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
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
DM: I think. In our show it's referenced as
Apocalypse Wow!, the musical that our
director, Billy Palmer, did before adapting Top
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...
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.
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
CV: Hell yes. I owe Scott my first born, I
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
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
CV: Send those e-mails now.
DM: And come see Top Gun! The Musical.
CV: Yes. Yes it is.
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