Meet the writer: Cinco Paul

Here at Equinox Theatre Company, we are hard at work bringing the zany-yet-heartwarming story of Bubble Boy: The Musical to Colorado for the very first time! This regional premiere musical is packed with great music and killer performances and we can’t wait to share it with our audiences in Denver! We were lucky enough to get to sit down with Cinco Paul, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show,  (plus he is co-writer of the book along with Ken Daurio.)

Here Cinco Paul shares with us the behind-the-scenes story of turning his film into a musical and what you can expect when you come to see this wonderful production. 

Equinox Theatre Company: Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired the movie?
Cinco Paul: Sure! So, a producer pitched the film idea to (myself and book co-writer Ken Daurio.) He actually had pitched us several ideas and the last one he pitched was, ‘what about a comedic version of the Boy in the Plastic Bubble?’ You know, the John Travolta TV movie from the 70s? (Which I had seen as a kid.) I remember thinking that was a fascinating idea. We both got really excited and so we sort of took it from there. I think we went with him and pitched it to Disney and they bought it. And we started writing it.

Obviously, the movie very different from Boy in the Plastic Bubble. It’s the basic setup of a boy with no immunities and he falls in love with a girl next door. But then we added this whole road trip aspect to it and sort of this evil controlling mom. And then the movie got made, which was super exciting. And then when it came out, it was a massive critical and commercial failure in every way. And it actually hadn’t become the movie that we had written. As you may know, screenwriters don’t have a ton of control or power in Hollywood. And it was our first script to be made into a movie, so we really had very little control. And the director kind of sort of took over and started rewriting things. And so we were sort of half and half happy with how it had turned out.

It declared itself as a musical, and so I just sort of went for it.”

ETC: So that’s when the musical happened?
CP: Several years later, I was reading something on the Writer’s Guild site about the fact that if the studio doesn’t do a theatrical stage production of your movie within seven years, the rights revert back to you, the original author. And I read that and I thought, ‘Huh, that’s interesting.’ Like, what have Ken and I written that that can work for? And then I thought, ‘Huh, Bubble Boy, maybe Bubble Boy could be a musical.’ And then I started sort of looking at the story and looking at where songs could happen, and it just really naturally lent itself to being musicalized.

It declared itself as a musical, and so I just sort of went for it. And so I had to trim down the movie story and started writing songs. And that’s kind of how it began. And that was probably 10 or 12 years ago now.

ETC: Was there another musical composer that inspired you as you were kind of writing the music for it?
CP: Well, I know this is going to sound insane, but my daughter was doing Sweeney Todd at the time and so there’s… I mean you have to really dig deep I think to find the Sweeney, but it was really influential – Sondheim’s lyric writing. I wanted to do true rhymes, and there’s songs like I Stole a Bus that feels Sondheim, Bring Back My Boy. I think that fast patter song. And then there’s the trio in Falling for the Boy, where Jimmy and Mrs. Livingston and Chloe all have those three parts that go together. And that’s very like the Johanna Reprise that’s in Act 2 of Sweeney. Believe it or not, you can’t really hear that in here, but maybe now that I’ve told you, you can listen to it and you’d say, “Oh, yeah.” That’s very similar to that.

it’s very hard for us to be aware of our own bubble. You should probably ask my wife.”

ETC: What is your personal bubble?
CP: Oh, my gosh. A lack of self-awareness I guess, because I don’t know what my bubble is. It’s a great question. And it’s bothering me that I have no answer. I mean it’s very hard for us to be aware our own bubble. You should probably ask my wife. It’s the loved ones in our lives who probably know much better than we do. I mean I guess one bubble of mine is I probably like to be liked too much. I always want people to like me. So maybe that’s a reason I’m avoiding the question. I don’t want to give an answer and make anyone not like me.

ETC: If you had to live your life in an actual bubble starting tomorrow, what do you think you would miss the most?
CP: Well, I guess the human contact, like hugs with people I love. Yeah.

ETC: What was the most fun part of writing the show, of putting it all together? 
CP: Boy, I think the first production we did was just with a bunch of teenagers, high school kids, in my local community – and it was kids that I knew. Just seeing it on its feet for the very first time and hearing the laughs and then seeing people actually moved. It’s a wacky, crazy show, but then seeing people actually get moved by it and the ‘awws’ and people really rooting for Jimmy. That was such a great moment. But it’s had a long journey. You know, I’ve discovered that musical theater takes a long time. And it’s crazy. It’s been fun for me now that the show’s been licensed to go to as many productions as I possibly can.

Everybody has a bubble, so everybody’s going through something.”

ETC: What is your hope for people when they come to see the show? What do you hope people take away from it?
CP: I mean there’s the most obvious lesson – we all have bubbles and we need to break out of them. But, I think there’s really a message of effect. Everybody has a bubble, so everybody’s going through something. There’s a message there really of tolerance and understanding each other by our differences, you know? And maybe we all need to get out into the world more and interact with people who think differently than we do and understand them more.

Then also, I think there’s a nice message of forgiveness. Like Jimmy is such a sweet, innocent person, and he’s just out there sort of learning. And then we finally… When he’s able to forgive his mom, like his mom did a horrible thing to him, right? But he’s like, “I love you. You’re in need of some serious help, but I love you.” So I think that. I think it really ultimately is that sort of sweet, uplifting show that you’ll laugh a lot, but then you’re also maybe come out of it wanting to love more or understand more or forgive more.

See the show:
The Colorado Premiere of Bubble Boy the Musical opens January 24th, at the historic Bug Theatre, Tickets are on sale now!