Ready to spend some time hanging down at the record store?
Cult classic ’90s movie Empire Records is the latest film to have a musical version in the works, with the movie’s original writer, Carol Heikkinen, adapting her script for the stage, it was announced Friday. The 1995 coming-of-age fan favorite starred Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, and Johnny Whitworth as a group of employees at Empire Records who rally to save their independent record store from being bought out by a retail conglomerate.
“The film has developed a cult audience over the years, and addresses issues that people of all ages can identify with,” the musical’s producer Bill Weiner told Rolling Stone, which first reported the news. “It also evokes an interesting period in time, the ’90s, where the music business was changing – and a lot of people remember that as part of their youth. 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.”
Unsurprisingly since it’s set in a record store, the movie’s soundtrack was a prominent part of the feature, boasting tracks from the Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, and Better Than Ezra. For the musical version of the flick, composer and playwright Zoe Sarnak (Afterwords) has been brought on board.
“The movie was really about a family that formed among these minimum-wage record clerks,” Heikkinen said in a statement. “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. 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. Zoe’s the perfect partner for this; the movie was part of her adolescence and she not only gets the music, but the themes of friendship and family.”
“I first saw Empire Records when my older sister brought it home on VHS – I remember sneaking into the TV room while she was watching it with her friends,” added Sarnak. “Over the years, I watched it again and again because that cast – those characters – were my idea of the coolest misfits. Teenagers who loved music as much as I did, and still do. The film’s music so iconically captured the sound of that decade – a sound that has indelibly shaped my own aesthetic.”
Sarnak also told Rolling Stone that the hit song by the movie’s fictional pop star, Rex Manning, “Say No More, Mon Amour,” might make it to the stage too. “It captures Rex’s washed-up pop vibe so well, and I think fans will dig hearing a little snippet,” she said. “But I think we’ll find a cool way to weave it in in an unexpected form. I’d love to create a nod to the original with an unexpected twist.”
The project is aiming for Broadway with a targeted 2020 premiere, in celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary. A director and additional creative team members will be announced at a later date, Friday’s announcement said.