Pop goes the musical

Theatre, ballet and opera are embracing some unexpected talents

They are more used to performing to packed stadiums, but stars of rock and pop are now turning their attention to other arenas. When the Pet Shop Boys' first ballet score is performed at Sadler's Wells in London next month it will be the first of a glut of productions featuring music written by mainstream popular artists. Others include Ghost: The Musical from Eurythmics' Dave Stewart and an opera, The Tell-Tale Heart, by Stewart Copeland, the former Police drummer.

Alison Duthie, head of the Royal Opera House's ROH2 programme, which commissioned Copeland for its OperaShots series, says there has been a growth in "crossover work" in recent years.

"It can be the most exciting area because it's asking people to do something very different from where they are comfortable," she says.

Of course, pop and rock musicians, including Elton John, The Who and Abba's Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, have written widely for the stage in the past.

Brian May, a founding member of Queen and musical supervisor on the hit show We Will Rock You, says it was a steep learning curve going into musical theatre as a novice. "We have been part of this trend; we have changed musical theatre and I am proud of that," he says.

Alistair Smith, deputy editor of The Stage, believes that if musical theatre is to remain relevant it needs to embrace popular music styles.

The National Theatre's current production Frankenstein features a score by the electronic band Underworld. Matthew Scott, the theatre's head of music, says that commissioning musicians who do not usually write for the stage is a way of attracting new audiences. But, he warns, "you can get seriously unstuck if you cast the wrong composer for the wrong project".

Harry Shearer

The Spinal Tap musician, best known for voicing characters in The Simpsons, is in talks to bring J Edgar! The Musical – a comedy about the first FBI director, J Edgar Hoover, for which he wrote the lyrics and book – to London. Shearer, twice nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album, may also write some new music for the production.

Tori Amos

A new musical with music and lyrics by the American singer-songwriter will open at London's National Theatre in April 2012. Playwright Samuel Adamson will write the script and additional lyrics for the as yet untitled production, which is based on George MacDonald's story The Light Princess. Marianne Elliott will direct.

Sir Paul McCartney

The Beatles legend announced last week that he is collaborating with New York City Ballet's Peter Martins on a new work for the company that will premiere in September. Ocean's Kingdom is his first orchestral score for dance. "What was interesting was writing music that meant something expressively rather than just writing a song," he said.

James Bourne

The former Busted member's Loserville is being optioned for a West End run. Youth Music Theatre UK is staging his musical Out There at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, in August. "If you look at Wicked and the new musicals coming out, the ones that are really working are the ones that are more pop," he said.

Joby Talbot

The former Divine Comedy member has composed the score for the Royal Ballet's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The production, which premieres tomorrow, is the first full-length ballet commissioned by the Royal Ballet for 15 years.

Scott Walker

The former singer with the Walker Brothers has written the score for a new work commissioned by ROH2 and based on Jean Cocteau's 1932 play Duet for One. It will be performed at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio Theatre in June.

Lily Allen

Bridget Jones: The Musical, which Helen Fielding has adapted from her original chick-lit phenomenon, is currently in development following a workshop production in June. The producers have held discussions with Allen and Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the singer in the past, about composing songs for the show.

Tim Minchin

The Australian comedian and musician wrote the music and lyrics for the Royal Shakespeare Company's new musical version of Roald Dahl's children's story Matilda. After a successful run in Stratford the show is expected to transfer to the West End.

Dave Stewart

Stewart, of Eurythmics fame, has co-written the music for Ghost :The Musical with the Grammy award-winning producer and songwriter Glen Ballard. The production premieres at the Opera House, Manchester, at the end of March.

Pet Shop Boys

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, who wrote songs for the Young Vic's Christmas show My Dad's a Birdman, have composed their first full-length dance score – for Javier De Frutos's The Most Incredible Thing, which opens at Sadler's Wells in London on 17 March. They said that, after writing for the club dance floor, writing music for the ballet seemed a "logical development".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions