Music publisher Primary Wave Music has partnered with the Michael Barra-led production company Lively McCabe Entertainment to produce and license new stage musicals featuring the work of Primary Wave's catalog of music, which includes songs by such artists as Prince, Bob Marley, Stevie Nicks, Whitney Houston, Def Leopard, Olivia Newton-John, and Boyz II Men, among others.
The partnership is being made official with several projects already in active development, notably a stage adaptation of the 1988 film Mystic Pizza that has already been produced by Ogunquit Playhouse and Engeman Theater. With a book by Sandy Rustin, the musical initially featured original songs penned by Primary Wave client Melissa Etheridge along with pop hits made famous by John Mellencamp, Debbie Gibson, and Phil Collins. The most recent iteration, which played Engeman Theater earlier this year, was fully a jukebox musical with a score comprising songs from Etheridge, Prince, Carnie Wilson, Chynna Phillips, and more.
Also on the slate: What a Wonderful World, which sets a Santa Claus origin story to the holiday music of Regent & Jewel, Luther Vandross, and Gerry Goffin, with a book by Jeremy Desmon; an untitled project from writer Michael Kimmel featuring music by Devo, Culture Club, and Naked Eyes; and an original '80s musical rom-com from Rustin.
Initial titles from the collaboration are expected to release in late 2023, with a fuller slate of projects releasing by the end of 2025.
The partnership will see Lively McCabe both developing the stage works as commercial productions and then managing the licensing of them to regional, amateur, and school theatre programs worldwide. The production company's past projects include a stage adaptation of the 1985 film Clue, which has since become one of the industry's most-produced plays; Joe Iconis' Punk Rock Girl, a jukebox musical that premiered at The Argyle Theatre earlier this year and is now available for licensing from Concord Theatricals; and May We All, a country jukebox musical that played a commercial run at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center this summer and is now available for licensing from Music Theatre International.
"From our first conversation with Michael, it was clear that he and his team have a clear, authentic, and commercially proven approach to integrating classic hits into contemporary stage musical IP," says Primary Wave Chief Content Officer Natalia Nastaskin. "This partnership with Lively McCabe is a natural for us because it taps into our central aim of creatively promoting and highlighting our catalog to new, younger audiences while also entertaining core fans and staying true to the legacies of our songwriters."
The move is the latest in a string of music publishing firms more aggressively moving into putting their song catalogs on stage, most notably Concord, which acquired theatrical licensing houses Samuel French, Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatricals, Tams Witmark, and The Musical Company (representing primarily the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber) in 2018. The conglomerations look to expedite stage projects and maximize profits by having as many stakeholders as possible united under one parent company.
Handling the partnership from Primary Wave will be Nastaskin and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Villa.