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How a Musical Gets Written

Monday, May 31st, 2010


Prodigal God has been in development since August 2002. At that time, Brian Doerksen and Christopher Greco drafted a story outline for what they hoped would become a full-length musical theatre piece. Their starting point was a man looking back on his life with regret and with an opportunity before him to make a change. Next came a baby – a little girl – delivered by a veiled messenger.

When Brian had the notion that this man might be the elder son from the parable of the lost son found in chapter 15 of the gospel of Luke, it became obvious that this baby was sired by his younger brother during his adventure in a distant country. So the big question became, what was this man going to do with the helpless infant who symbolized to him the crux of his bitterness toward life and family and God? And, of course, there was the parable itself to be brought to life – the settling of the estate, the journey to a distant country, the spending, the famine, the surprising return, the party, and the refusal to join in.

On the east coast, Christopher set out to create a story treatment with detailed character sketches and first person monologues. And on the west coast, Brian read, listened, commented, and asked questions. They resisted the allure of doing a contemporary retelling, believing that the original Jewish cultural context from two millennia ago offered a lot of unexplored richness.

Next came the “songs” and the “book” which, in musical theatre, means everything in between the songs. Decisions had to be made about which moments or action sequences to make into songs and which to render through scenes and monologues. The elder son became the most compelling choice for a narrator so that he could make his case directly to the audience about why he’s been treated so unjustly.
They met up for a few days here and there and in between. And less than two years later there was a beginning, a middle, and an end to show for it. Next, to get the thing on its feet in front of an audience.

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