Interview: Bradley Bredeweg Discusses ‘The Romeo & Juliet Project’, Combining Shakespeare with the Iconic Music of Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
“The Romeo & Juliet Project,” a new musical featuring the music of Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, with the book by Bradley Bredeweg, will present a free concert-staged reading in Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor, NY on August 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. as part of Bay Street Theater and Guild Hall’s “Under the Stars.”
Produced by Jamie Cesa and Bel Chiasso Entertainment and directed by Scott Schwartz, Bay Street Theater’s Artistic Director, “The Romeo & Juliet Project” re-imagines the story of the star-crossed lovers using the power of Benatar and Giraldo’s music to remind us what happens when we forget the impact of love, equality, and acceptance.
The show brings the audience into the modern, war-torn metropolis of Verona and weaves Benatar’s and Giraldo’s arsenal of deeply emotional rock anthems and new songs, all while exploring the question — what does it take to regain a world where peace is possible?
During their four-decade career, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have forged one of the most successful and iconic partnerships in music history. A career that spans thirty million in album sales, four Grammy awards and monster hits like “Love Is A Battlefield,” “Invincible,” “We Belong,” “Promises In The Dark,” and “Hell Is For Children.”
Writer Bradley Bredeweg (book) began his career by partnering with Madonna and her Maverick Films. Together, they developed and wrote his first passion project, Alyx. Bredeweg is also one of the creators and executive producers of the critically-acclaimed new television series, “Good Trouble,” a spin-off of the award-winning Freeform series, “The Fosters.”
I recently spoke with Bredeweg about “The Romeo & Juliet Project” and more in this exclusive new interview.
What inspired “The Romeo & Juliet Project”?
As a writer, what I tend to do is pick up the old classics and read them from time to time. I hadn’t read “Romeo & Juliet” since high school and about eight years ago I decided to read it and fell in love with it all over again. A few days later I found myself driving from L.A. to San Francisco and was listening to a Best of compilation of Pat and Neil. Because “Romeo & Juliet” was still in my head I realized that every song that came over the speakers related to the story, and if you put their songs in a certain order it perfectly tells the tale.
Years later, I was back in L.A. watching a show at The Rockwell and pitched the idea of a mash up of Shakespeare and Pat and Neil’s music. They gave us the space and a few months later we tried it out and it was massively successful. That’s when Pat and Neil heard about it and invited me to New York. Turns out, they had been developing a show about their lives and music and we struck up a friendship. That’s when we started talking about creating something that was timeless.
What was it about Pat and Neil’s music that appealed to you?
It was iconic. I grew up on all forms of eighties pop, but there was something special about their partnership and her incredible voice. It pierced my heart in a way that most pop music didn’t do. It was so passionate and epic.
How did you merge Pat & Neil’s music into the classic story of “Romeo & Juliet”?
We’re updating the tale by setting it in a war torn, much more modern world. It’s a tale that blends the modern tone of the theater with the epic musical. This version was inspired by Pat & Neil’s story. Their life and relationship was the real Romeo & Juliet of their era. The industry was constantly trying to keep them apart. They always wanted Pat on one side and Neil on the other, but Pat & Neil have an incredible passion and love for each other, and they weren’t going to let anyone deny it.
What can you tell me about the upcoming reading in Sag Harbor, New York?
We’ve done a lot of closed-door, secret readings where we’ve invited friends and people from the industry, but this will be the first time we’ll be opening it up to the public. It’s a staged reading where we’ll be doing two nights for The Bay Street Theater’s “Under The Stars.” It’s going to be a celebration of Pat and Neil, their music and this new theatrical adventure.
Was having a career in entertainment something you always envisioned for yourself?
It was. I grew up on [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas and will never forget when my mom took me and my brother to a drive-in theater for the first time when I was six to see “E.T.” I looked up at that big screen under the stars and was absolutely mesmerized. I remember saying to my mom, “That’s what I want to do!” At the time I didn’t even know what “that” was, but I knew it was magic. I started putting on shows in my backyard, making movies with a camcorder and becoming a storyteller. Later, my parents introduced me to theater and I began fully immersing myself. Then, when I was in my twenties, I wrote a pilot that made its way into Madonna’s hands. That set me off on my path.
What’s the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring writer?
As a young writer I’d often ask that same question, and a lot of people would say write what you know. I did but then I realized it wasn’t the rule I wanted to follow. I’m an explorer and a people watcher who takes in the world around me. So my advice is to write what you don’t know. Participate in life but keep your eyes open. Read, do research and go see things you might not have a normal desire to see. As a writer it’s our duty to create new worlds and to keep pushing the envelope.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
In the TV world, I created a show called “The Fosters” that ran for five years on Freeform and is now available on Netflix. We’re doing a spin-off now called “Good Trouble” that’s in season two. It airs on Freeform and also on Hulu. It’s a show about twenty-somethings living in an old abandoned theater in downtown L.A. They all come from different walks of life and are constantly in each other’s business and challenging each other. They also have their own political passions they’re exploring. It’s a cool millennial show that I’m very proud of.
What excites you the most about “The Romeo & Juliet Project” and this next phase of your career?
I’ve always been a musical theater nerd and now that I’ve found myself grateful and successful I wanted to get back to the theater and my true heartbeat: combining story and music. I couldn’t be more excited about my partnership with Pat, Neil and Jamie [Cesa, producer]. We’re on a path to creating something quite special. As a kid, I was always a dreamer, and Pat and Neil’s work has been a part of it. To sit by their side now and create something with them is really a dream come true.
Bay Street Theater and Guild Hall present “Under the Stars”, a free concert staged reading of “The Romeo & Juliet Project” in Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor, NY on August 16 and 17 at 7 p.m.