“Save the city, help us win. Save us all from the state we’re in…”
The Avengers-themed musical within Disney+‘s latest Marvel series Hawkeye may not be a full-fledged show, but at least viewers have gotten one epic number — “Save the City” — to jam out to. The fictional Rogers: The Musical number was written by Tony Award-winning Hairspray duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (also known for their songwriting on short-lived NBC dramedy Smash), and though leading hero Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) wasn’t too pleased with it, it’s an unsurprisingly catchy tune!
Is that morsel all we’ll get of the Marvel musical moment? How did it all happen? Below, Shaiman and Wittman answer our burning questions.
How did writing a piece of Rogers: The Musical line up with how you approach your other projects?
Scott Wittman: Well, the way we write a song is always the same, that doesn’t change. The Marvel Universe was so much fun to work in because it has this kind of sly sense of humor that we can all appreciate. On top of that, it was written at the height of the pandemic, so there was this sense of — for New Yorkers anyway, we were in a very dark place then — this kind of wishing that maybe the Avengers would come and take COVID away. It all kind of led into what the song became.
Marc Shaiman: Yeah, and as with any project, you know what your assignment is and what the parameters were, and Marvel certainly knew what they wanted. They were open to anything that we ended up writing, but I believe that they did say it should be the Battle of New York. We all agreed that would be a great Act One closer to the musical.
Wittman: They also wanted Ant-Man in it, so that was fun.
Shaiman: That’s their perfect kind of humor. Whenever there’s a movie or a musical or something, there’s always something that’s a little wrong, or the truth is stretched. Or someone on the creative team was like, ‘I wish Ant-Man was in this!’. So there it was…
Wittman: [“Save the City”] had to serve two masters, as well. It had to be entertaining and a good song, but also make Clint uncomfortable.
What other song angles did you play around with before landing on what we saw onscreen?
Shaiman: The truth is — this is not normal — this was our first idea. Scott said, ‘Shouldn’t it be like ‘save the city’?’ So, we wrote the song that was really at that point just New Yorkers singing to the Avengers, ‘Please come and help us.’ We only wrote the first verse and chorus and knew let’s not go any further, let’s send this in to see if they like it.
Wittman: Make sure it’s the right direction.
Shaiman: And that was also when Adam Pascal [Rent] became part of it. Normally, I’ll sing the first demo and just tell everyone, ‘Please imagine someone really singing this well.’ But this had notes in it that I knew that I couldn’t even screech — it would really ruin their impression of the song. So, I texted Adam Pascal out of the blue, got his number from a friend who had worked with him, and was like ‘Hi, it’s Marc and Scott. We wrote Hairspray and some other things. Would you want to sing the vocal on a demo for an Avengers musical?’ And he wrote back right away, ‘Yes, yes!’ He has a teenage son, so he was like, ‘I’ll be the greatest dad ever.’ Not many people can sing like him.
Ty Taylor is the other singer on the main part of the first third. And then Rory Donovan is supplying the voice of Captain America. He’s a phenomenal singer on Broadway who can just belt out that high B and hang onto it. He did it take after take. We recorded, because of COVID… the singers were in New York and the performers were in Atlanta. We couldn’t combine… [but] we all had a great time. And then we had to hang onto this secret for half a year!
You’re almost lucky — in Marvel time, that’s really not that long.
Wittman: I thought that!
Shaiman: I don’t know how they do it. I remember at a certain point, I had so put it out of my mind I almost forgot! And then that first trailer got released and the reaction to the few seconds in it was so fantastically over the top. I have to admit, I watched all those reaction videos, and it was just so much fun to see people’s expressions when it gets to that shot of everyone turning and dancing in that jazz-hand style. It’s really been hysterical and it’s been great to see the reaction.
And aside from that first episode scene, there are billboards and commercials advertising the show within the show all over the place in the background. It almost seems like they’re taunting us. Will we get to see any more of Rogers: The Musical or did you just write the one song?
Wittman: They work in mysterious ways in the Marvel Universe, so I don’t know!
Well, I sure hope so. In seeing this, a lot of folks are asking why isn’t there a Marvel musical aside from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark? Would you two ever try to do a full-fledged non-parody Marvel musical?
Shaiman: We would love to. There’s so much material, we could write a billion musicals.
Wittman: It almost should be an opera, it’s almost more like Wagner.
Shaiman: Could you imagine? It would be so much fun. Maybe it’ll end up at the Met. We’ll see what happens.
Are you two working on anything right now? What do you have coming up?
Wittman: Yeah, we have a musical of the movie Some Like It Hot, it’ll be on Broadway next Fall. A year from now.
Shaiman: And we’re gonna put Ant-Man in it!
Hawkeye, Wednesdays, Disney+