Paul McCartney Writing ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Musical

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Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney has confirmed that he is working on a musical stage adaptation of the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life. Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift,” the movie was directed and produced by Frank Capra and released in 1946. The project is McCartney’s first musical theatre work.

McCartney has partnered with British theatre and film impresario Bill Kenwright, who will produce the show. Kenwright originally approached McCartney three years ago after acquiring the rights to the film. Kenwright, like McCartney, was born and raised in Liverpool, and both attended the Liverpool Institute High School (now LIPA, the performing arts academy founded by McCartney).

Watch: McCartney has had plenty of experience in the film medium, including 1984’s Give My Regards to Broad Street

In addition to writing the music for It’s a Wonderful Life, McCartney has been working on the lyrics with the Tony Award-winning English screenwriter and playwright Lee Hall, who is also responsible for the book of the musical.

Related: McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited for the last show on Paul’s 2019 U.S. tour

According to a press release, “As a child Paul inherited a love of Broadway and show tunes from his father Jim, who would perform at home on the family piano on every occasion possible, and this influence would eventually permeate into Paul’s own song-writing and diverse compositions.”

Speaking about this news McCartney said, “Like many of these things this all started with an email. Bill had asked if it was something I might be up for. Writing a musical is not something that had ever really appealed to me but Bill and I met up with Lee Hall and had a chat and I found myself thinking this could be interesting and fun.  ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is a universal story we can all relate to.”

Kenwright said, “Working with Paul on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a dream realized. To be honest I was hooked on first hearing him say ‘one/two/three/four’ on the demo of the opening number! But since then it’s been an extraordinary journey, on every song I experience Paul’s unique gift of melody and composition. It’s musical theatre, but it’s always McCartney.”

Continues the press release, “Paul, who has written some of the world’s most loved, celebrated and enduring music, has musically realized the emotional story of a man down on his luck George Bailey. Unaware of all the lives he has touched and how different his community would be had he never been born; George is close to suicide. However, he is saved by the intervention of a guardian angel—and, of course, as in all feel good, but resonant movies, George realizes the true value of his life.”

For Bill Kenwright, the release says, “The production will be a lifetime’s ambition. As a very young producer, Bill personally reached out to Frank Capra to see if he could get the rights to turn the film into a musical. Bill received a lovely handwritten letter by reply, but it contained a no! However, out of the blue, many decades later he was offered the rights when he was in the middle of another project with Paramount. It was a massive moment for the now hugely successful producer, and he dared to dream of involving his school friend on what would be Paul’s first major musical journey. They met, and amongst discussing all things Liverpool, school and rock and roll, they sort of agreed to take things further…

“It wasn’t until two years later that Paul shared his first musical ideas with Bill. Bill recalls: ‘It was a Friday night and I was in the office. I suppose you could say it hadn’t been the best of weeks. No real progress on multitudinous film and theatre projects, and Everton had lost the previous Saturday. Out of the blue I got an email from Paul asking my thoughts on his first stab at an opening song. He wasn’t sure, but wanted to know what Lee and I thought of it? I played the demo. Lee and I were unanimous. Our hero was a musical theatre writer!’”

McCartney was in the middle of releasing album Egypt Station in September 2018 as well as launching a global tour to support the album release, but in between touring and album commitments he found time to work with Lee Hall on more songs.

Having just completed the U.S. leg of his current Freshen Up world tour in front of a sell-out audience at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium last weekend, McCartney is still in the final stages of completing songs for It’s a Wonderful Life, which is set to launch in late 2020.

Watch the trailer for the 2012 re-release of It’s a Wonderful Life

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