I once had a theory that every imaginable topic can and probably will become a musical, so why not let one’s mind roam free? I imagined The Peloponnesian War: The Musical, with an endless assortment of questionably tasteful Athenian and Spartan togas and presented, for the sake of historical accuracy, as a three-part, 12-hour marathon trilogy. I imagined The Origin of Species: The Musical with ensemble numbers like “Bananas!” and “Hey Hey We’re the Monkeys!” and my producer, Scott Rudin, threatening to litigate anyone and everyone who didn’t care for the pun or the overuse of exclamation points. (Just my luck: turns out The Origin of Species: The Musical actually exists.) I had further imagined Coming of Age in Samoa: The Musical until the late Margaret Mead’s reputation began to come under severe criticism (and arguably rightly so). What can I say? If you may ever identify a bit of John Lennon in me, you may say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
Now, here’s a different theory — this one more serious. It wasn’t long ago — maybe 20 or so years into the past — that people in the musical theater openly fretted about its fate. I can remember story after story asking who the new voices would be coming onto the scene and where would the audience for their work come from? This different theory is that my earlier theory, for all of its patent absurdity, is actually where we’ve ended up — and that is all to the good. Shows like Chick Flick: The Musical is a great example of what I mean.
Running Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre (407 W. 43rd St.), Chick Flick: The Musical features book, music and lyrics by Suzy Conn, a native of Toronto who was enjoying a fast rise up through the ranks as an advertising and marketing executive with a major international corporation. Until one day, that is, when she realized that devising campaigns for items like detergent, soap and shaving blades wasn’t her definition of fulfilling. She turned to writing country songs and, later on, to musicals.
Chick Flick: The Musical, then, doesn’t come out of some nutty insider’s satirical head so much as out of the desire on the part of a triple-threat talent to tell and to see stories and characters on stage that are relevant to her — and half the population. It’s not for nothing, by the way, that Chick Flick: The Musical is the inaugural production of the Broadway Venture Capital Fund LLC, which was established to support the development of original musical theater focused on the stories of women, told by women. (For more information on this, click here.)
Conn’s show, described as a “loving homage” to the classic film genre, follows a quartet of friends — played by Sharon Catherine Brown, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Carla Duren and Megan Sikora — as they watch their favorite chick flicks and the alcohol, of course, begins to flow. It’s that simple — but within that straightforward structure, tremendous stories are told and the surprises total more than a few.
So when dunderheads like me aren’t trying to think up innumerable ways to be amusing and clever, the fact remains that we should need shows like this to be written, developed and put on the boards. Indeed, we should want equity, diversity and inclusion in our art, and we should all celebrate voices — even those that are not necessarily our own.
For tickets to Chick Flick: The Musical, click here.
And now, 5 questions that Suzy Conn has never been asked:
What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?
“Do all your shows tackle important ideas with a spoonful of sugar?” (Yes. I like to convey messages of female empowerment in a fun, humorous and entertaining way.)
What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?
“Why would you write a show with only female characters? Is there a way to put a man in the show?” (I get these questions a lot. My answer is “Why wouldn’t I? Does every show have to have a man in it? Sure, I have other shows that have both women and men in them, but Chick Flick the Musical is just about women.” And “No, there isn’t a way to put a man in this show”.)
What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
“Is Chick Flick the Musical a movie?” (No! My show is a piece of live musical theater!)
In a musical about four best friends having a girls’ night in to watch their favorite chick flicks, one wonders about the plot. Is the whole show set in a living room or do the characters leave the setting now and then? How did you find a balance between the characters so that each has a distinct character and trajectory?
Karen, Dawn, Sheila and Meg get together to watch a chick flick in Karen’s living room, but we first meet the four women in different locations, as they go about their days before the chick flick get-together. Once they arrive at Karen’s, there are moments of fantasy where they leave the living room and go to other fun locations. The show is very theatrical with lots of singing and dancing, and we use the set pieces in a very fun and creative way.
Each character has her own distinct arc and role to play in the group friendship. Finding the right balance among the four characters has taken a lot of rewriting and development. The friendship portrayed is both aspirational and inspirational, and audience members have said they see bits of themselves in each of the four characters.
This show is fun to do because the roles are balanced so that each character has a time to shine as well as being part of group numbers. This has created a great sense of friendship among the cast members because the show needs each of the four women equally to work.
Is there just one definition for a chick flick? Can one define chick flicks by listing everything they aren’t? For you, what are the four must-have elements of a chick flick?
Chick flicks are typically defined as movies with a female protagonist(s) that explore themes of love, romance, family, friendship and sisterhood. I like to include romantic comedies (e.g., My Best Friend’s Wedding), sisterhood dramas (e.g., Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood), historical movies (e.g., Pride and Prejudice), sisterhood comedies (e.g., Girls Trip) and musicals (e.g., Mamma Mia!) that meet these criteria. I think it’s better to define chick flicks by what they are, as opposed to what they’re not. For me, chick flicks need to have 1) a female protagonist; 2) emotional themes; 3) hope, humor and a happy ending; and 4) some kind of heightened reality.
There must have come in a moment in your writing process when the idea for this show struck you as definitively a musical. So if someone were to ask, “Why is this a musical? Why couldn’t it be a play?,” what would be your response?
As I developed this show, I knew I wanted to write a story about female friendship and to color that friendship in a unique way — with the shared love of chick flicks. And like a chick flick, I wanted the story to be primarily about emotions, feelings and relationships — the messiness of tears and laughter! A show with four women’s emotions running high is a perfect vehicle to musicalize — the characters are always getting to the point where merely speaking isn’t good enough and they need to sing. Personally, humor and music is what gets me through the day!
The fantasy potential of the show also spoke to me musically. The ability to transport the characters to different places is so much easier and more effective using the power of music. Music allowed me to incorporate iconic conventions of the emotion-based chick flick genre, such as makeover montages and meet cutes, into my show.