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’90s Grunge Musical in Development at Seattle Repertory Theatre (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 7/7/2017 Gordon Cox
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Seattle Repertory Theatre has commissioned a new musical set in the grunge scene in 1990s Seattle, featuring an original, fictional story told with pre-existing songs of the era by acts such as Nirvana and Soundgarden.

Some or all of the tunes for the project, currently untitled and targeted for a developmental workshop late this year, will be drawn from BMG’s publishing catalog, which includes the work of Nirvana and Soundgarden as well as Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins. Manage This Media’s Janet Billig Rich, the former manager of Nirvana who now works in music licensing (for shows including “Rock of Ages”), and BMG exec Elyse Cogan are both on board the brewing musical.

Set in Seattle in the early ’90s, the storyline will follow a brilliant grunge musician and the rival who may have killed him. Wendy C. Goldberg, the artistic director of the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, conceived the project and will co-create with playwright Matt Schatz, who’ll write the musical’s book. Goldberg will direct.

The grunge movement that emerged from the Seattle music scene in the 1990s has proven enduringly influential. The recent death of Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden frontman who was a significant figure in grunge, recently brought the era back to the spotlight and elicited new appreciation for its music and its key players.

It’s still early days in the musical’s development, with creatives still formulating the wish list of tunes they hope to use to tell the story. From a licensing perspective, the writers of the songs will be counted among the authors of the theatrical production, since the lyrics are being used to tell the story. Final rights approval will come from each song’s copyright holder, often a publisher or a manager.

Further details about the developing stage project — including title, casting, and formal production timeline — remain to be set.

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