Sweatpants Wedding is an unfinished musical with enormous financial and artistic potential. I started my Trop career as the producer of an audio advice column. “Advice for Sweatpants Wedding,” the series-within-a-series that begins now, is my attempt to be helpful.
Jonathan Eaton is a former member of The Spinto Band, whose music the young and unemployed Tom Dibblee might very well have been listening to when he bought that mid-day packet of Gushers, adjusted his drawstring, and conceived of a future hit musical.
JAKE DE GRAZIA: What do you know about Sweatpants Wedding, the musical?
JONATHAN EATON: I’ve seen it tossed around on the internet a little bit, but I haven’t really done much research into it. If I had to guess, I’d be doing so based entirely on the title. If Sweatpants Wedding was actually a musical that was somehow being put to paper and music, I would expect to laugh during it. Hopefully it would poke fun at this phase of life that people our age are going through where everyone hires wedding planners or starts looking online for what kind of ties we’re gonna wear at our wedding and what kind of cupcakes we’re gonna have. But I don’t know anything about Sweatpants Wedding, only that it has a catchy title.
JDG: Why then do you think you might be qualified to give advice to the creators of Sweatpants Wedding?
JE: Well, I really like sweatpants. I’ve been married. And I spend a lot of time listening to music, so maybe since it’s a musical, I could somehow offer advice in that sense.
JDG: What do you like about sweatpants?
JE: They serve multiple purposes. You can exercise in them as well as lounge in them. And then there’s that moment when you’re done with your day, and you take your business pants off, and you put your sweatpants on. You’re like, the day is done, and I’m gonna put on my slippers, put on my sweatpants, have a beer, and relax.
JDG: Makes sense. The other reason I felt you’d be qualified to give advice to the creators of a future hit musical is that you spent a bit of time in show business.
JE: I did do that, yeah.
JDG: You were in a band. And for a long time I’ve thought that that band has it in them to produce some musical theater. I remember when you guys would sing stuff like “we can do it while I’m playing Atari” and I’d think to myself, wow, these people need to write a rock opera.
JE: Yeah. Thomas Hughes, who is still in The Spinto Band, produced a musical when he was in college. Him and a buddy wrote all the music and the plot and schemed it all up. They called it The Last Nympholeprechaun. As I recall, it was about normal, everyday leprechauns. I think they just threw the Nympho- on there because they were twenty years old. So, yeah, there’s some experience there I guess. It’s not my experience, personally, but my friend has some experience, and we were in a band together.
JDG: But you never had thoughts that you’d be part of a musical stage production?
JE: Not that jump to mind.
JDG: Well, now’s your opportunity. So Sweatpants Wedding is, at this moment, a story about a bride, a groom, a maid of honor, a best man, and an intricate web of romantic interest. Other than that, everything’s still a little bit muddled. See, the person who originally came up with the idea to produce a musical called Sweatpants Wedding, my old friend Tom, is not the writer. Tom is not a songwriter. He doesn’t have any music in him, or so he believes. The writer, Stephan, is a music guy. He spent his high school years competing in Battles of the Bands and winning, and a few years ago, he recorded six Sweatpants Wedding songs. The production quality is ridiculously high, especially given that he cut the tracks way out in the middle of nowhere in Milledgeville, GA—I imagine him in a drafty pine cabin with a massive beard using pots and pans and wine bottles as instruments. And now a few of us here at Trop believe that there’s real potential in this thing, so I’m reaching out to people who I think might offer useful advice on musicals about sweatpants, and you’re the first of those people. What I’m saying is that we need help. The story we have now is basically: The groom is a workout fiend who’s in love with himself. The bride thinks she might be in love with the groom, but maybe she’s just in love with the idea of getting married. The best man is kind of in love with the groom, though it’s not clear if the best man even knows it. And the maid of honor is developing a crush on the best man.
JE: That’s a lot of sides to your love triangle there. I like it.
JDG: And those six songs Stephan wrote set those things up and don’t do much else. Oh, and plus there are these grandparent characters who I think are paying for the wedding. The grandma raps a little bit, in a sort of sagely way.
JE: Do you have any audience interaction planned? Is the audience like sitting in the pews in the church where the wedding is happening?
JDG: That’s an idea.
JE: Your songsmith is probably on top of this already, but one thing you have going for you is that “dance” rhymes with “sweatpants.”
JDG: That’s a good reminder. I’m writing that down.
JE: So you’re sort of just trying to flesh out the story?
JDG: I’m looking for what you, as a music man, a married man, a showbiz man, and a sweatpants man, think needs to be included, given our title and given the story elements we have now. I like the idea of audience interaction, of people in pews. We can work with that. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for.
JE: Well another thing I would say, then, is that you’re working with this cherished tradition, the wedding, and you’re giving it a new twist. Weddings are formal affairs; sweatpants are informal clothing. So maybe you need to do that with the other cherished tradition you’re working with, the musical. Maybe there’s a structure to musicals that you can spin. Maybe there’s a stage musical formula you can explode. My mind isn’t really in the music game or performance game right now, so maybe that’s the English teacher in me coming through. But if you’re going to say “fuck weddings,” maybe say “fuck musicals” too.
