Nashville the musical: Oh, do we have ideas
For a show that was canceled twice, Nashville sure has a lot of staying power. Nashies everywhere rejoiced upon hearing the news that Lionsgate — the studio that produced the ABC/CMT country music soap — would be adapting the show for the stage. Details about plot, casting, and songs are currently vague, but Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Scott Delman (American Idiot, Book of Mormon; Hello, Dolly!, Mean Girls) promised in a statement that the musical will deliver “an original story with entirely original music, written by major Nashville and Broadway songwriters.”
Over its six-season run, Nashville evolved from a grounded music drama to a batty soap opera — and ideally, the musical should be a blend of both. To that end, we’ve put together some proposed A- and B-story lines for Delman and Lionsgate to consider. One note: In our dream scenario, all of the actors from the TV series would reprise their roles for the stage production, but if you have additional or alternate casting ideas, please suggest them in the comments.
Possible A stories
*Country music superstar Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) is in a coma after a car accident. While under, she remembers all the highlights of her life, from her rocky romance with Deacon (Charles Esten), to becoming a huge country music star, to her upcoming induction at the Grand Ole Opry. Guiding Rayna through her this-is-your-life journey is Grand Ole Opry legend Dolly Parton.
*Rayna James and “bad girl of country” Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) are forced to make a record of duets by their label — Rayna needs to appeal to a younger audience, and Juliette is in massive debt to the label due to her lavish lifestyle and less-than-prolific songwriting. Over the course of recording the album, Rayna and Juliette look back on how they fell in love with country music and how it shaped the big moments of their lives.
*The whole musical takes place over one night, backstage at the Opry, as a wide array of country musicians — including the superstar (Rayna Jaymes); the pop-country princess (Juliette Barnes); the up-and-coming band making their Opry debut (Sam Palladio’s Gunnar, Jonathan Jackson’s Avery, and Chris Carmack’s Will); and more — prep for a televised concert while bonding, bickering, and falling in love.
*Struggling with writer’s block, aspiring musician Daphne Conrad (country superstar Rayna Jaymes’ younger and better daughter, played by Maisie Stella) goes through her mom’s old recordings with Deacon for inspiration. We watch as Rayna and Deacon’s love story comes alive through their music, and Daph learns a lot more about her parents’ past than she expected.
*Having retired from the music industry, former country-pop diva Juliette Barnes now hosts a cooking show from her farmhouse (where she also grows her own produce, natch). When her preadolescent daughter Cadence asks her mom about her previous career, Jules begins reminiscing about her glory days as a country star and the artist who truly inspired her: Country superstar Rayna Jaymes. Flashbacks ensue.
Possible B stories:
*Frustrated with her lack of career momentum, Layla Grant (Aubrey Peeples) — the fifth runner-up of a reality TV singing competition called Country Star — applies for a job as a waitress at the Bluebird Café, where she realizes that making music is more important to her than fame. At the same time, her ex-boyfriend Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson), a former tyrannical record company exec, returns to Nashville determined to change his ways and help artists make music they believe in. His very punchable face is now unrecognizable, due to the fact that he fell off a building and has been presumed dead for years. He strolls into the Bluebird and hears Layla perform, and he’s able to offer her the dream deal before she realizes he’s the man she once loved.
*Timid singer-songwriter Scarlett (Clare Bowen) — who in our version will not be the most annoying character alive — falls for sensitive, well-coiffed singer-songwriter Gunnar while they work together at the Bluebird Café.
*Gunnar, Avery and Will are discovered by an L.A. music exec who wants to see them transition into pop music. With the promise of a huge record deal, the guys reluctantly enroll in a grueling Boy Band Boot Camp (think choreography, lip-sync, and social media classes). The training takes its toll and the boys eventually realize that their roots will always lie in country music. They head back to the ‘ville and resume recording as The Lost Highways.
If you’ve read this far, your love for Nashville is true — so please, let us know your thoughts and pass along any other story ideas you have for this TV-to-stage adaptation. See you on the Great White Way, y’all! (Additional inspiration from Kerensa Cadenas)