's a modern adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow where Ichabod's great grandson goes back to Sleepy Hollow to discover the shocking truth behind the legend. Like Invincible, the music is very pop/rock anthemic. We had such an incredible cast and crew that included Reeve Carney as Ichabod, Emma Hunton (who I later cast in my TV series Good Trouble), Tamyra Gray, Scott Porter, and Rob Evan. Casting director Ryan Tymensky was a huge part of getting us that gorgeously talented cast. Headless was also in partnership with Google. At the time, we were - and still are - developing some mind-blowing new technology for the stage in order to create a much more immersive world where a very haunting and realistic Headless Horseman is suddenly very possible. I really hope to focus on Headless once again after we get Invincible up and running.

What do you like about working at The Wallis?

As I mentioned earlier, Los Angeles is very much a film and television town. But thanks to a handful of great theatres like The Wallis, that is finally starting to change. The Wallis is at the forefront of shifting L.A. culture by creating a healthy and inclusive environment that helps artists - L.A. artists in particular -- bring their best work to an incredible space. There aren't very many opportunities in our city to mount a full-blown world premiere of a new musical, and thanks to Coy Middlebrook, [The Wallis' Programming Manager] Camille Jenkins, and the incredible staff of The Wallis we finally get to world premiere Invincible in a city that Pat and Neil and I call home.

Have you worked with any of Invincible's cast or creatives before?

First of all, I haven't been able to talk much about our new director, Tiffany Nichole Greene. She joined us a little later in the process and I have to say, she's completely taken this show and upleveled everything. Tiffany is someone I'd consider a true visionary, and I can't wait for audiences to see her interpretation of Invincible! Our choreographer Galen Hooks is also a visionary, and the two of them are a powerhouse team. I haven't worked with Galen before, but she came very highly recommended to me by my dear friend, Kelley Parker. Galen is also choreographing this season on a TV series I co-created called Good Trouble. A few cast members like Kay Sibal (Juliet) and Krystal Simmons (Ensemble) were in the L.A. showcase and I'm so glad they're back for this production! Brennin Hunt (Paris) is a friend of mine and we've been trying to find ways to work together because I'm just obsessed with his talent! So I'm so glad we finally get to work together on this show. Dionne Gipson starred in another musical that I did called Scissorhands. I think Dionne is one of the greatest voices of our time, and her Madame Montague is nothing short of miraculous. I've been a huge fan of Sharon Leal (Madame Capulet) for quite some time, so I'm just full-on fan-boying over here. Which brings me back to Ryan Tymensky. Working with him on Headless was one of the great joys of my musical theatre experience. I don't think casting directors get enough credit for the huge part they play in helping to build and develop new musicals, and Ryan is truly the best in the business. He has since gone on to become quite a big deal in TV and the musical world, so I wasn't sure we'd be able to get him back for Invincible, but thank god we did!

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors I've seen Scissorhands and many other Unauthorized Parody shows at the Rockwell Table & Stage that you co-wrote and co-produced. Any chance of producing new shows at a different venue?

Awww, I love that you got to see some of those shows. I loved Rockwell. It was really the only space in L.A. where you could successfully create shows like that on a low budget for a very loyal audience. In fact, Scissorhands was one of the greatest joys of my life so far. I really miss those days. The pandemic eventually forced Rockwell to close, and I think L.A. is just not the same without it. I've been talking with Mia Von Criss and Emma Hunton about partnering and opening up our own space inspired by our many years at Rockwell. We came very close to locking down a space a few months ago, but it fell through at the last minute. So keep those fingers crossed as we continue our search for the right venue.

What cosmic forces brought you and Peter Paige together to form Blazing Elm Entertainment in 2007?

Peter and I met through a mutual friend, Chris Miller, who was -- and still is -- running Drew Barrymore's empire. Chris just had this feeling that Peter and I would hit it off, and he was so right. Peter and I started writing together in 2007 and somehow found quick success selling pilots to places like Showtime, USA, the CW, and ABC. But it wasn't until The Fosters that things shifted into high gear for us. We were so lucky that The Fosters ran for five seasons and 104 episodes. It was a dream to be able to see that family on the air for so long. When Peter and I sat down and created The Fosters, we really just wanted to write a series about something that felt close to our hearts. I was always a huge fan of Six Feet Under and Peter was a fan of Parenthood, and we looked at the TV landscape and felt like there wasn't anything on the air that truly represented gay families at the time. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that The Fosters would be the hit that it was. I'm forever grateful that audiences fell in love with Stef and Lena and those kids as much as Peter and I did.

Interview: Writer/ Producer/ Director Bradley Bredeweg's INVINCIBLE In His Many Endeavors Are your goals (Pat, Neil and yourself) to go to Broadway with Invincible?

Look, it's been a big part of the conversation. But as we know, things in the theatre world are changing almost daily. Broadway has and still is the dream, but we are also looking at other out-of-town productions after L.A. We are also having serious conversations about the touring model. But I really think Broadway audiences will absolutely embrace Invincible and we'll end up there when the time is right. Everything with Invincible feels like it's been written in the stars. Pat and I talk about that all the time. There's a magical feeling about this show. So when the universe deems the time is right, Invincible will make its way to New York.

Thank you again, Bradley! I look forward to your killer night of Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.

For tickets to the live performances of Invincible through December 18, 2022; click on the button below:


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