Writers the ‘lowest man on the totem pole’ in UK musical theatre

Peter Michael Marino, creator of the 2007 musical flop Desperately Seeking Susan, has criticised British theatre directors for treating writers as “the lowest man on the totem pole”.

Marino said he was told to “stay away” from rehearsals of the show he penned, and added that writers working on Broadway would not be treated that way.

The writer and performer is currently revealing all about his experiences working on the show in a production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, called Desperately Seeking the Exit which takes its title from a review of the musical.

Speaking to The Stage, he said: “I was told from the very beginning that the writer of a musical is the lowest man on the totem pole. People… were very polite in telling me to stay away. But in the US that would never happen. You would need to fire the writer first.”

Marino added that parts of his script were rewritten without his approval and said that, where the original film is a “rainy Sunday afternoon movie”, he had wanted to create a “hot Saturday-night” show. “We got a wet thing in between,” he added.

The writer said that he hoped Desperately Seeking Susan would tour the UK in the future. But he revealed he was unlikely to write for the West End again. He said: “Not that I don’t want to, but the daggers would be out.”

Desperately Seeking Susan ran at the Novello Theatre from October 16 to December 15, 2007. It was produced by Susan Q Gallin, Ron Kastner, Mark Rubinstein and Joseph Smith for Old Vic Productions. The musical was directed by Angus Jackson.

Following its closure in London, the musical enjoyed a successful run in Tokyo.

* The full interview with Peter Michael Marino is featured in this week’s print edition of The Stage, and is also available online.

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