Fancy: The Musical, a new musical based on Reba McEntire’s hit song “Fancy,” held development labs on March 16th and 17th. The new show is still in the incubation process, and The Music Universe got a peak inside the creation of this brand new country music musical via an exclusive conversation with the creative team behind the new production.
“I think that the public, if you scratch them, whether they will admit it or not, they all love country music,” said Tony award winning producer Margot Astrachan. “When I found out that Garth Brooks had sold out Yankee Stadium for two nights running a year ago, I said, ‘These are local people. This is not a stadium down south somewhere. There is something here.’”
One of the shows writers, Susan DiLallo, echoed Astrachan, “We started talking about it as a genre and we realized it’s probably the number one most popular genre of all. But, New Yorkers are jaded. I became a convert. I love the music, I love the storytelling of every song. These kinds of musicals have been successful but nobody’s ever done this kind of thing before.”
Fancy the Musical is considered a “jukebox musical.” That is, it uses popular music in place of custom-written show tunes. And while it may seem like an odd choice to turn Reba, Garth, and Johnny Cash music into a Broadway musical, it’s actually obvious. Country music operates in service of story, just like musical theatre.
“Songs can’t stop the action or stop the motion. They have to move the story along. So the writers, I think, did a brilliant job finding the right songs that do the musical theatre job, which is intricate and fascinating,” said Astrachan, “They’ve done the jigsaw puzzle.”
If it is the writers’ job to solve the jigsaw puzzle, it is the director’s job to put them into place. His pieces are the music and the actors. Denis Jones is approaching the choreography and musical arrangement with authenticity in mind. “Half these songs,” he said, “You can’t sit still. Sometimes I’m working with the actors on stage and I’ll look out into the house and see the writers, and Margot, and stage management clapping their hands and stomping their feet.”
Those actors are as moved by the material as the team behind it. The evidence, Jones said, is in the rehearsal room. “I think they were wide open to it because all of them have such great affection for this music.”
When it comes down to it, country is about one: The authenticity of its music. This is something Jones, Astrachan, and DiLallo understand completely.
“We are trying, and I believe succeeding, in keeping this music as authentically in its own genre as possible,” said Jones. Though he admits some liberties must be taken when creating for the stage. “We’ve taken some very, hopefully, carefully chosen liberties just to sort of musicalize sequences in a theatrical way. But we want the sounds to very true its origins.”
For Astrachan, it is all servicing America’s favorite genre, “I grew up on that folk music. I was fascinated by the music of the Appalachia and the south. I love it. Or I wouldn’t have done this show.”
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.