JDG: I’m writing that down too. Stephan will love this. And what about show business? Are there any pitfalls that we need to know about?
JE: I wasn’t sure if you wanted to go that route or not.
JDG: I do. Give us some words of warning.
JE: Well, for one thing, there’re probably a hundred thousand other writers of musicals that think they have something special right now. But, in my experience, succeeding in showbiz requires more than just having that great song or great show or great story. It’s about finding that second thing. Sometimes it’s catching a lucky break. Sometimes it’s superhuman dedication. In rock and roll, at least, sometimes it’s willingness to fall on your face, willingness to perform in front of the one person who shows up at the bar and make sure it’s a great show. You need something to separate you from those other people who have ideas just as revolutionary as Sweatpants Wedding. And one way to get that something, whatever it is, could be to pull a few favors. When I was in the band, I had a really hard time trying to grab hold of someone else’s coattails or emailing someone that I met at a party that could maybe get us a show. And I think something I’ve learned since then is that little favors are what make the world go round. So maybe that’s another piece of advice.
JDG: And another good one. In fact, Tom, the original creator of Sweatpants Wedding, considers himself an expert networker. He claims that all he needs at any party is a half-empty plate of cocktail sausages, and he can network all the way to kissing-level intimacy with anyone in the room.
JE: Am I taking this too seriously? I can’t even tell if this is a serious thing.
JDG: Take it as seriously as you want to take it.
JE: Are Tom and his writer like twelve year olds or something?
JDG: No, no.
JE: Oh man. You’re gonna edit this, and I’m gonna sound like such a numbskull.
JDG: No you’re not. You’re gonna sound like an expert.
JE: Oh. That’s much better.
JDG: That’s the goal here. I’m looking for experts. I’m looking for people with different kinds of expert opinions. Because how the hell do you finish writing and producing a musical? We have no idea. All we know, or all I know, at least, is how to write, informally, about the creation of the musical.
JE: Ah. That’s meta.
JDG: Yeah. We call this project—this column—Sweatpants Wedding, the Meta-Musical. This interview will probably be titled “Sweatpants Wedding: Market Research, Exhibit A” or something like that.
JE: Well, definitely the best advice I have is that you need to utilize the fact that “dance” rhymes with “sweatpants.” Actually, maybe you can incorporate that into a sweatpants dance somehow. Get some people on stage to wear oversized sweatpants that they pull all the way up to their necks. They can put their arms inside the pants and just sort of bounce left to right and right to left like giant pairs of legs.
JDG: I like that a lot. Dude, this is really productive. Thank you!
JE: Hey well good luck with it all. I mean, jeez, I’m just happy that you thought of me. I don’t feel particularly qualified—
JDG: You’ve been deemed qualified, so you’re going to have to deal with that.
JE: Ok, well, if this is actually market research, then let me think for a second if there’s anything else. Oh here’s an idea: All the music in the musical is played by a wedding band. So, on the side of the stage you have these pros, these guys wearing tuxedos and sunglasses and maybe like gold vests and gold ties or something. They’ve got a keyboard with the weird synth sounds and a really overdramatic drummer. That could be pretty cool.
JDG: Like instead of an orchestra down in the pit?
JDG: But they’re on the stage like they are the actual wedding band for the wedding?
JE: Yeah. And they play the sweatpants dance, and it brings the roof down at the end.
JDG: Yes. I’m writing all of this down.
JE: This is going to be good. I can’t wait. Can I hear some of the songs?
JDG: I’ll send you a link. We’ve published two of the songs. We’ve got four more in the can and a couple more in the works. The songs are great. They’re ridiculous and great.
JE: So the ridiculousness of it, that’s an actual thing? I’m not just imagining it?
JDG: Depends on your perspective. Ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?
JE: Yeah, true, I guess. But what I’m asking is would you want your audience at the premiere of Sweatpants Wedding on Broadway to be laughing and saying, “oh man this is crazy,” or do you want them being like, “man that’s passionate, like, that love triangle was heavy”? Or a little of both? Is that what you’re gonna say?
JDG: What I’m gonna say is that I’ll ask the creators and see what they think. That’s a good question.
JE: So you’re not a creator at all? What’s your role? Just kind of the documentarian?
JDG: I am. I’m the Musical Theater Correspondent for Trop.
JE: Ah. Ok.
JDG: I gave myself that title a few weeks ago. It just means that I’m the editor of the Sweatpants Wedding column slash meta-musical.
JE: So this is a project that you’re trying to document from infancy all the way hopefully into huge critical and commercial success? You want to watch the thing evolve?
JDG: Exactly. As a reporter, this is a great opportunity. I’m in on the ground floor here.
JE: Wow, that’s cool. It’s good to get in early. Lets you get comfortable.
Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.