Elvis Costello hasn’t released a new record since 2013’s collaboration with the Roots, Wise Up Ghost, but that’s not to say he hasn’t been busy. As he told Rolling Stone, he’s working on a musical based on Elia Kazan’s 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, in which a drunk becomes an overnight media sensation who uses his stardom for personal political gain. Costello saw a parallel between the 60-year-old movie and today’s headlines.
“There are people at the heads of television companies who need to examine themselves for their part in creating the brand, and that’s what A Face in the Crowd is about. That’s the only point of comparison, really,” Costello said. “Budd Schulberg’s original short story and play is a parable not about a demagogue so much as about the power of television to create a demagogue. So it would still be a good story if there were a different president when opening night comes.”
He seems at home in the genre, saying writing for characters is no different from writing songs. “They’re simultaneously your last will and testament, and something that you created to tantalize other people,” he continued. “But you have to develop them sufficiently, so it can be the best version of it every night.”
Costello has been working with librettist Sarah Ruhl, with whom he previously collaborated on an unfinished musical about an all-female Memphis radio station. They held an invitation-only reading for the new project in New York last year.
As Costello is writing on the musical, he and the Imposters are currently giving the Imperial Bedroom tour a second go-round. And he added that there’s always the possibility that a new album from him could drop at any moment.
“Keep an eye out,” he said. “You never know when the next thing is going to appear.”