After leaving the Philadelphia band The Nazz, Todd Rundgren embarked on a solo career in the early 1970s. This would lead to a score of charting hits — including “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw The Light,” and “Bang On The Drum All Day” — in addition to a career as a leading producer of pop and rock music. Beyond producing Meat Loaf’s debut full-length, Bat Out of Hell, Rundgren played a big role in shaping influential albums by XTC, The Band, The New York Dolls, Cheap Trick, and Grand Funk Railroad.
Earlier this year, Rundgren released a new full-length album, White Knight, which included collaborations with Robyn, Hall & Oates’ Daryl Hall, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, The Eagles’ Joe Walsh, and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. With 40-plus years of critically-acclaimed music to pull from — much of which with anthemic choruses — one would assume that Rundgren has considered putting together a musical. And per an interview which Rundgren recently did with The Hype Magazine, that assumption is true.
“We have been trying to get a Broadway musical project going for several years now, and the hang-up isn’t the music, because there is plenty of that to draw on. It is trying to come up with a story that aligns with the kind of thing people want to mount on a Broadway stage. So it is surprisingly difficult considering that where things can possibly go, you know?”
According to Rundgren, this project is somewhat-influenced by the success of Broadway hits from the last decade.
“I’m hoping to be able to accomplish something like that in a musical way, The Book of Mormon or Hamilton brings in a new audience. People who aren’t used to going to a Broadway show and so that had made the possibilities a lot more interesting and something that we would like to try and take advantage of.”
The show won’t simply be a jukebox-style musical, however, Rundgren noted in his interview with Hype.
“The basis of it would be catalog songs, but we expect it that there is going to have to be new music written to fill out the story, whatever that happens to be. So it would be a combination of both, new and old material.”
Rundgren is currently touring in support of White Knight, including upcoming dates in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago. His live band includes Greg Hawkes of The Cars, who he had played with in The New Cars, and Utopia bandmates Prairie Prince and Kasim Sulton.
A Broadway venture would not be Rundgren’s first venture into unfamiliar territory, however. In 1981, Rundgren’s music video for “Time Heals” — the eighth video ever played on MTV — featured animation done on Amiga computers. Around the same time, a video Rundgren produced for RCA was a demo used for the company’s videodisc players. Rundgren also helped develop the Utopia Graphics System, one of the first computer paint programs, and was the co-developer of the computer screensaver system Flowfazer. Rundgren was also arguably the first prominent artist to offer a direct-to-fans subscription service, Patronet, as learned in the 1990s. So it can be assumed that a Rundgren-helmed Broadway musical would be innovative and original, at the very least.