The four writers of the all a cappella musical In Transit visited the Billboard on Broadway podcast to talk about their unique collaboration (all four are credited with writing book, music and lyrics — a rarity on Broadway).
For Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who co-wrote Frozen’s music with her husband, Bobby Lopez), Sara Wordsworth, James-Allen Ford and Russ Kaplan, the road to In Transit’s Broadway debut ran parallel to a changing public perception of a cappella. “We were developing the show long before a cappella was really hitting the mainstream on the Billboard charts,” via groups like Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser and the Pitch Perfect movie soundtracks, says Wordsworth. “So it’s kind of a blessing for us that it had a long gestation period, because people got more excited about a cappella.” Indeed, as Ford recalls, when the show debuted off-Broadway “they were like, ‘Let’s not say the word a cappella.’”
The show, which follows a diverse group of New Yorkers as they navigate a chaotic day in the city (the cast includes American Idol season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini) posed unique challenges for both its performers and creators. “The number one thing is to make sure everyone can hear each other,” Kaplan says. “They’re all over the place [onstage], wearing two earplug monitors so they can hear each other all the time. This has never been done on Broadway before.” The writers knew they needed a higher level of musicianship in general among the cast. “There’s a lot of score to learn,” Kaplan says. “And you can’t really audition personality, but we had to be conscious of people who had great team-player personalities.”
In their freewheeling conversation with host Rebecca Milzoff, the four co-creators also discuss their own a cappella backgrounds, the polarizing nature of a cappella as a musical genre, how they divided writing duties and how their own collaboration functions much like a comedy writers’ room. “The best joke wins,” Wordsworth says. “We all support each other’s ideas or shoot them down.”
In Transit is playing on Broadway now at the Circle in the Square Theater. Listen to the full episode, which includes the In Transit cast’s in-office performances of “Not There Yet” and “We Are Home,” below or on iTunes.