The B-52s Deserve a Jukebox Musical

A great idea waiting for a producer.

The members of the new wave band the B-52s (from left: Fred Schneider (vocals), Kate Pierson (vocals...
Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
planet claire

The B-52s, who formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976, are known as “the world’s greatest party band.” While accurate, this distinction clouds the reality that they are one of the world’s greatest bands, period. Beyond the well-known genius of “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster” is a full catalog of infectiously funky looney tunes and extraterrestrial harmonies; songs that make you feel like you’re on very good drugs or have at least exercised. Their sound is singular and defiant, and their sphere of influence, John Lennon and Nirvana included, is as wide as their pants are hot.

For whatever reason, though — maybe the fact that they radiate campy fun rather than annoying seriousness, like Bob Dylan or whatever — the B-52s have never quite gotten the recognition they deserve. They haven’t even been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It makes me extremely angry but I’m trying to keep my tone neutral so neither of us feels uncomfortable. And luckily I have an idea that could rectify this error, at least somewhat. That idea is: a B-52s jukebox musical.

“Finally, Broadway is fun again!” would be a review. “A campy sci-fi musical with heart,” is what the Times would say. The musical, in the vein of Mamma Mia! or Movin’ Out, could be called Planet Claire. The main character would be an alien called Claire, and it would include such themes as: belonging and not belonging, finding community, and creating one’s own family. The logline could be some bullshit like this:

When an alien crash-lands in Athens, Georgia, she’s forced to make sense of a world she has never encountered before: rock lobsters, parties, oceans, friendship. After struggling to fit in, she finds her place among a group of people who are seemingly just like her. But is a shared love of funky grooves enough to make a roaming extraterrestrial finally feel at home, or do all beings need something more?

It really doesn’t matter too much what the plot is, honestly; the plot of Jagged Little Pill is just every modern societal issue strung together with unrelated Alanis Morissette songs. And that won two Tony Awards. And that was after being embroiled in scandal! The more important thing is the songs, and doing big dance numbers to them, and luckily, for potential producers, I am willing to share my ideas.

“Channel Z” is when Claire is traveling and encounters some issues with her spacecraft. “Planet Claire” is one character explaining to another who Claire is and where she came from. “52 Girls” obviously has to be in it; maybe when the girls are introducing themselves to Claire. “Dance This Mess Around” is when they teach Claire to “do all 16 dances.” While not technically a B-52s song, Fred Schneider’s “Monster” can be used when the gang teaches Claire about #MeToo. “Wig” is for a scene where everyone has wigs. “Good Stuff” has to be in it … maybe when the group is introducing Claire to their scene, or where they hang out, or something like that. “Deadbeat Club” could be used during a more sentimental moment.

And there has to be some conflict … maybe someone is lying about something, and they have to sing “Tell It Like It T-I-Is”? “Revolution Earth” is maybe the penultimate song, though I’m not sure what the final song should be. Obviously “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack” have to be in there, but I’ll let the experts decide how. Oh, and the cast sings “Roam” while attempting to convince Claire to break out of her shell and explore her new planet. Oh, and “Private Idaho” has to be in it!!! It would be bright, colorful, very gay, and playful; large wigs, neon outfits, funky decor. I feel like we’d need at least some of the people who worked on The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway, in terms of set decoration.

I feel happier just imagining it. Don’t you? I could cry. The only issue I can think of is that there would have to be, at the end, a moment where everyone is invited to stand up and dance, possibly even on the stage. No one will want this, but I think it will be hard not to dance for the duration, and the audience will need an outlet. Maybe we can save “Love Shack” for this moment; I think the general public would enjoy that.

God, this is a great idea. I’m exhilarated. For anyone wanting to stage this: I don’t necessarily have to be involved in the creation of the musical, but I would like to be on payroll. This is going to be huge. I love this. I cannot wait to see the B-52s musical.