Feature: From Screen to Stage, Christopher Linnertz Makes ROGERS: THE MUSICAL Sing

"More than anything, Cap's story is a classic musical theater story."

By: Nov. 26, 2023
Feature: From Screen to Stage, Christopher Linnertz Makes ROGERS: THE MUSICAL Sing
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The MARVEL universe is often dramatic and has its share of theatrical characters, but nothing delighted theatre fans more than the glimpses of ROGERS: THE MUSICAL, in the TV series “Hawkeye”. 

A musical retelling of Steve Rodgers, his journey to become Captain America, and a bit of the first Avengers movie thrown in for good measure, Hawkeye himself may not have wanted to see it but audiences were calling for more. When Disneyland decided to bring this show to life on stage this past summer, they called composer Christopher Linnertz, who helped bring the musical to life in the TV show, to create a full musical for theatre lovers to enjoy while at California Adventure.

The Broadway show within the TV show was first seen in brief moments during some episodes of the Disney show ”Hawkeye”.  The main musical number featured throughout was "Save the City", written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.  Christopher Linnertz worked as a composer on that show, as well as conductor and arranger When it was decided to bring it from the Marvel universe into our universe, Linnertz wrote five original songs to make the show more complete, with additional lyrics by  Alex Karukas. 

When the Venn diagram of theatre nerds and comics nerds overlap, that is where you get ROGERS: THE MUSICAL.  A show written as a gag in a TV series, but filmed and performed by Broadway veterans.  Linnertz said the challenge of creating it was making sure it told the story in an entertaining way, for Marvel fans, theatre fans, and everyone else whether they were familiar with the story or not.

How do we have everyone cry and laugh and cheer at the right moments, even if they've never seen anything about Captain America before?

The interesting thing about it is we also are dealing with the genre of fans that probably aren't very big Broadway fans or musical fans. We’re also dealing with a theme park audience, which is different than people who go to New York  - these are people who are in the park and it's going to be grandpa and two grandkids, one of whom's probably seven and just got off the Incredible’s coaster. How do we create a show that all of them are going to be like, "Ooh, I want to see it again?”

With that perspective, they set out to create a show that in a short period of performance time (just over 30 minutes), can tell the story of Captain America’s journey, which is often referenced throughout the MCU by various characters.

“More than anything, Cap's story is a classic musical theater story. Cap is a lot: he is a very cool character, he has a heart of gold, he needs to show everyone else what he can do, and he also saves the world. That's a perfect musical. No matter what universe that comes from, that's like a perfect musical story.”

Another challenge was how to take what was written for the TV show, which was written intentionally to be silly, and featured many Marvel easter eggs, and incorporate all of that into a satisfying and fully fleshed-out theatrical experience.

"One of the biggest things is that there are one of the two songs that I didn't write was “Save The City” from “Hawkeye”, which is a brilliant song written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.  But, it was very much done to tell the story that it was silly, with the whole point of it being that's not how it happened.

When you get to our show, we're actually using it as part of real life. People were still dancing and singing, but one of the things we ended up doing is we changed the arrangement of the song a little bit to be more dramatic.

There’s also a freeze right afterward where we use that song to tell us the stories of the other battles (from the MCU).”

Captain America is also a character who struggles with his role and the cost of saving the world, both personally and to the innocent people in the world who get caught up in that. That was important to address in the show as well. 

“We did this all to get to our ultimate goal at the end of this battle sequence in the city, we needed to feel how  Cap wasn't sure he could go on being a hero.

That was something that was very serious and very different from what was in “Hawkeye”.

So we did that with the arrangement, with the time of instrumentation, and the way it was acted. We did deliberately take out some of the camp of it. Not all of it, but some of it, in order to replace it with some storytelling.”

Never fear if that sounds serious, ROGERS: THE MUSICAL is still a fun musical experience for people of all ages. The balance of serious and silly was a delicate one to strike.

“I think it worked out to be its own thing, but it kept all the fun, you know, you still can sing along, you still can learn the dance, hopefully, learn it, put it on TikTok, whatever.

 We knew that if you don't do it right, people are going to laugh. You have that fear;  we want people to laugh, but only at the right time, because there, there's a lot of potential that they could laugh. So we made specific choices- we want them to laugh at the fact that skinny Steve can't get into the army, and it has to get on his tippy toes, but you don't want them to laugh when they meet Peggy.

I love Marvel fans, so I hope we did our job right, and, you know, if we get to do a longer version of it, then hopefully we'll just expand that, make it. We need more Bucky, I'll put that out there.”

If you weren’t able to catch the show while it was running at California Adventure you can listen to the original cast album (with San Diego performer Luke Monday as Captain America!)  ROGERS: THE MUSICAL and you can watch it on here.

Photo Credit: EM Reiter


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