Okay, with the success of "Spring Awakening" everyone will be trying to find the hip new rock musical.
But excuse me - rock music has been in the theater for a while now - I think this is the 3rd 'discovery' of the rock musical. (The previous 'discovery', "Rent", is still running.)
Don't get me wrong - I really enjoyed "Spring Awakening" - it really works, is entertaining and has something to say. And I like rock music - grew up on it, led my kids to it and listen to it more than classical. ( I never listen to theatre music.)
But looking for the next rock musical is to mistake what works about "Spring Awakening" and what is the linchpin of almost all musicals.
"Spring Awakening" had a wonderful dichotomy between it's slightly stuffy Germanic book and the modern (angry or passionate) lyrics. Just as the tension built up from a scene where it just seemed to be too old fashioned, the characters broke out in the vernacular of rock lyrics. It made one almost giddy with the contrast. That's the frisson that made it all work. The music (not to denigrate it in any way) was simply the style appropriate to the lyric outbursts. If the book had also been modernized into the vernacular it probably wouldn't have worked.
Now, would those lyrics (and score) have worked for a modern adaptation of Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice"? Probably not - the style of youthful outburst isn't appropriate to Mann's story. Which leads to my question ....
Is there a limit to the scope of rock lyrics in a theatrical setting? Can we distinguish them from 'theater' lyrics in the musical theatre mode? And if we distinguish them as being more direct, simpler expressions of inner angst (more 'geschrei' than turmoil) -- do we then see that they have less range of expression?
If there is a limit to the scope of rock lyrics -- should every producer be grabbing up properties and throwing rock scores at them because "Spring Awakening" won some (deserved) Tony awards? They certainly want (and need) to get a younger audience into the theatre.
But more importantly they need to invest in young writers and develop them as writers - not as song suppliers for Hollywood-spin-offs that have marketable product identity. But the long term development of writers and how producers pick properties are both off my topic ...
All of which is NOT to say that rock as a musical language is not flexible enough to have a wide range and applicability to different projects. A rock score might just work for "Death in Venice". But the lyrics would have to be quite dense and thoughtful to capture Aschenbach's turmoil and obsession. And the music would have to expand beyond guitar rock to something darker and more mystical ... Pink Floyd, maybe?
Just a thought on styles and words ....