Revised Unsinkable Molly Brown Musical Released for Licensing | Playbill

Industry News Revised Unsinkable Molly Brown Musical Released for Licensing

Music Theatre International is ready to let theatre companies tackle Dick Scanlan's updated version of the Meredith Willson musical.

Beth Malone Jennifer M. Koskinen

Music Theatre International has released Dick Scanlan's revised version of Meredith Willson's The Unsinkable Molly Brown for licensing in the U.S. This new version, which features a new book and a revised songlist interpolating some tunes from Willson's archives, premiered at Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2014, later playing Off-Broadway via Transport Group in 2020.

This new edition replaces the 1960 original Broadway version of the work in MTI's catalogue, which was previously the only edition of the show available for performance.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown tells the rags-to-riches story of Margaret “Molly” Brown—a turn-of-the-century hero of the underdog, champion of women’s rights, fighter for labor rights, advocate of immigration reform—and, most famously, survivor of the Titanic. The original version was Willson's follow-up to smash hit The Music Man, opening on Broadway in 1960 with Tammy Grimes in the title role. Molly Brown would prove to be a more modest success compared to The Music Man, running just two years and 532 performances. Debbie Reynolds led a film version in 1964. In the years since, the musical has been seldom performed.

Three-time Tony nominee Scanlan began work on this revised version of the work as early as 2009, penning a new book that focused on portraying its title character as she really was—vibrant, progressive, and modern.  Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed both the Denver premiere and the Off-Broadway run, which starred Fun Home Tony nominee Beth Malone in the title role. A cast recording of the Off-Broadway cast was released in 2022.

MTI is currently providing grants to high schools to perform the show, inviting schools in under-resourced areas to apply for the opportunity. Any accredited high school is invited to apply, with applications for the second round of the program due by April 15. Recipients of the grant will be selected by a committee comprising representatives from all three partner organizations. Interested schools can apply here.

"Dick Scanlan's work on updating this classic for new performers and audience members is outstanding," says MTI Chief Operating Officer and Director of Development and Education John Prignano in a statement. "Beloved numbers from the original, like 'I Ain't Down Yet' and 'I'll Never Say No' are featured, while 'He's My Friend' has been added from the film along with unknown gems from Meredith Willson's trunk, often with clever and inspired new lyrics. The result is a fantastic new show that resonates today while maintaining the heart and spirit of Willson's and Morris' golden-age masterpiece."

“Rediscovering and revising The Unsinkable Molly Brown for the 21st century has been a thrill," adds Scanlan. "So many of the social causes that Margaret Tobin Brown championed are issues today, and I look forward to the many ways that theatremakers all over the country will share the story of a rags-to-riches heroine who fought for the underdog and had a ball doing it. Based on a true story, at its core, Molly Brown is a romance between two strong-minded people who learn that only love can make them stronger, set in a time when independent types from around the world worked together to create and define America. I am particularly proud that the new Molly Brown gives audiences a chance to thrill to legendary composer Meredith Willson’s songs that you can’t stop humming, be they ballads that tug at the heartstrings or rousing production numbers.”

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Production Photos: The Unsinkable Molly Brown (2020)

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