Dear Mr. Elton,
I felt I really ought to follow up on my previous letter to you in order to give some context and provide further specific action.
While I felt they were justified, my comments in the aforementioned letter did rather rip your ‘We Will Rock You’ stage show to shreds, much like a small child caught in some automated piece of factory machinery being battered again and again and again by whirling blades of destruction until there’s nothing left but some bitter, grainy paste that until recently used to be a human being.
Not that I’m the sort of person to throw idle and hurtful criticism around, definitely not like these ‘trolls’ who seem to take such pleasure in doing so. Mr. Elton, I’m not a bad person at heart. I want to show you the error of your ways and prove that it is possible for anyone to write one of these cookie-cutter musicals based on a band. In particular, that it is possible to write a cookie-cutter musical based on ANY band. This is not intended as an exercise in proving you wrong, more to illustrate that the West End is seemingly now a gravy train where any sap who strings a bollocks storyline from a series of entirely unconnected songs can earn shitloads of cash.
While I am a very enthusiastic writer of both fiction and non-fiction, my theatre background is very much limited to some drama performances at school, and so I can hardly call myself an expert. But I feel that I too can craft something that could easily rob a paying punter of £40 in a theatre (not to mention £3.50 for a bottle of water – WATER, Mr. Elton – like the Dominion Theatre did when I had to endure ‘We Will Rock You’ in July. I guess that Freddie Mercury statue outside the theatre is taking longer to repay than first thought, no?).
The band I have chosen to feature in my example of writing a West End musical based on them is the cockney duo Chas ‘n’ Dave. While they are by no means unsuccessful, and have proven they can last the distance in terms of musical appeal, they are perhaps the least likely group for a show to be based on. Which is why I want to share my plan for a show entitled ‘Mustn’t Grumble’. I am deadly serious when I say I give this idea away completely free of charge, Mr. Elton. If you take up this particular gauntlet and the show gets made, I will not accept a penny in profit or a writer’s fee (conversely, should the show absolutely tank worse than an Ian Brady Comic Relief single, I shall be equally untouchable for any losses it incurs – that’s a gamble you will have to take).
While the words and synopsis I provide have come from the inner workings of my own brain, I take no credit for them, and hand over all copyright and ownership to you, if you want it. So, without further ado, let’s get down to brass tacks.
(Unofficial subtitle: The Chas ‘n’ Dave Musical Extravaganza)
The musical takes its name from the ‘Mustn’t Grumble’ album released by Chas ‘n’ Dave, which reached a very respectable #35 in the UK album charts when it was released on the Rockney music label in 1982. It is also the name of Terry Wogan’s 2006 autobiography, but this show has nothing to do with him. Just a word on casting, you will see I have included a cast list, which for the purposes of this communiqué, includes my ‘dream cast’ if I had my own way. Obviously this will not be possible, and I leave the decisions for this with the casting director.
Billy – Jude Law
Jimmy, Billy’s Dad – Matthew Kelly
Miriam, Billy’s Mum – Jessie Wallace
Ethel, Billy’s Grandmother – Liz Smith
Peter – Dizzee Rascal
Sammy – Rhydian Roberts (you know, off ‘The X Factor’)
Dave’s Mum – Denise Van Outen
‘Big’ Brian – Brian Blessed
The Drinkers – Michelle Ryan, Ben Shepherd, Dermot O’Leary, John Lydon, Kelly Brook
Cassandra – Lily Allen
Old Matron – Barbara Windsor
Creepy Karaoke Man – Chris Langham
Snooker Hall Owner – Nick Moran
Duncan, Billy’s Brother – Jack Davenport
The Vicar – Dennis Waterman
Louise – Lacey Turner
Carmel – Maisie Williams
PROGRAMME & STORY
ACT ONE –
1. OVERTURE: STARS ON 45 MEDLEY (The Dog & Bone Dancers and Company)
Billy lives at home with his mum and dad in Kilburn. He hates living with them, and at seventeen years old, wishes he could escape his humdrum life and break free from the rules of the family home. Alone in his room, he decides to play some music to drown out his sadness, but his angry father has other ideas.
