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Alumni News: Class Years 1980-1989

Belmont Alum Wayne Kirkpatrick ('81) to Debut New Broadway Musical

Friday, January 9, 2015   (0 Comments)
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Article written by Angela Folds for the Tennessean. 

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Wayne Kirkpatrick, you've written hits for Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and dozens more. You've won a Grammy Award for co-writing Clapton's "Change the World," numerous Dove Awards and other accolades. You've have had your songs featured on television and in movies. You even have a Garth Brooks Dr. Pepper jingle under your belt. What are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to Broadway!"

Brentwood resident Wayne Kirkpatrick is much too humble for that to be an actual interview excerpt, but a Broadway musical is exactly what the multitalented singer/songwriter/producer has up his creative sleeve.

It all started with two brothers growing up in Baton Rouge, LA. As a shy teenager, a casual guitar lesson at a church camp prompted Kirkpatrick to borrow his little brother Karey Kirkpatrick's acoustic guitar and learn the craft. After school each day, Wayne Kirkpatrick harbored himself away with that guitar, learning chords and writing songs.

After high school, Wayne Kirkpatrick moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. Karey Kirkpatrick, three years his junior, followed a few years later and began managing his brother's bourgeoning music career. Karey Kirkpatrick's enthusiasm for his brother's music is credited with getting a three-song demo into the hands of Amy Grant's manager. His name has steadily appeared in album credits ever since.

Soon after assisting in the launch of his brother's music career, the call of the silver screen beckoned Karey Kirkpatrick. He moved to Los Angeles and began his career as a screenwriter and songwriter for Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he wrote "The Rescuers Down Under" and "James and the Giant Peach." Karey Kirkpatrick's additional film credits include "Chicken Run," "Charlotte's Web," "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Over the Hedge," which he also co-directed. He directed the Paramount Pictures feature film "Imagine That," starring Eddie Murphy, and also co-produced and performed on the film's soundtrack.

As you can imagine, family gatherings with the brothers Kirkpatrick frequently generate creative ideas and ambitions. About 15 years ago, the word "musical" entered those "what-if" conversations: "What if we wrote a musical together?"

Shadow of the Bard

The result was something rotten! No, really. Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick's original musical comedy, "Something Rotten!", will begin previews March 23 and officially open April 22, 2015, at Broadway's St. James Theater.

Set in the Shakespearean era, "Something Rotten!" is a musical comedy about the very first musical comedy. "Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rock star known as "The Bard." When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first musical! But amidst the scandalous excitement of opening night, the Bottom brothers realize that reaching the top means being true to thine own self... and all that jazz," reads the official synopsis.

Almost by accident, the Kirkpatricks managed to assemble a production team that includes Tony-winning producer Kevin McCollum ("In the Heights," "Avenue Q," "Rent") and Tony-winning director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw (Disney's "Aladdin," "The Book of Mormon").

Four years ago, the brothers mentioned their idea for a musical to McCollum, a longtime friend, who offered to take a look at it. "We didn't know how to pitch a musical, so we decided to take him up on his offer just to get advice," Wayne Kirkpatrick said.

After hearing some song ideas and the "tentpoles" of a plot structure, McCollum told the brothers they were onto something.

The Kirkpatricks knew they wanted to bring in an additional book writer to the project, so they enlisted John O'Farrell, one of London's leading comic authors and scriptwriters, whose best-selling works include "The Best a Man Can Get," "May Contain Nuts" and "The Man Who Forgot His Wife."

They traveled to New York and presented the idea to Nicholaw. He joined the project before anything concrete had been written. "It was just a few song ideas at this point," Wayne Kirkpatrick said. "So we had a top-notch producer and top-notch director helping us to learn musical theater!"

Brotherly bond

What followed was a myriad of table readings, stage readings, workshops, writes and rewrites all conducted by a team spread out from L.A. to London.

"I can emphatically say that this has been the hardest and most challenging thing I've ever done," Wayne Kirkpatrick said. "I've heard others talk about the challenges of writing a musical, but I didn't get it until I experienced it for myself. You can write a song from top to bottom in a day or two. Musical theater has so many moving parts, and it all has to translate to a live setting. Since ours is a comedy, on top of everything else, it needs to be funny!"

The brothers scrapped more songs than they kept and rewrote the "keepers" multiple times before they were satisfied.

"It was brutal," Wayne Kirkpatrick said. "There were some dark days." But through it all, the brothers remain closer than ever. "If anything, this experience has strengthened our relationship. And it has been such a great experience to do this with my brother," he said.

To celebrate the year in which the show is set, tickets for "Something Rotten!" are only $15.95 for every seat for the first three shows. Road trip anyone? Visit www.rottenbroadway.com for more information.


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