Shows with Ghost writers

#1Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 7/14/22 at 11:05pm

I’m curious of Broadway shows that had significant contributions from a ghost writer. I’m vaguely familiar with Harvey’s contributions to hairspray but would love to hear what they were.  Any other shows similar?

Alex Kulak2
#2Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 7/15/22 at 12:17am

Bob Merrill (lyricist for Funny Girl) ghost-wrote 'Elegance' for Hello, Dolly.

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#3Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 7/15/22 at 1:09am

I remember seeing a documentary film in the late 90's about the Broadway production of Moon Over Buffalo starring Carol Burnett.  I remember one sequence showed them bringing in joke writers to add material. All these years later I still remember there was some fellow who was something like a Dentist from Long Island who was one of the top joke writers, who provided material for many shows.


#4Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 7/15/22 at 7:15am

"Elegance" was a collaborative effort between Merrell and Herman.  However  Herman had very little to do with "The Motherhood March"; it's almost all Merrell.

Neil Simon added lots of jokes to A CHORUS LINE--especially the suicide line.

Jerry Herman wrote a few songs for BEN FRANKLIN IN PARIS.

Not a "writer" but Gwen Verdon created the "Big Spender" costumes in the original SWEET CHARITY.

"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
Updated On: 7/15/22 at 07:15 AM

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#5Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 7/15/22 at 1:39pm

Not sure how accurate this is but I read that Peter Stone, whose credits include 1776, WOMAN OF THE YEAR and MY ONE AND ONLY, was brought in at the request of Tommy Tune to do some uncredited doctoring to the book of GRAND HOTEL: THE MUSICAL.

Updated On: 5/4/23 at 01:39 PM

#6Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 2:46pm

Why was his work conducted without credit? How does this typically occur in the musical theatre sphere? I'm really curious how well they could write different essays about biology. They're doing a great job with it. If you're into reading something worthwhile, definitely check out this site.

Updated On: 4/15/24 at 02:46 PM

Alex Kulak2
#7Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 3:07pm

I've noticed in the credits for Waitress and Lempicka, Peter Duchan (who I knew as the book writer for Dogfight), is credited as "Script Consultant" and "Creative Consultant", respectively. Is this maybe the new term we're using for a ghostwriter, or is it something different?

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#8Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 3:10pm

Uncredited work frequently happens in the musical theatre sphere, most frequently for the Book but sometimes for the direction/choreo. Sometimes the ghost doesn't want to be credited out of respect for the original artists. Sometimes there are contractual reasons. Sometimes the original artist isn't being fired, they're just getting some help. Often they get a cut of the gross, sometimes it's a flat fee or a more informal arrangement.


  • HADESTOWN and LEMPICKA both have credited dramaturgs. Jack Viertel is the "creative consultant" on THE OUTSIDERS. Those are situations where the consultant/dramaturg is acting as a helper and the original writers are very much still involved.
  • RENT famously had a long arbitration process with a dramaturg who argued for co-authorship after Larson's death.
  • Sergio Trujillo and Patricia Delgado re-choreographed a lot of Ivo's WEST SIDE revival.
  • Scott Ellis on HOLIDAY INN
  • I remember hearing that Lin-Manuel Miranda took a pass at the book for ON YOUR FEET as a "friend of teh court" but that's never been substantiated.
  • Brian Yorkey revised CATCH ME IF YOU CAN's book and was thanked by Norbert in his Tony speech.
  • Ghost-composing by a musical arranger is also common. Glen Kelly on THE PRODUCERS and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, for example, and I imagine Tom Kitt has done a fair share of that on the shows he's orchestrated/arranged.
  • Farther back in history, Peter Stone on Grand Hotel, Mike Nichols on My One And Only, and Jerome Robbins and Abe Burrows on a multitude of musicals. Among many other people.

Sometimes there are practical reasons for bringing in another contributor too. Orchestrators do it all the time, and it's not uncommon with choreo. Especially if it's a big show with a lot of moving pieces or changes happening quickly.

It happens much more in Hollywood, with high profile people (Elaine May, Carrie Fisher, William Goldman) but also less established people like Ted Griffin (Sutton Foster's husband) who has doctored a number of screenplays. It was reported this year that Paul Thomas Anderson did a substantial, uncredited rewrite on KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON and helped Scorsese structure the film.

TLDR... it's not always a bad thing!

Updated On: 4/9/24 at 03:10 PM

#9Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 3:41pm

Theatrefanboy1 said: "I’m curious of Broadway shows that had significant contributions from a ghost writer. I’m vaguely familiar with Harvey’s contributions to hairspray but would love to hear what they were. Any other shows similar?"

Harvey writes about this in his memoir. Basically, a bit after he was signed on to play Edna, he was offered to sit in on the writing team (just like Christian Borle recently in Some Like It Hot) but he actually refused. However, they weren't actually giving cast members access to the full script of Hairspray. This was a problem for Harvey, who felt the show's structure failing and the writing team, even after Thomas Meehan was brought on to revise it, struggling. He said he would quit the show unless he could see the script. He got a call from Marc Shaiman, and he explained this. Marc faxed him the script. Harvey sent him back a revised script. Finally, they decided to sign on Harvey to ghostwrite the show, structure it, doctor it. Harvey Fierstein is a very good revisionist and adaptational writer, and Harispray's second act was essentially suggested and executed by him. A lot of people like to say he "wrote Edna dialogue", which is strictly inaccurate. He improvised some Edna dialogue that got put in the script, which is a very common thing for actors to do. But Harvey Fierstein actually did, in fact write Hairpsray. Not to say he was the main writer. But, as Meehan has implied and Fierstein has stated in his memoir, he was more of a contributer than Thomas Meehan. That's the story.

#10Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 3:48pm

Eve Ensler did a lot of work on Wicked and receives royalties for it but not official credit.  

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#11Shows with Ghost writers
Posted: 4/9/24 at 5:24pm

Martin Short and I believe his agent were ghostwriters on the revised Little Me from 1998. Part of their goal was to make it not only tailored to Martin and Faith Prince, but to design an actable, stripped-back version of the show a la the recent success of Chicago. Much of the original Little Me libretto involved passages like "Sid does something funny" or "double-talk bit." The 1998 version intended, barring any improv from the actors, to have the whole show on paper as opposed to having chunks where you'd insert your own vaudeville routine.

It would have become the licensing version of the show, if not for a flood at Tams Witmark damaging most of the materials.

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