Most people may not think of scientific pioneer Marie Curie in the same sentence as stage musicals, but Will Reynolds and Eric Price did. The award-winning creative team are the braintrust behind the musical Radioactive, which documents Curie’s life and her groundbreaking discovering of radium. The song “Getting Closer” was just released as a single with an accompanying music video featuring Wicked performer Hannah Corneau. To get the scoop on both projects, I sat down with Will and Eric to discuss their partnership and why Marie’s story resonated with them artistically.
“We get along, so the act of coming together is always inspiring, never stressful or powered by conflict,” Eric explained. “It’s powered by a sense of agreement on most things, and yet not agreement on everything. There is a difference in our sensibilities, a difference in our taste just enough to come together in a way that actually creates a third set of sensibilities, a third step of taste. And that’s where our work lives most abundantly. And it’s that excitement that we can’t do it alone. It only happens when we come together and combine our aesthetics.”
“The magic of collaboration [is] different than working alone—which we both have done in our own disciplines, in terms of lyrics and book and music,” Will continued. “When you hit a roadblock or the page is extremely white and you’re scratching and throwing things away, I have this partner to show up to that will take us through the obstacle. And I don’t have to provide it, he doesn’t have to provide it, it is this combined thing, this third solution. That’s what makes a lasting collaboration. I think so many artists may not stick with things because when they’re on their own, it can just be so hard and so lonely. If you can be lucky enough to find a collaborator, there’s real sticking power there. So I’m very grateful to have had this collaboration.”
The opportunity to record “Getting Closer” came out of a recording session for one of Will and Eric’s other projects, The Violet Hour, which will release its cast album this fall. But the idea came from a keynote speech that the duo gave to Women in the Enterprises of Science and Technology.
“We were asked to give a keynote and talk about the parallel lines you can draw between the collaborative nature of science and pursuing a hypothesis,” Will recalled. “Working together to make something invisible come to light and the exact same process as artists and the scientific process. We had an amazing chat with them, and there was an opportunity to show some of the work, so we used that as the venue to create this music video.
“We were in session with our Violet Hour orchestra. [Orchestrator] Charlie [Rosen] was able to create the chart for this song very quickly, and then we were able to work with the incredible Hannah Corneau to provide the vocal, who is a powerhouse as an artist. And then the video was its own project…I think people really love to see the journey and see artists on a path. Like, ‘This is the song. This is how we imagine it in the theater and this is what an audience can come to expect of our work.'”
“[There’s] the double meaning behind the title. As Marie Curie uses it in the song, in one way, she is saying that she’s getting closer to her scientific discoveryto the moment when she’s going to be able to prove the existence of radium,” he concluded. “But the other meaning embedded in the song is that the show itself, Radioactive, is getting closer to reaching its audience. This song is a mile marker along the way of that journey.”
In that sense, the song is a stepping stone for Will and Eric. It’s not only an incredible piece of art, but people’s support of the single and the video can help move the entire musical forward. How can those who love the song help the creative process continue?
“One thing that we encourage is for people who are performers who like the song, to sing the song,” Eric said. “We’ve put the sheet music on our website, so that it is available for purchase there. One of the very few ways that musical theater writers can make any money on our art is through the purchase of sheet music. But in addition to the sheet music, we also have two audio tracks available. One is a piano accompaniment, so you can learn to sing the song with piano backing. And then the other is the orchestral track that Hannah Corneau sings to in the music video. And if you want to, you can buy all three together in a bundle, learn how to sing the song, and then perform it just like Hannah Corneau.
“The more that the song actually exists out there in the world, the more momentum there’s going to be behind the show that contains that song,” he added. “So in addition to streaming it or downloading it on all of the platforms where you can buy music, the act of actually taking our art and making your own art with it is not only helpful to the show but also deeply inspiring to us. We wrote the song to be sung.”
“Musicals take forever. They take a long time,” Will conceded. “But what’s so great about the world we’re in now is that audiences can really follow an artist’s journey. With this video, we hopped on TikTok and tossed it up there, and it got so much love. There were so many people coming up and like, “What is this from? What’s going on in the show? How do I get the music? How do I learn more?” And that was super inspiring, to see that there really was an audience for this story. We had a comment from a young lady in Poland saying ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m from Poland. Marie Curie is literally my hero. And I’m just so thrilled that there’s going to be a musical of her story. I’m going to be following this until I get to sit in the front row and see it.’ We love hearing from folks who are excited about this kind of story and storytelling.”
Science and art are normally considered to be two diametrically opposed disciplines. One of them is creative and the other is more factual. But Radioactive points out that there are points of interaction between the two. The journey that Marie embarked upon is not that much different than the one that many composers, lyricists other Broadway creatives go through in trying to get their ideas onto the stage. It’s a process, and a lengthy one that takes incredible commitment.
“Marie Curie [was] a pioneer who was unlike anyone else on the planet at the time that she lived,” Eric explained. “She was a woman from Warsaw who was prevented from having an education, and that was not acceptable to her. So she went to Paris where she could go to university to become a scientist. But even when she found greater freedom in Paris, she was still limited from being taken seriously. Even once she began to discover revolutionary things about the way our universe has knitted together, everyone dismissed her discoveries. Only after she worked tirelessly for years and years, only after collaboration enlarged her potential and she was able to demonstrate in no uncertain terms for the world that it was bigger than we thought it was, it was more mysterious but also more comprehensible, did the world take notice.
“She became one of the greatest figures not only in science, but in world human history…We hope that the musical serves to spread the word about not only how impactful Marie Curie was as an individual, but how important an example she is to anyone who feels disenfranchised,” he concluded. “Anyone who feels that their ideas or their validity is dismissed, Marie Curie proves that that is not a permanent state. By working hard despite the dismissal around you, you will eventually turn the world around and change it forever.”
“Getting Closer” is now available on all major digital music platforms, and artists can also purchase the sheet music for the single here.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.