That musical, called “Racing in the Street,” didn’t get the green light, either. “My memory is that the script made its way to Springsteen’s people, who said that Springsteen wasn’t interested in theatrical adaptations of his work,” Mr. Weidman said. “Understandable and not unexpected.”
Still, you can’t blame a book writer for trying. After all, musicals based on song catalogs have become a Broadway staple: not only “Jersey Boys” (the Four Seasons) but also “Beautiful” (Carole King), “Mamma Mia!” (Abba) and “Movin’ Out” (Billy Joel). “Escape to Margaritaville,” drawn from the Jimmy Buffett songbook, arrives this season; shows based on the music of Donna Summer and the Temptations are having productions this fall in California, and a Cher musical is not far behind.
So we approached another set of dramatists, asking them to take their own stabs at Springsteen musicals. Here they go, dancing in the dark:
Douglas Carter Beane has been nominated for the Tony Award for best book of a musical for “Xanadu,” “Sister Act,” “Lysistrata Jones” and “Cinderella.” His new musical is “Hood.”
Our musical starts as the Trump Administration is beating it out of D.C. for a working weekend at Trump’s northern White House. In an exhilarating opening number, the cabinet, its assistants and various generals sing and dance to “Born to Run.” I think the song will be great here; getting “American dream” and “mansions” into the same lyric is a terrific match. We’ll just cut the part in the opening where Bruce says, “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”
Now, for a musical comedy, we’ll need a love story! Our leading lady, let’s call her Mary (Jessie Mueller), works as a midlevel bureaucrat. Our leading man, Danny (Leslie Odom Jr.), is the in-house golf pro. Let’s have them meet cute on the fairway. They sing a duet of “Fire.” We’ll just change the line “I’m driving in my car” to “I’m driving in my cart.”
Let’s keep our kids apart. In the next scene, at a dinner dance with the theme “Make America Great Again,” the chorus sings a rousing “Glory Days.” Well, who should our Mary bump into? How about that sexy lady killer, panther-like dancer and senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller (Neil Patrick Harris)!? The attraction is immediate as they discuss Italian food, French movies and cracking down on sanctuary cities. The crowd at the party parts as Stephen and Mary are soon “Dancing in the Dark.”
A heartbroken Danny sees them together and sulks off, slamming the screen door. He sings “Thunder Road.” Remember the lyric — “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves.” Do you see how we’re making this sophisticated Broadway fare? It’s fun!
Scene 4 will take place in New York City at the failing New York Times. The very deceitful reporters are sitting in a room, drinking their free-trade coffee and making up fake news. They sing “Little White Lies.” One of the more devious reporters totally makes up, without any named sources, that Stephen Miller’s heart has opened and that he is in love. They print it!
Back at the Bedminster members-only golf club, Stephen has read the failing Times article about himself and realizes that he really is in love with Mary. This keeps happening — the reporters make up the stories, and then later we find out that it’s all come true. It’s uncanny. For our first-act finale — in three spotlights — Mary, Danny and Stephen sing “Tunnel of Love” as chorus members dance around them in that Twyla Tharp/Bill T. Jones/Steven Hoggett manner that seems to get people going.
Now, second acts take time, but I’m pretty firm about the show’s finale: Let’s bring the President (J. K. Simmons) out to sing “Born in the U.S.A.” I know it’s about a Vietnam vet, and that’s not applicable, but maybe a quick lyric redo can make it more anti-immigrant.
A 24-Hour History Of Populist Music
Daniel Goldstein, who wrote the book and was a writer of the lyrics for “Unknown Soldier,” won the 2016 Kleban Prize for most promising musical theater librettist.
Never one to shy away from performing epic concerts late into the evening, Bruce Springsteen is taking things one step further. His Broadway show will be a marathon performance of his entire canon, all 319 songs (depending on which subreddit you read), which will take 24 hours to complete. Beginning at noon each day, and ending at noon the next, he will perform six times a week for eight weeks, taking Tuesdays off, because, according to the Boss, “It’s hard to rock on a Tuesday.”
The Walter Kerr will be transformed into a simulacrum of the Stone Pony club in Asbury Park, circa 1972. The 975 original seats will be ripped out, and claustrophobic plaster walls added, reducing the capacity to 139, so Bruce can really feel each and every person in the crowd. A crackerjack team of designers, led by Mimi Lien, will replicate the sticky floors, beer splatter, sweat and acrid cigarette smell — they’ve even unearthed a trove of Paco Rabanne, which will emanate from the air-conditioning ducts.
Machine Dazzle will be creating a stunning array of costumes for Mr. Springsteen. Not only will the Boss be wearing black shirts, but also … navy blue! And sometimes even dark gray. There was talk of recreating the cover of “Born in the U.S.A.” at the 4 a.m. hour — white T, jeans, red baseball cap and all — but then Bruce finally learned that a red thing in a back pocket could signify something to some people.
Appearing with Bruce at every show will be his entire E Street band, a rotating chorus of kids from various New Jersey schools and Courteney Cox.
Given the scarcity of tickets and the length of the event (the union crew will be paid $32,000 per show, considering overtime and meal penalties), the cost of tickets will be $50,000 each, but that does come with free unshelled peanuts and flat, warm Lowenbrau in plastic cups.
