The Art of Adaptation in Musical Theatre

May 30th, 2019

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Date(s) - 30/05/2019
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Diorama Arts Centre

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Join our industry panel for a deep dive discussion into the art and craft of adaptation in musical theatre.

MMD Board Member John Sparks will be joined by Rachel Wagstaff (Flowers for Mrs Harris, Birdsong) and Jake Brunger (Adrian Mole’s Diary, Prodigy). Historically considered an adaptive medium, the panel will explore what adaption means and what makes material ripe for adaption and what choices must be made when adapting material in order for it work in a musical theatre context.

Both Musical Theatre classics and newer works have sprung from adaption, from short stories and investigative journalism (Guys&Dolls), to plays (Oklahoma) to documentaries (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie). We’ll explore the historical and current landscape and ask ‘what’s next’ for musical theatre?


John Sparks was the founder/co-Director of the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Inc. (1979-2002) and has been the Founding Director of ANMT/NMI from 2002 to the present. He founded the Writers’ Workshop at Theatre Building Chicago in 1987 and also served TBC as Artistic Director from 1999 through 2009. John has mentored the work of over 250 musical theatre writers.







Rachel Wagstaff wrote the book for multi-award winning musical, Flowers for Mrs Harris (Best Musical, UK Theatre Awards 2016) which transferred to Chichester Festival Theatre, directed by Daniel Evans, in September 2018 after a run at the Sheffield Crucible. Her critically acclaimed adaptation of Birdsong opened in the West End, directed by Trevor Nunn, and recently completed its fourth UK tour with the Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions.
Rachel’s new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d is currently touring the UK, produced by the Wales Millennium Centre and Wiltshire Creative.
With Duncan Abel, Rachel co-adapted Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, which is touring the UK from January to November this year.
For radio, Rachel adapted Sebastian Faulks’ novel The Girl at the Lion d’Or for a five part series for Woman’s Hour on Radio Four, transmitted in 2009. Her Afternoon Play When I Lost You, also co-written with Duncan Abel, was transmitted on Radio Four in July 2013.
Moonshadow, the musical she co-wrote with Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), opened at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010, and then was produced at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne in June 2012. That Girl, was produced at the Soho Theatre in June 2012, by DryWrite. Rachel also wrote the book for the original musical Only the Brave, which opened at the Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016 with music composed by Matthew Brind.


Jake Brunger is a writer and lyricist from Nottingham, now based in London. He wrote the stage musical adaptation of Sue Townsend’s THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE for Leicester Curve, which received its London premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017 to rave reviews and will open in the West End for a 17-week run in June 2019 at the Ambassadors Theatre. The show was nominated for the 2017 Evening Standard Award for Best Musical, with the Original London Cast Recording due to be released by Sony Masterworks Broadway.
For screen, Jake’s debut feature film LOVE SARAH starring Celia Imrie, Bill Patterson and Rupert Penry-Jones will be released in cinemas in 2020. His original play FOUR PLAY ran at the Old Vic New Voices Festival starring Richard Madden and Jeremy Irvine, and was produced at Theatre 503. His other credits for theatre include PRODIGY for National Youth Music Theatre, RED RIDING HOOD for Singapore Repertory Theatre (with multiple productions globally) and the cult fan-favourite JET SET GO!
He was selected for the 2016/17 BBC TV Drama Writers’ Programme and was named as one of the upcoming writers-to-watch on the BBC’s 2017 New Talent Hotlist. He is currently developing a number of film & television projects and recently took part in the 2018/19 National Theatre Genesis Music Theatre Group.


This event is free to MMD members, and £5 for MTN members, £10 for non members.