Popular ’90s movie Empire Records is currently in the works for a Broadway adaptation, with a target 2020 premiere.
Empire Records, released in 1995, was among the many classic teenage movies from the ’90s, alongside hits like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, and American Pie. The film takes place in a single day, and revolves around a group of record store employees who try to keep the store from being bought by a larger company. It starred Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane and Johnny Whitworth. Although it was not well-received commercially, the movie grew a strong following, even after its debut.
“The film has developed a cult audience over the years, and addresses issues that people of all ages can identify with,” producer Bill Weiner told Rolling Stone.“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 10 times, stole the video cassette from an older sibling or the soundtrack was the first CD they ever purchased.”
Carol Heikkinen, who wrote the original movie, will also adapt the script for the Great White Way. She explained to the New York Daily News that the movie is about a group of these minimum-wage record store clerks that become a family.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia now for those old record stores where you could go and talk to people who loved the same music you loved, and discover new bands,” Heikkinen told NY Daily. “We hope the musical will capture the memory of what it was like to be young in a time before iTunes and Spotify — music is such an important part of the youth experience, and it’s what brings these characters together.”
Heikkinen also expressed how that the “way that teenagers feel about music hasn’t changed—they define themselves by it.” This might be a reason why the play will be so successful; ’90s kids will relish in the memory of these characters and songs from the decade. Many popular artists added to the movie, including The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra and Toad the Wet Sprocket. There’s still bands from that era yet to be discovered, or waiting for a chance to be revived. Zoe Sarnack, who won the musical theater 2018 John Larson Grant, will provide both the lyrics and music for the performance and is ready to tackle the relevant bands.
“There’s so much to mine and be inspired by,” Sarnak told NY Daily. “I’m a huge fan of ’90s alt-rock, and it was a really special time when that style 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. But excitingly, so many new Broadway musicals are playing with more contemporary styles, so I think theater audiences will dig that.”
The musical isn’t due until 2020, but the film’s followers are already excited, waiting to see how this new adaption will play out.