Writer DENIS McGRATH & Director COLIN VIEBROCK talk about Top Gun! The Musical:

DM: Okay, so where'd this idea come from? I know it wasn't me. Not originally.

CV: Me neither. It was a conversation I had at Christmas dinner with the in laws.

DM: "Out laws" you mean. You're not married yet.

CV: You sound like my mother. Anyway. We were talking about all the movies that are being or have been turned in musicals lately. Carrie, Pretty Woman ...

DM: With the hit song: "I'm Just A Whore Who Can't Say No"?

CV: You are kidding, right?

DM: Of course.

CV: Good. So, the conversation turned into a contest to try and figure out what movie would be the absolute worst to turn into a musical.

DM: Right -- this is around the time that article in the Times talking about how Broadway was too chicken-shit to mount anything that wasn't already a movie.

CV: So someone said Die Hard I think.

DM: That's in the script.

CV: Yeah -- and Apocalypse Now. Or was that you?

DM: I think. In our show it's referenced as Apocalypse Wow!, the musical that our director, Billy Palmer, did before adapting Top Gun.

CV: With the haunting ballad, "The Horror".

DM: "The Horror" probably wouldn't be a ballad. It'd be like a tango or something.

CV: And "Charlie Don't Surf".

DM: Pure Chorus Line, baby. God. Now I want to write Apocalypse Wow.

CV: One show at a time.

DM: Right. Yeah. Okay. Um. Well, the first thing I thought was I wanted to do something that wasn't really saying all the lines from Top Gun , cause, you know that's like...

CV: Stealing?

DM: Well, it's cheap. You know? The thing about Top Gun is that it's one of those movies that everyone saw and instantly forgot except for this vague lingering feeling of eighties hair and that homo-erotic subtext between Tom Cruise and what's his name. So when we started talking about Top Gun! The Musical, I went back and watched it again, and the thing is ... there really isn't a whole lot of story there. It's like, the first MTV movie, but before they got good at making them.

CV: From the moment Goose dies ...

DM: Right, from the moment Goose dies it blows. It's just, they fight, they fly, they argue, they mope, they fly, they fight, they fly. The End. And every dogfight looks exactly the same.

CV: People remember Quentin Tarantino's rant from Sleep With Me more than they remember the actual movie.

DM: Exactly!

CV: So that's when the idea for the "show within the show" came about?

DM: Yeah. I really dug that movie Vanya on 42nd Street -- where it's the staged reading of "Uncle Vanya." And that got me thinking, why not do one of the early rehearsals for the mega-musical based on Top Gun.

CV: So we have these vaguely Top Gun scenes --

DM: -- but we don't use any dialogue from the movie. It's a parody. It's more "inspired" by Top Gun. Our story's more about a group of actors, the bickering and the fighting in the cast, the crazy producer coming in, and he's ex-military, and the director is sleeping with the lead actress, and the guy playing Iceman has a crush on the guy playing Maverick ...

CV: Who's dumb as a stone. And then the stage manager, who's in love with him.

DM: Absolutely. And Goose is a woman. Cause you need at least one silly unmotivated change to make a mega-musical based on a movie work. Then the fun part is seeing these truly schmaltzy, bad songs that are part of this Top Gun musical. Like "We've Got a Plane to Catch" and "You Can Ride My Tail."

CV: I love the songs.

DM: Oh God, me too. So much fun. It's my first time writing lyrics, and Scott [WHITE, COMPOSER & MUSICAL DIRECTOR] just did an absolutely stupendous job.

CV: Hell yes. I owe Scott my first born, I think.

DM: We've got numbers that people who go see musicals are just going to howl at, because they're instantly recognizable. There's such a wide range of music in there.

CV: And the cast really sells it. We've got some great people.

DM: A great cast. I'm like, "ulp" these are some fine damn actors.

CV: We still should have used my tagline though.

DM: This again. Okay, this is it. It came down to two taglines, folks. Mine was, "You'll laugh, you'll hum, you'll believe a jet can fly..."

CV: And I liked, "You'll laugh, you'll hum, it'll take your breath away."

DM: So maybe they can e-mail us and tell us who was right. It's the Internet, so you know it'll be scientific.

CV: Send those e-mails now.

DM: And come see Top Gun! The Musical. It's funny.

CV: Yes. Yes it is.

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This page last updated: 18-Nov-2005 09:39 pm