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Empire Records to be adapted into a stage musical

By | Published on Monday 9 April 2018

Empire Records

If the ‘High Fidelity’ TV series turns out not to be up to much, there’s still hope for your record store-based movie nostalgia. How does an ‘Empire Records’ stage musical sound?

The cult film’s original screenwriter Carol Heikkinen will adapt the story for the stage, alongside composer Zoe Sarnak. Currently they’re aiming to premiere the show on Broadway in New York in 2020.

The 1995 movie followed a group of teenagers working in a large record store (based on Heikkinen’s own experiences of working at Tower Records), as they prepare for an in-store appearance by waning pop star Rex Manning. Meanwhile, they learn that the independent shop is on the verge of being taken over by a big national chain. For anyone under the age of 25, yes, this is genuinely a thing that could have happened in the 90s.

Although the world of music a record shops is now very different, Heikkinen reckons there’s still plenty for today’s teenagers to enjoy in the story. Speaking to Rolling Stone, she says: “I think the way that teenagers feel about music hasn’t changed – they define themselves by it”.

She continues: “The film has developed a cult audience over the years, and addresses issues that people of all ages can identify with. It also evokes an interesting period in time, the 90s, where the music business was changing – and a lot of people remember that as part of their youth. I knew we had something when I would tell people about the show and consistently see faces light up – everyone has a story, whether it’s that they saw the movie ten times, stole the video cassette from an older sibling or the soundtrack was the first CD they ever purchased”.

Sarnak adds that the film’s original soundtrack will also heavily influence the new songs in the musical, saying: “[The 90s] was a really special time when [alt-rock] intersected with punk, grunge and even pop. These styles can inform a score that is melodic while still feeling organic, visceral and explosive. Needless to say, this won’t be a ‘traditional’ Broadway score”.

A rising star as a stage composer, Sarnak was recently awarded the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant for her latest show, ‘Afterwords’.