EXCLUSIVE: A project to develop a biographical stage musical about 1970s singer-songwriter Harry Chapin has gotten the support of Chapin’s wife Sandy and brothers Tom Chapin and Steve Chapin, who will serve as consultants on the project.
Patriot Productions, most recently a producer on Broadway’s Be More Chill, is readying Harry Chapin: The Story of a Life for an industry presentation this spring. With a book by Patriot partner Michael F. Mitri, the musical’s score would consist entirely of Chapin’s songs.
Chapin, who died in 1981 at 38 in a car accident, is best known for his Grammy-nominated mega-selling 1970s hits including “Taxi” and “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The musical also is expected to chronicle Chapin’s extensive humanitarian work, especially his devotion to ending world hunger.
“This new musical will highlight Harry Chapin’s timeless music and inspiring activism in a unique structure and style befitting Harry’s singular life and achievements,” said Mitri, who co-founded Patriot Productions in 2009 with co-managing partner Jerry Goehring. “It will introduce a new generation to Harry’s rich musical catalogue, as well as his incredibly dedicated work in fighting world hunger, which continues to inspire philanthropy throughout the music industry almost 40 years after his death.”
Mitri said the project has the “full support of Harry’s immediate family, most especially his wife, Sandy,” and that Chapin’s brothers, musician Tom and producer/composer Steve — both of whom often performed with their famous brother — will provide invaluable “input with respect to Harry’s music and performance career.”
In addition to exposing new audiences to Chapin’s music, Mitri said, the producers “intend to use this show as a vehicle to raise funds for the foundations that carry on Harry’s mission.”
Patriot Productions was established by Goehring and Mitri to develop new theatrical projects for the Broadway stage and the national market. Patriot’s first project was A Christmas Story: The Musical, initially produced in 2009 with Kansas City Repertory Theatre and later developed and staged in Seattle, Detroit and Chicago, among other markets before premiering on Broadway in 2012 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical received Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Score (by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and Best Book (Joseph Robinette).
Last season, Goehring and Mitri were producers on the Joe Iconis/Joe Tracz Broadway musical Be More Chill.
Chapin, a staple with brothers Tom and Steve in the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the 1960s, embarked on a solo career in 1971 that famously kickstarted a bidding war between Elektra Records and Columbia Records (he chose the former). In 1972 his 7-minute “Taxi,” a melancholy story-song about the happenstance reunion of a cab driver with a former lover/passenger, became a hit and earned Chapin a Best New Artist Grammy nomination.
He had an even bigger hit in 1974 with “Cat’s in the Cradle,” another story-song, this time about a busy father who can’t find time for his son, only to have the tables turned as he ages. A No. 1 hit, the song brought Chapin his second Grammy Award nomination (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1975).
In all, Chapin recorded 11 albums, four of which went either platinum or double platinum. He also wrote a 1975 Broadway show The Night That Made America Famous, earning a Tony Award nomination.
His philanthropic endeavors included the co-founding of the organization World Hunger Year, which continues to this day (as WHYHunger) in fighting hunger, poverty and homelessness.