Jake Shears: Interview

Was there any fear in the sense that you’re not only taking on your first musical, but also such an important piece of literature?

I’ve never been scared of living up to the books. That’s never really crossed my mind. And maybe that’s just because I became friends with Armistead and he’s such a warm, comforting, wonderful person who’s very open and supportive of this project. So maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve had a lot of confidence with it. When you’ve got the writer on your side, cheering you on, it means a lot.

As far as fear coming into play, I mean, sure, I’ve had panic attacks over the years (laughs). You know, when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, and suddenly your stomach drops out and you wonder, ‘Oh my God, is this going to be a giant piece of shit?!’

But, it’s always reassuring coming in on these rehearsals and suddenly, you see this incredible cast and hear them sing your songs and watch them make you laugh and cry. It’s truly thrilling. Maybe I’ve got too much confidence? I don’t know.

I get so excited when I watch this show. It makes me really, really happy. And that’s all you can do, really, is make something and do your best. I love it, and hopefully other people will, as well.

And for Scissor Sisters fans going to the show, does it sound like Scissor Sisters, or are there a lot of different styles?

There’s a lot of different styles. People are going to be very surprised. I watch and listen to what we’ve done and especially now with the orchestrations and it’s just crazy. I never thought I could do anything this complex. It’s a very complex piece, with a lot of characters and a lot of very… you know, there’s no wasted space.

The difference between writing Scissors stuff and for this show is that it’s not a jukebox musical. People don’t just suddenly break out into a broad pop song. Every song moves the story and reveals things about the characters that are singing them.

So, to do that, every word is very valuable real estate, so over the last five years, it’s just been constantly clarifying clarifying clarifying what these people are saying, and who they are. So, in that way it’s incredibly detailed.

And in a pop song, in a Scissors song, if I get stuck, I can write some nonsense line or put in a 'woo-woo' and get away with it, because it’s pop music. And there are definitely pop elements to the show, but I think people will be surprised at how rich the material is, and the stylings are different. You’ll hear echoes of Scissor Sisters stuff, absolutely. But it’s much more intricate.

So the songs, in some cases, have to advance the narrative?

In all cases. There’s one song in each act that I would say is just there to make you laugh and have a good time. And all the songs bring up emotions. I’m not saying those qualities are exclusive to those
songs, but everything has to move the storyline, because Tales of the City is a big, big fucking story.

Oh, it’s huge.

And you can’t waste time singing a song that doesn’t really move it along. You’ve got to be in a different place when you finish a song than where you started from or else there’s no reason for that song to be there, so in that way, every song counts in a big way in this show, and does actually tell the story. And there’s a lot of music. I think, with reprises, there’s 28 pieces in the show.