The first new musical of 2019-2020 Broadway season, “Moulin Rouge!,” is a sumptuous stage adaptation of Baz Lurhman’s film and the “spectacular spectacular” production will draw in crowds like moths to a flame. The tuner is bound to scoop up a slew of Tony nominations next April, but Original Score won’t be among them. Every Best Musical winner since 2013 has claimed the Original Score trophy, but jukebox musicals like this one aren’t eligible for that prize.
“Moulin Rouge!,” which incorporates a parade of pop hits, is not alone in its use of pre-existing music this season. Every new musical coming to Broadway this year uses familiar tunes. “Girl From the North Country” is a Depression era tale told through the music of Bob Dylan; “Jagged Little Pill” uses the songs of Alanis Morissette to chronicle inner pain; and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” pulls from the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll’s back catalog. While Morissette has reportedly penned two new tunes for “Jagged Little Pill,” that won’t be enough new material to qualify the songwriter for the Original Score category.
So will all the nominees for Original Score come from this season’s plays? Only nine plays have ever been nominated in the category: “Much Ado About Nothing” (1973), “The Song of Jacob Zulu” (1993), “Twelfth Night” (1999), “Enron,” “Fences” (both in 2010), “One Man, Two Guvnors,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” (both in 2012), “Angels in America” (2018), and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (2019).
However, there are a few tuners in development with new music that could be ready to open on Broadway this season.
Generating an unexpected amount of buzz from a smash Chicago production is “Six.” With music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, “Six” chronicles the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII through a contemporary rock concert. The Queens perform in the style of Adele, Beyonce, Rihanna and other pop divas. A production at A.R.T. in August will grab attention from more potential investors, and perhaps guarantee a quick Broadway transfer.
Hartford Stage recently hosted an adaptation of Garry Marshall’s “The Flamingo Kid” with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman. The sun-drenched locales would make for a perfect springtime Broadway debut. The creative team includes Tony-winning director Darko Tresnjak and Tony nominated choreographer Denis Jones.
The Pioneer Theatre Company of Salt Lake City bills its fall staging of “Cagney” as a Pre-Broadway Engagement. Robert Creighton stars as the film legend James Cagney after two Off-Broadway runs. The actor also co-wrote the music and lyrics of the show with Christopher McGovern.
Another historical figure ready for her Broadway debut is the late Princess of Wales. Simply titled “Diana,” the tuner profiles the People’s Princess and her marriage to Prince Charles. Music and lyrics are courtesy of David Bryan and Joe DiPietro (the team behind Best Musical winner “Memphis”) and a recent staging at La Jolla Playhouse was directed by Tony winner Christopher Ashley (“Come From Away”). The Broadway aspirations for the musical are clear, but whether or not it is ready in time for this season is another question.
Now is the time for these musicals to get in shape for the Great White Way. No jukebox musical since “Jersey Boys” in 2007 has won the Best Musical Prize. The only winner since that wasn’t nominated for Original Score was the stage adaptation of “Once” in 2012. While Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote new material for the Broadway show, the Tony Administration Committee decided there wasn’t enough of it to be eligible as a new score.
As jukebox musicals become ever present, Tony voters are increasingly hungry to reward original work. That’s why hits “American Idiot” and “Fela!” couldn’t take down “Memphis.” It’s why “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” was no match for the darkly comic antics of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” It’s why no amount of perfect pirouettes could help “An American in Paris” defeat the heart-wrenching “Fun Home.” Elevating composers who are contributing to the Broadway canon has become a top priority when it comes time for voters to fill out their ballots. So hey, Mr. Producer! I’m talking to you sir! Now’s the time to find a Broadway home for that original score!