The Great White Way will never be the same: In an exclusive interview, Wayne Coyne, lead singer of the Flaming Lips, told EW.com that the psych-rock band will team up with acclaimed TV writer and show creator Aaron Sorkin to turn the group’s 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots into a Broadway musical.
Sorkin’s reps confirmed on Tuesday (March 20) that the West Wing creator has officially signed on to write the musical’s script. ”Maybe that means they’ll need to build a stage with lots of hallways on it,” joked Coyne of Sorkin’s fondness for walking-and-talking characters. ”It will be a giant tube that’s always moving!”
Sorkin is just one of many marquee collaborators attached to the project: Tony Award-winning director/producer Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy) will be overseeing the show. In fact, the unexpected collaboration grew out of McAnuff’s fondness for the Lips’ acclaimed Yoshimi album. ”When Des heard the record, he heard a lot about death and loss and the triumph of your own optimism… he had an emotional attachment to it,” Coyne says. The San Diego-based theater producer pursued the idea and convinced the band that the album would make a compelling musical — other songs from the Lips’ catalog will likely be included as well — despite the abstract, trippy nature of the source material. ”I tell people all the time, it’s not really a story. It’s more like a mood,” Coyne says. ”There’s a Japanese girl; she fights some robots; that’s five minutes. After that I don’t know.”
Sorkin was brought in by McAnuff, who recently directed Sorkin’s play The Farnsworth Invention at the La Jolla Playhouse. According to Coyne, the TV scribe listened to Yoshimi while driving from San Diego to Los Angeles; the next day he signed on to write the ”book” of the musical. ”I didn’t know if that was a big deal or not,” Coyne explains. ”But then Des [McAnuff] called me and said, ‘Believe me, that’s a big deal!”’
The musical’s debut is likely years off, and details of the plot aren’t specific yet.
Coyne compares the proposed concept to Terry Gilliam’s dystopian sci-fi movie Brazil. ”There’s the real world and then there’s this fantastical world,” explains Coyne. ”This girl, the Yoshimi character, is dying of something. And these two guys are battling to come visit her in the hospital. And as one of the boyfriends envisions trying to save the girl, he enters this other dimension where Yoshimi is this Japanese warrior and the pink robots are an incarnation of her disease. It’s almost like the disease has to win in order for her soul to survive. Or something like that.” Sounds bizarre, but so does a musical about a ”deaf, dumb, and blind” pinball virtuoso. That one turned out okay.