Tickets will be available at the box office and only to those who can sing “Born to Run” without messing up any of the words.
Springsteen: An American Musical
Deborah Zoe Laufer is the author of the plays “Informed Consent,” “End Days” and “Leveling Up” and the musical “Meta.”
In these times of political turmoil, America cries for a fresh musical exploration of our origins. Yes, 1969 yielded us the brilliant “1776,” but, decades later, we require a new celebration of our founding fathers. Whose songs better capture the heartbeat of those times than the great American songster Bruce Springsteen?
The show opens with Bruce, arriving from his birthplace in the Caribbean (that’s a little-known fact), with an ironic “Born in the U.S.A.” He meets three wealthy New Jersey sisters and falls in love with the second, “Rosalita,” whom he courts and wins with his passionate “Fire.” But, as Bruce finds himself locking horns with the politician Aaron Burr, “Your Own Worst Enemy” foreshadows tragedy to come.
Bruce joins the Continental Army under George Washington, and their duet “Born to Run” expresses the two men’s political and military ambitions, as Bruce quickly becomes the general’s right-hand man. But his lifelong rivalry with Burr finally erupts in a duel, and the musical mash-up of “Devils and Dust” and “Roulette”captures the fight, and then the demise of our hero.
But as Bruce and the cast sing “We Are Alive,” we realize that, though he is dead, this great American will live on, and his songbook will tell his story.
Harold and Kumar Get Blinded by the Light
Marc Acito is a writer of the book for “Allegiance,” which was on Broadway in 2015-16 and is scheduled for Los Angeles in 2018.
Few things are as quintessentially New Jersey as Bruce Springsteen: not pumping your own gas; eating disco fries at the diner at 2 a.m. (which also gives you gas); and the stoner comedy duo Harold and Kumar.
The show opens with the ultimate thank-God-it’s-Friday anthem, “Born to Run.” In a Broadway first, Harold (Broadway’s new Aladdin, Telly Leung) and Kumar (in a bit of dream casting, Aziz Ansari) get totally baked. So they call an Uber to take them, as we say in Jersey, “down the shore.”
Their driver shows up in a “Pink Cadillac,” claiming to be a moonlighting Mary Kay saleswoman, but she’s actually the ghost of Madam Marie, the deceased boardwalk psychic immortalized in “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).” Think Patti LuPone.
Marie takes Harold and Kumar on a Jersey jughandle journey (“Spirit in the Night”), meeting such iconic characters as Weak-Kneed Willie, Big Bones Billie, Hazy Davy, Go-Kart Mozart and the Chicken Man, who, as the “Atlantic City” lyric says, will blow up. (Now there’s an Act I finale). One, if not all, of these characters is played by Neil Patrick Harris, who’ll also appear, as in the H&K movies, as a heterosexual version of himself.
There’s romance, of course, with women like “Rosalita” and Mary from “Thunder Road.” Bruce’s female characters may lack agency, but in a catalog musical, women can sing the Boss’s most muscular songs. Who wouldn’t pay $150 to hear Cynthia Erivo rock out “Badlands”?
But what I love most about “Harold and Kumar Get Blinded by the Light” (or “HAKGBBTL,” for short) is the prospect of two unconventional Asian-American “model minorities” interacting with dispossessed blue-collar workers reliving their “Glory Days” atop stools in the Legion Hall. After these angry white dudes lament the auto plant closing in Mahwah, Harold and Kumar heal the cultural divide by getting everyone stoned and leading them in “Born in the U.S.A.”
I have a fantasy that Bruce will read this pitch and greenlight the idea. If not, maybe Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi will be interested.
Billy Bigelow Down the Shore
Martyna Majok, who grew up in North Jersey, wrote “Cost of Living” and is working on a musical about Chernobyl.
He had a job and tried to put his money away. But he’s got debts that no honest man can pay. They closed down the factories across the railroad tracks. Foreman said, “These jobs are goin’, boys, and they ain’t comin back.”
Well he’s tired of comin’ out on the losin’ end. So last night he met this guy and he did a little favor for him.
Now there’s trouble busin’ in from outta state. Down on the boardwalk they’re gettin’ ready for a fight. They know that’s the place he goes: where the dancing’s free.
“Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”
Cuz he sees her on the street, and she looks so tired, workin’ that job she got that leaves her so uninspired. He’ll come by to take her out to eat, and she’ll be lyin’ all dressed up on the bed, fast asleep. She goes in the bathroom and puts her makeup on. She’s gonna take that little brat of hers and drop her off at her mom’s. She knows that he don’t have any money. But someday they’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny. And down the shore everything’s all right. He promised — Just him and his baby on a Saturday night.
But there’s lives on the line where dreams are found and lost. He was there on time but he paid the cost for wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town. His own dream guns him down.
“Remember all the movies, Julie, we’d go see, tryin’ to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be. And after all this time, to find we’re just like all the rest ——”
“Yer gonna be O.K. ——”
“Layin’ here in the dark, yer like an angel on my chest.”
Now his luck may have died, and their love may be cold. But with her forever he’ll stay.
No one else watches when the ambulance pulls away.
“Everything dies, Baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Nothing matters in this whole wide world when yer in love with a Jersey Girl.”
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