2. TURN THAT NOISE DOWN (Billy, Jimmy & Miriam)
Billy turns off his music in a huff, and decides to call his friends to see what they are up to. He calls Peter and Sam, but finds they are either occupied with their girlfriends, grounded or in a youth detention centre. Billy reminisces on his childhood.
3. WHAT A MISERABLE SATURDAY NIGHT (Billy, Peter, Sammy & Dave’s Mum)
Feeling more down than ever, Billy takes off out of his window and down the drainpipe outside, where he escapes to The Crown public house, and meets Big Brian, the landlord. He convinces Billy there’s more to life than hanging around with his mates and chatting up girls – there’s the pleasures that only beer can provide!
4. BEER BELLY (Billy, Big Brian, The Dog & Bone Dancers, The Drinkers)
Now drunk and in high spirits, Billy walks back home from the pub. He passes a back alley massage parlour on the way, and invigorated by drink, he knocks on the door and asks if he can get casual sex.
5. MASSAGE PARLOUR (Billy, Cassandra & Old Matron)
After his dalliance at the massage parlour, Billy continues his journey home. As he walks, he sings of his new-found love for Cassandra, the massage parlour tart he has just met, and how he hopes to see her again.
6. I WONDER IN WHOSE ARMS (Billy)
The next evening, Billy is still love-struck over Cassandra, and calls his mates to tell them of his evening. They agree to meet down the pub, where after much drinking, Billy sings a karaoke song. To his surprise, he sees Cassandra from the massage parlour, and she joins him to sing a song.
7. GIVE IT GAVOTTE (Billy, Peter, Sammy, Cassandra & Creepy Karaoke Man)
After their karaoke song, Billy takes a walk outside with Cassandra. They make love behind a Chinese takeaway.
8. LONDON GIRLS (Billy & Cassandra)
Sammy and Peter take the piss out of Billy for ‘going soft’ after meeting his ‘hooker bird’, but Billy is having none of it and tells them that he feels more alive than ever having met her. They argue over Cassandra’s job and reputation and Billy storms off after punching Sammy.
9. MUSTN’T GRUMBLE (Billy, Sammy & Peter)
Billy invites Cassandra to his house for dinner and to meet his parents. Billy’s dad is annoyed and upset and is not friendly in the slightest. After Cassandra runs upstairs to the bathroom due to being upset, Billy follows her and they make love again. They are interrupted by his grandmother, and Billy asks Cassandra to run away with him to Margate. Under cover of moonlight, they make their escape.
10. GERTCHA! (Billy, Cassandra, Miriam, Jimmy, Billy’s Grandmother)
END OF ACT ONE
ACT TWO –
11. ENTR’ACTE: I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS PLACE (The Dog & Bone Dancers)
Irritated by his parents and friends’ attitudes towards him and his girlfriend, Billy and Cassandra arrive in Margate. While there, they have contrasting feelings about the seaside resort – Billy likes the sunshine and crap gift shops, but Cassandra, being a city girl, is not sure.
12. MARGATE (Billy, Cassandra, The Dog & Bone Dancers)
Remembering Cassandra likes snooker, Billy takes her to a snooker hall they find. They play and any frostiness between them soon melts after a frame or two. Unfortunately, an altercation takes place between Billy and the snooker hall owner when he pervs over Cassandra’s breasts.
13. SNOOKER LOOPY (Billy, Cassandra & Snooker Hall Owner)
Outside the snooker hall, Billy and Cassandra argue over Billy’s jealousy and the fact he felt the snooker hall owner was cracking onto her. Cassandra runs off tearfully, leaving Billy on his own.
