Remember that post about asking Frank Wildhorn Questions? He responded!
A few weeks/months ago I popped up on these forums asking if anyone had questions for Frank Wildhorn, on the off chance he would answer some questions! Aaaaand he totally did! (And maybe Wao Yoka was standing behind his shoulder lol?) They are compact but I think they really capture his cheerful attitude, and it sounds like he has a great relationship with Takarazuka. I sent a PDF of questions and he answered all of them, which I thought was quite nice. I structured them as sort of three chunks of his timeline with the Revue, thus the format below. (If you're concerned about the validity I can send you a screenshot with my personal info blacked out lol.)
Direct copy-paste from my e-mail:
Never Say Goodbye
What was your first reaction when you were contacted by the Takarazuka Revue to compose for them? Did you know about the Revue beforehand?
I had no idea what Takarazuka was, and the whole experience was a culture shock in the most wonderful way. There was the adventure of working with Japanese collaborators, actors, and musicians, and then there was the more important adventure of meeting my wife at the first day of rehearsal.
As you are the first American to compose for the Revue, what elements of your work do you think they were drawn to?
I would like to think it’s a universal thing, and the answer is: melody. Plus, I think they felt my passion in the music, and, for them, it was something so new and a real challenge to sing well, which I think they appreciated.
With the Revue’s motto of “purely, properly, beautifully”, yet working with complex political and romantic themes, did you find yourself constricted or having to adjust to Revue/Japanese audiences?
That’s a very cool question! As far as the material goes, as far as it’s not too sexy or too edgy, everything else is cool. Where I am restricted is in the way Takarazuka works, which is like a pyramid, with the top star at the top and then it works its way down to secondary stars, etc., and when you write for them, all these things must be considered.
What was it like to go back to a work to add songs in another language? Did the Revue provide a general theme or did you work with Aran Kei and Star Troupe to see what would work best?
Pimpernel was actually a fun thing! I love revisiting my own work. I hate cookie-cutter versions of my own shows. I always love when there is a chance to write something new, especially if it’s for a new star of the show who wants a song for themselves. I always embrace that and have as much fun with that as I can.
Most likely an impossible question, but do you have a preferred version?
That IS an impossible question!! There are things you like about different productions. I adore the current Umeda production in Japan, but of course I have a special place for Douglas Sills and the original Broadway group.
11 years later, has your relationship with the Revue changed? What has been the biggest takeaway in your work?
Robespierre has been a joy so far! My relationship with Takarazuka has grown richer and deeper over the years. Mr. Ogawa, the CEO, is a dear friend of mine, and, as my wife Yoka Wao is an ambassador for Takarazuka in America , it’s a wonderful relationship. The two girls who are the stars in Robespierre have beautiful voices, and it’s been a joy to write for them.
Never Say Goodbye was a taidan, but Robespierre is a debut - how are expectations different? Did the Revue approach you again saying, “We want a French-themed musical” or “Here’s Snow Troupe, make something amazing?” or something else?
Takarazuka approached me with a basic story and introduced me to the artists I would be writing for. That began a process of me creating a new version with them, including writing a whole new score, and off we go!
Beyond formal statements such as doing their best or bringing a new spirit to Snow Troupe, what are Nozomi Fuuto and Maaya Kiho’s goals and expectations with this work?
This show is the actual debut performance for both stars, so it is so important for the rest of their careers. They have wonderful voices, but the process has just begun, and I am optimistically hoping they will bring great charisma and passion to the show.
What was it like the first time you composed music that would not have English lyrics? Did you have to adjust melodies or registers to make it work, especially given the unique ranges of otokoyaku and musumeyaku?
I always go by the same philosophy: Music, like love, knows no borders. And, if the music is performed with the same heart and soul it’s written with, good things will happen. I actually have the easy job. It’s the English lyricists who have to work with translators to make it all sing.
Were/are you involved in the day-to-day rehearsal process for Revue shows? Given the short rehearsal schedule and set opening date, is there room for iteration or is once it is deemed “done” it’s done?
They are in rehearsal now, and I’m in NYC on other projects, so I’ll let you know after I see it. If it is successful and takes on a life, I am sure we will look at it with a fresh eye and continue to make it better.
What is your favorite part about working with the Revue?
Just the fact that Takarazuka is always its own strangely wonderful world and I love new adventures!
What Broadway show do you think the Revue should do next? Or perhaps what would you like to write next? (Maybe the revue half with greatest hits?)
I would hope it would be a Wildhorn show, and I’ll let you know when we know what it is!