Writers on Writing: ‘Backbeat’ creators go beyond the standard musical theater fare

I read this review of Backbeat, the new theatrical musical about the early days of the Beatles, to my MFA writing class because of its discussion of ‘the Jerome Robbins question’. Apparently when working on a new show Robbins would always ask for a one word description of the play.

For example, for Fiddler on the Roof the word was ‘tradition’. For this play about the Beatles, the word was ‘courage’. Read the review to figure out why – and try this same question in your own writing!

‘Backbeat’ creators go beyond the standard musical theater fare


In telling the pre-history of the Beatles, director David Leveaux aims to make the action of both the music and drama converge in the Ahmanson-bound show.

Searching for his way into the new musical “Backbeat,” which examines the Beatles’ early days (and nights) in Hamburg, Germany, David Leveaux asked himself what he called “the Jerome Robbins question.”

It’s a tactic he picked up in 2004 while overseeing a Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” That show’s book writer, Joseph Stein, was recounting his experience on Robbins’ original 1964 production and told Leveaux that one day the director asked, ‘OK, so what is this musical about? I want one word,'” Leveaux said.

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Previously in Writers on Writing:

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