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

Backbeat

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:

Writers on Writing: Phillipa Boyens on Adapting “The Lord of the Rings”

This post begins my new series, Writers on Writing, (or WOW!) — a collection of the kinds of articles I bring to the attention of my writing classes on a regular basis.

This piece on Philippa Boyens seems like a nice place to start since she discusses the ten year odyssey she’s been on since agreeing to help adapt the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. She is particularly interesting when analyzing how writing The Hobbitt is different from Lord of the Rings.

Read on McGuff – and watch this spot for more WOW in the future. Feel free to send me good things you read about writing and I’ll post those as well. — Rosanne

Phillipaboyens

Philippa Boyens: Del Toro’s ‘Hobbit’ would have been ‘amazing’

“There and Back Again” is the subtitle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” and it would certainly serve handily for a biography of many of those involved in taking the book to film, though none perhaps as well as Philippa Boyens.

Asked one day in 1997 if, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, she might have any interest in helping out friends and fellow New Zealanders Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh adapt “The Lord of the Rings” for film, Boyens, a former teacher and then executive director of the New Zealand Writers Guild, shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

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