Rheanne Walton: A New Musical of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Hi, blog!

My name is Rheanne Walton. I’m currently a junior working on a dual degree in Theatre and Marketing.  For my project, I will be writing the script and score for a rock musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray centered around queer women and issues.

Rheanne Walton, Junior, Theatre and Marketing

First, here is a little bit about me:. I am currently working on an Honors in the Major project in order to further assist the musical’s development. I am originally from Lawrence, Kansas. I discovered my love of musicals when I was very young and listened to The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I then started playing piano and singing in the first grade. I also started writing songs and scripts at a young age and it has become my passion. In the past, I have written soundtracks for podcasts (The News Room and The Tapes of Helmont High) and co-written one musical (The Charmant Cafe) which had a reading in February of 2022. I also have a passion for theatre in general and I work on various projects around the School of Theatre including as a Stage Manager, Assistant Director, and Scenic Artist. I am so honored and grateful to have gotten this grant and to therefore have the opportunity to write my first solo musical.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic novel by Oscar Wilde. It follows a young man, Dorian Gray, and a picture painted of him by artist and admirer Basil hayward. When Basil leads Dorian to meet the hedonistic Lord Henry, Dorian is enraptured by Henry’s lifestyle and his beliefs of the importance of beauty, youth and passion. As a result of Dorian’s conversations with Henry, he makes a fateful wish that rather than himself aging and becoming ugly, the portrait would and Dorian would remain ageless.

I chose to adapt The Picture of Dorian Gray into a musical centering around queer women for several reasons. First, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is laden with queer subtext. One excellent example of this is a phrase spoken by artist Basil in the first chapter. He says  “I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray.” Basil, a man, expresses desire for and deviation to another man, Dorian. The next is that The Picture of Dorian Gray is a rich source material that remains relevant with themes of beauty and innocence. These themes are very relevant to people today, especially to women, who are often the target of harsh beauty standards. Finally, this novel would work excellently as a musical because of its heightened emotion and complex characters. Musicals allow for the expression of feelings in a way that straight plays cannot. Musicals allow characters to be honest through song which punctuates their emotions for the audience.

After spending this semester so far completing research on Oscar Wilde, musical theatre, rock styles in musical theatre and queer musical theatre, I am currently beginning the process of outlining each scene and song with what needs to occur and be expressed within them. After this, my whole summer will be spent writing first drafts of all of the scenes and songs within the show at a rate of 2 songs or scenes per week, leading to a complete first draft on August 15th. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am excited to continue and post updates as I complete this first draft. Again, I must express my gratitude for this grant that has opened so many opportunities for me. Thank you!

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