The idea I should write a Christmas-themed musical that ends with someone being pushed down some stairs to their death by a plus-size drag queen came to me in the shower. It was a short shower and the idea arrived pretty much fully-formed; three songs across three scenes, with the whole thing coming off like an episode of Tales of the Unexpected-meets-Inside No.9-meets-A Christmas Carol.
In the run-up to Christmas 2019, I’d been having a number of conversations with a friend who had very mixed feelings at the prospect of his annual return trip to spend Christmas alone with his mother in the house of his childhood. For him, there was the usual potent mix of guilt and vague trepidation, but also the determination to resist old patterns of repetitive behaviour and to risk disruption as a means of enriching his relationship with his mum.
Musicals are like Marmite. I happen to enjoy them immensely. I enjoy the form. I love the conceit that ‘bursting into song’ is the way that characters give voice to their internal monologue. I’ve been in a few am-dram musicals ‘back in the day’ and I occasionally write songs when I’m absolutely certain no one is around to hear me, and I have written one very short musical before. None of these things prove emphatically that writing musicals is within my existing skillset… but I’ve gone ahead and had a bash anyway – principally because the idea arrived with me with such conviction that I wanted to see it through.
At time of writing, the trio of songs are finished, likewise the script and I’ve begun to put something of a visual treatment together to flesh things out further. Essentially this means I’ve done some fantasy casting and mined the internet for imagery that best fits what my mind’s eye keeps showing me. The musical also has a name , The Visitation, which alludes to David Potts’ Christmas trip to stay with his mother, Margaret, but hints also at the more outlandish elements of the story as personified by Angel, a grim reaper like no other…
The elephant in the room is this: how do you go about writing a musical when your background isn’t in ‘writing musicals?’ Previously, I was lucky enough to collaborate with an actual musician, who was able to take my lyrics, my box chords and a very poor audio recording of me singing and rationalise those scraps into something half-decent. I found that process utterly fascinating, but also frustrating because my own lack of knowledge was creating work for someone whose talents could be better spent arranging the song for different instruments and voices. Therfore, I took it upon myself to acquire some knowledge around a new bit of scoring software, Sibelius, which has enabled me to move the song-writing process along much more effectively in readiness for more collaboration in the future.
Having an idea for a musical in the shower is one thing. Committing to it and writing it is another. Moving it on towards something that other people might one day experience is something else entirely. What happens next with The Visitation is uncertain (though I have few ideas in motion to this end), but everything begins with content-creation, and that phase is just about finished. If things do move on with this project, I’ll be sharing any updates on here. In the meantime, I’ve got a few more crochets to wrangle!