Broadway Licensing sat down with playwright Rick Hip-Flores to discuss theatre, his career, and his new musical Peace, Love, and Cupcakes.
Where did your love for theatre stem from?
I was a pianist from a very young age, and the music that drew me in was the kind with lyrics that told stories. I loved Elton John, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and certain Broadway show albums that I had access to, like Les Mis and Evita. Also, I was lucky enough to go a great public high school (Piscataway High) with an excellent music and theater department. My Junior year, I was cast as Harold Hill in The Music Man and I think my fate was sealed.
Your resume reflects how multifaceted you are; ranging from musical directing, to conducting, to now playwrighting! Tell us about your journey to deciding to write a musical.
The ambition to write has been there from the beginning alongside all my other pursuits. It just so happens that it takes longer to get traction in the writing world. Musical directing and conducting is immediately gratifying— you can make a living and enjoy participating in the industry and exercising your craft. With writing, it can take years before anyone notices your work. I joined the BMI Lehman Engel Workshop when I was 22, with some songs that I had written while in college. I’ve since written about half a dozen published musicals— but even now, the hill is quite steep. It’s the ongoing challenge that makes it always exciting!
We are so thrilled to be licensing Peace, Love, and Cupcakes! What made you want to adapt this book series into a musical?
Funny thing— I was conducting the National Tour of We Will Rock You, the Queen musical. When I set out on the tour, I was so worried that my life for the next year was going to be nothing but drinking and rock ’n roll. Right around the same time, I was offered a commission from Vital Theater to create Peace, Love, and Cupcakes. I decided that a kids’ show about girls and cupcakes would be the perfect complement to my raucous night gig. And so it began. I wrote PLC almost entirely in hotel rooms!
I should say, was lucky to adapt such a great source material. The characters and story were screaming to be musicalized. One of my favorite aspects about the book is how Kylie has a passion for monster movies. What a gift for a writer!
What are the takeaways you hope performers and audiences gain from experiencing P,L,&C?
PLC is all about the power of diversity, and how everyone, no matter who you are, has strengths to bring to the table. What’s more, how the combination of these strengths can yield more than the sum of their parts. Anyone who has ever worked on a musical knows this to be true. My hope is that a production of PLC would not just communicate that idea effectively, but actually be the living embodiment of that idea. It’s a show that can be performed with a diverse cast, with different levels of stage experience, and each bringing a unique strength to the show.
If you could tell your younger writing self any advice, what would it be?
I would probably tell myself to write a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton. No, seriously, I would encourage my younger self to take a long view of my career, imagine want I’d want to be doing 10, 20 years from now, and work toward those goals in a steady and consistent way. Also, collaboration is key, even if you write everything by yourself, as I did with PLC. You’ll still need people to produce it, direct, choreograph, design the artwork, etc. So value the relationships you form along the way.
What’s next for you?! Do you plan on writing another musical?
I’m always planning the next show. I’m currently conducting Ain’t Too Proud on Broadway so my hands are literally full, but no doubt, you will hear much more from me!