The Derivative Musical: Or Mad Men on Broadway

Mad Men Musical Revue
Mad Men Live Musical Revue At National Association of Television Program Executives

If you are like a lot of musical writers and producers I know, you’re desperate to avoid having people say that your original musical is actually a dreaded “derivative.”  You wake up nights in a cold sweat, crossing your fingers that no one will ask, “hasn’t that already been done?”

And yet, on the flip side, how often have you provided context for potential investors, donors or audiences for your unknown original musical by saying it’s just like Wicked/Rent/Jersey Boys or any other well known hit Broadway musical.

Trends and Derivatives

The general public’s taste is trend-based and playing within those trends (you can always add your original take) can lead to major success.

Other industries know this well. Fashion picks a color, era, shape and the whole industry follows suit, literally. TV has a million derivative reality shows, crime dramas and take offs. While there still needs to be quality to attract the public’s attention, the quantity of trendy products is flexible.

And this isn’t news to Broadway . . .  look at the current 60’s trend (via Mad Men) that’s surfaced in the entertainment and fashion industries and guess what  — Broadway got Promises, Promises; How To Succeed and Catch Me If You Can.

Broadway has it’s own trends too. After Rent there were a string of rock musicals, after Jersey Boys a resurgence of jukebox musicals and similar trends in movie musicals, ‘tween musicals, etc. If you look back through the years the trends become strikingly obvious.

Of course you should always work on musicals that come from your heart and there are always a few musicals that are the trend-SETTERS — But if you are in search of a bankable show topic (keeping in mind the lead time on musicals) take a tip from the trend spotters and embrace your original spin on being unoriginal.

Anyone want to try to predict what new trends are on the horizon? Comment below!


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