How easy is it to turn a gritty television series about a fictional women's prison into a musical? The creative team behind Footballers' Wives and Waterloo Road – Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus – have managed it, transforming their British TV drama series Bad Girls for the stage.
The TV show set in HMP Larkhall was broadcast on ITV from 1999 to 2006. The musical takes its characters mainly from the first series, but includes the developing lesbian love story between graduate fast-tracker wing governor Helen Stewart and life inmate Nikki Wade that lasted for three series.
The musical is directed by Maggie Norris, who has been involved in shaping it from the start. The show premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in June 2006, and it now transfers to the West End.
The composer and lyricist is Kath Gotts, who co-wrote the theme and incidental music for four series of Bad Girls.
Her 16 songs for the show include the tango "All Banged Up", about sexual frustration; "One Moment", a big ballad about how life changed after getting arrested; "Jailcraft", a vaudevillian number about how to run a prison; and the gospel song "Freedom Road", after a tragic death on the wing.
With so many musicals falling by the wayside, what makes this one a success? "Like the TV show, it's a roller-coaster ride of entertainment. It's not a piss-take. It is serious and it is funny. You go on a real voyage of your emotions," Gotts says.
This is a new departure for musicals based on existing plays and novels, Gotts says. "The British musical Jerry Springer: The Opera was the beginning of establishing that relationship between television and musicals as subject matter. But this is the first major British TV show to be turned into a musical. It's a perfectly reasonable and logical extension to look for ideas in the world of television." So, what's next? "Footballers' Wives – The Musical is in the pipeline," Gotts says.
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