For the first time, The Broadway Blog breaks form with our “15 Minutes with…” column, taking this opportunity to introduce you to up and coming musical theater writer/composer Aaron Michael Krueger. His new show, Super!, opens August 12 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Krueger’s 2014 musical, New Dawn, took home four awards (including Best Book, Music, and Lyrics, and Best Musical) at the Midtown International Theatre Festival.
The Broadway Blog had a chance to gain some insights about his latest project, how it’s developed, and the challenges of storytelling in the context of a Festival setting.
What inspired you to write Super!?
I’ve always found shows like Smallville interesting because it really focused on what makes a superhero a human, instead of what makes a human a superhero. It made the characters relatable.
Can you tell us a bit more about the show? What can audience members expect? (Without any spoilers!)
Without giving anything away, I’d tell people to expect a show that’s more in line with current comic book and movie trends in terms of tone. It’s not at all like the Adam West Batman series. Audiences can expect some really stellar performances given by this incredible cast and some music that is sure to get stuck in your head.
How has the show evolved since its debut at the Midtown International Theatre Festival?
The show has grown a great deal. The book is about 90 percent new material, and there are a number of new songs and themes. One of the cast members from this production was in the MITF production as well and his first comment after reading it was that the show was much darker, and much more human.
Can you share a bit more specifics about the evolution of this latest draft? Would you say the greatest changes are in plot line, character development or other aspects?
The bulk of the changes are actually in development of the specifics of the show. There is absolutely more character development, which was needed from the last draft, but a couple of new plot points in the show have driven the show into a slightly darker place. It’s one that made a lot of sense for the story we’re trying to tell.
Do you think there are common themes in your major works (New Dawn, Super!) thus far?
Absolutely. Both New Dawn and Super! are coming of age stories, very different ones, but they have that in common. New Dawn has a character who deals with coming out, and we actually had a conversation with our lead in Super! this time around about the similarities between telling someone you’re gay and telling them you have super powers.
What composer/lyricists do you admire and what is it about their work that resonates with you?
I really love Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. I think their work is brilliant, and I always fall in love with it. I think Joe Iconis writes music that is accessible and moving and always fun. And Larry O’Keefe writes such beautiful songs that integrate into stories so perfectly.
As an author, what are your thoughts about diversity in casting? Do you think it’s important to try to actively exemplify our multiculturalism on stage?
I am always a fan of seeing a diverse cast on a stage. I, myself, am mixed (black and white) and growing up, had a difficult time finding characters and role models that I could relate to, so it’s always exciting to see a show with a diverse cast. I try to write shows that can be open to any interpretation of ethnicity. I’m also adopted, so I don’t have an issue casting people of two different ethnicities as siblings because I’m of the belief that a common ethnicity isn’t what defines your family.
As part of the New York International Fringe Festival, what have been some of the challenges (and solutions) to putting up a show with limited time and resources?
I have been very grateful for the fact that FringeNYC does offer discounts on certain services or rehearsal rates. In terms of the show content, the biggest obstacle has been how to deliver the expectations of the superhero genre in a festival setting. It forced everyone to get very creative and figure out ways to design a superhero costume or make it seem like people are flying through the air without having the large budget of a blockbuster film. But I think the show absolutely delivers the spectacle, but even more so the heart of what has made the genre so popular.
Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.