Paul McCartney working on musical adaptation of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

Paul McCartney, The Beatles

Paul McCartney performs at Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park on Aug. 9, 2013. Photo: Roman Gokhman.

U2 did it, then Green Day, Springsteen and others. Today Paul McCartney announced that he’s working on a  musical stage adaptation of Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

McCartney partnered with British theater and film producer Bill Kenwright, who first approached the Beatle three years ago after acquiring the rights to the film. The two were both born and raised in Liverpool, and attended the Liverpool Institute High School. In addition to writing the music for the production, McCartney has been working on the lyrics with Tony-Award-winning screenwriter play-writer Lee Hall, who is also responsible for the book of the musical.

“Writing a musical is not something that had ever really appealed to me but Bill and I met up with Lee Hall and had a chat and I found myself thinking this could be interesting and fun,” McCartney said in a news release. “‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is a universal story we can all relate to.”

McCartney grew up listening to show tunes and his father, Jim, would play them at home on the family’s piano. That permeated into his music going forward.

Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” was directed and produced by Frank Capra and released in 1946. As a young producer, Kenwright personally reached out to Capra to ask for the stage rights to the film, but his request was declined. Many decades later he was offered the rights. McCartney became involved in the project in 2018, while working on album Egypt Station.

“The songs [McCartney wrote] take you somewhere you don’t expect to go,” Kenwright said. “They sound simple–but it’s deceptive. That’s Paul’s genius. I don’t have to tell any lover of music how extraordinary he is–but he constantly takes my breath away.”

McCartney is in the final stages of completing songs for the production and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is set to open in late 2020.

— Roman Gokhman