What’s your motivation ain’t just a question for actors.

My acting teacher used to ask about my motivation in a thick Russian accent.

“Kenneth!  Why you . . . you do want do these things in scene?”

(BTW, my mom, my dad, and my acting teacher . . . the only three people who called me Kenneth.)

“What drive you, Kenneth?  Open chest.  Speak from heart.  What is motivation?”

I’ve seen a bunch of shows in the last six months that were based on . . . something.  Adaptations.

As we know (as I blogged about here), musicals are primarily an adapted art form (well over 60% of musicals are based on something).  Books, poems, and real people all make great fodder for musicals.  Lately, of course, we’ve seen a rash for movie to musicals adapts, and more than a handful of music catalog to musical creations as well (aka The “Jukebox” Musical).

Since a majority of musicals are based on pre-existing source material, if you’re a producer looking to create one, most likely you’re going to be adapting something at some point in your career.

So, now, I ask you . . . without the Russian accent or the formalized version of your name . . .

What is your motivation?

I’ve found myself wondering that question many times over the past few years

Because it seemed to me like the motivation for the musicalization was the brand and not the story.

And, as my Russian acting teacher would say . . . “No!  That no work.  You try again.”

It may seem like I’m picking on the musical to movie trend or that aforementioned jukebox musical . . . but I’m really not.  I’m picking on any adaptation, movie, book, postcard, where the motivation is “Oooh, lots of people know what this is, let’s make it into a musical and make millions!”

You know what usually happens in those cases?

It’s really easy to raise the millions to make those kind of musicals.  Because the show sounds like such a good idea in a pitch.

And it’s even easier to lose ’em.

If you want to tell a story on the musical stage, and that story has a brand, then it’s a win-win.

But if you’re exploiting a brand first and story second, then as my Russian acting teacher used to say . . .”That just sucks.”


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.