14. AIN’T NO PLEASING YOU (Billy & Cassandra)
Full of despair once more, Billy wanders the streets of Margate at night, in the rain, looking for Cassandra. It is a very different place than the sun-soaked tourist trap of when they arrived. He ponders how he will win Cassandra back when he finds her, and heal the rift between them.
15. WISH I COULD WRITE A LOVE SONG/I WONDER IN WHOSE ARMS (REPRISE) (Billy)
After failing to find Cassandra, Billy takes a train back to Kilburn. Waking up one day, he is determined to get over her and start anew. Billy apologises to his parents and friends, and starts to feel more positive.
16. STOP DREAMING (Billy, Sammy, Peter, Jimmy & Miriam)
During a night out with his friends, Billy seems to be enjoying the craic, but finds himself reminiscing over the time he first made love with Cassandra.
17. THAT OLD PIANO (Billy, Sammy, Peter, The Drinkers & The Dog & Bone Dancers)
Giving into temptation, Billy calls Cassandra and says he wants her back and that they are meant to be together. Cassandra, despite her reluctance, accepts and gives Billy new cause to celebrate.
18. FLYING (Billy & Cassandra)
It is Jimmy’s 50th birthday party, and no better time for Billy to try and get Cassandra back in their good books. Inviting her over for the party, things seem to go well, until Billy’s wayward jail-bird brother Duncan, makes an appearance…
19. THE SIDEBOARD SONG (Billy, Cassandra, Miriam, Jimmy & Duncan)
A fight ensues at the party between Billy and Duncan – Billy never forgave Duncan for a crime he committed that meant he was sentenced to ten years in prison – in addition to comments Duncan makes about Cassandra. The family, unaware of the fight in the kitchen, have a right old Cockney knees up in the lounge as Jimmy plays the piano.
20. WALLOP! (Billy, Duncan & Cassandra)
Hurt from his fight with Duncan, and after seeing his treacherous brother do a runner, Billy is back in Jimmy’s good books. Vowing to protect Cassandra, he proposes to her there and then.
21. LONDON GIRLS (REPRISE) (Billy & Cassandra)
The happy couple are wed in a lavish ceremony in a registry office, with all the family (bar Duncan) in attendance. At the reception, the good times roll.
22. IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH/I COULD BE SO GOOD FOR YOU (Billy, Cassandra, Jimmy, Miriam, The Drinkers & The Vicar)
Six months later. Cassandra is doing the ironing and preparing a simple meal in her and Billy’s bedsit. The TV is broken, and Billy is feeling the pinch after being made redundant from his job. He pines for his friends and the life he used to have. Cassandra, although she hates to admit it, believes married life is not all she thought it would be.
23. THIS PRISON CALLED A HOME/BORED STIFF (Billy & Cassandra)
Things come to a head during an evening out, when Billy’s friends and Cassandra’s friends cannot get on with each other. A huge row erupts, during which Billy snaps and confesses Cassandra’s constant nagging is too much and he wants a divorce.
24. RABBIT (Billy, Cassandra, Peter, Sammy, Louise, Carmel, Big Brian & The Drinkers)
The aftermath of the row. Billy receives his divorce papers in the post, and after a long heart-to-heart with his friends, Billy realizes that Cassandra wasn’t the girl for him. He vows to return to his carefree bachelor days before he met Cassandra. In another pub across town, Cassandra is having a similar heart-to-heart and piss-up with her friends.
25. FINALE MEDLEY: DON’T DILLY DALLY ON THE WAY/MY OLD MAN/KNEES UP MOTHER BROWN (REPRISE)/WHAT A ROTTEN SONG
So there you go, Mr. Elton, that’s my pitch. You might think it’s a load of old cobblers, which is fine – everyone should have an opinion. In fact, it’s my hope that you DO find it a load of old cobblers, because that’s what ‘We Will Rock You’ turned out to be. Would it be a success in London? I guess we’ll find out if you choose to adapt it for the stage, won’t we?
A hopeful lover of West End musical theatre