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Listener beware… it’s ‘Goosebumps The Musical’ | Endless Thread – WBUR News

When producer Quincy Walters came to an Endless Thread episode ideas meeting talking about Goosebumps The Musical, Amory had two questions: 1) “That’s a thing?!” and 2) “Is it good?”

Yep and YEP! So why haven’t more people heard of it? And what might it take to get the show to Broadway? Amory and Quincy set out to learn more and meet some surprising people along the way.

Listener beware… you’re in for a scare.

Show notes

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Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.

Megan Cattel: So I’m standing outside the Majestic Theater at 44th and seventh. This is where the Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera is performed.

Ben Brock Johnson: Last month, Endless Thread producer Megan Cattel was on Broadway. New York City baby!

Amory Siverston: She went with tap shoes and a dream! AKA, an audio kit and a question.

Megan: I’m going to talk to some people to see if any of them would be interested, if anyone has heard of it.

Ben: Megan was there to ask people waiting in line outside of various Broadway theaters if they’d heard of another show that isn’t on Broadway yet.

Megan: I’m trying to talk to some people about Goosebumps The Musical. Have any of you heard of Goosebumps The Musical?

Anonymous group of people: No, no.

Ellis West: Uhhhh, I have not.

Anonymous man: The musical?

Jessica Parker: Yeah. I didn’t know there was one.

Amory: Goosebumps The Musical? I didn’t know there was one either.

Ben: Big same.

Amory: Until producer Quincy Walters …

Quincy: Hello, everyone.

Amory: … Showed up to one of our story idea meetings with tap shoes and a dream! OK, he actually came with a curious social media discovery…

Quincy: Yeah, ya know, I think this is one of the few jobs where it pays to get lost in the internet. So I was watching my friends’ Instagram stories and was shown an advertisement for a poster for Goosebumps The Musical.

Ben: Like a fan poster? That you would hang on your bedroom wall?

Quincy: Exactly like that.

Amory: And not a poster for Goosebumps, but for Goosebumps The Musical

Quincy: Yep.

Ben: Which, at the time, you had never heard of and I most definitely had never heard of …

Quincy: Right.

Amory: Weird.

Quincy: Yeah, the musical part also confused a lot of the theater patrons Megan spoke to in the Big Apple …

Megan: Have you all heard of Goosebumps?

Anonymous teenager: No, I know about the books.

Amory: Ben, were you a Goosebumps books boy?

Ben: I was definitely a books boy but I was more of a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books boy.

Amory: Also very good. Well I was definitely a Goosebumps gal, by way of my older sister, the curator of cool in my childhood. And Goosebumps was cool. It was also huge. There were 60-something books — all a product of the mind of the mysterious R.L. Stine — and they told stories about haunted masks, cursed clocks, and shrunken heads. Some of them were choose-your-own-adventure style …

Ben: Weren’t they also coming out like, crazy fast?

Quincy: Yeah, from 1994 through ‘97, there was a new one every month. At one point, they were selling at a rate of 4 million books a month.

Ben: I mean I can say this, because I read lots of books to my son. Wow, kids really love creeping themselves out. Anything creepy or spooky, they are so in.

Amory: 90s kids, man. We were freaks. And it only got better in 1995 …

[Goosebumps television show theme song]

Amory: This is the theme song to the Goosebumps TV show. And Ben and Quincy, when I fired up an episode recently and heard this music … I was instantly transported back to elementary-aged Amory, who wanted to watch the episode that was coming on, but didn’t want to watch it because I knew it would be creepy, but also wanted to watch it because I knew it would be creepy …

[Ryan Gosling from Goosebumps television series: Don’t you get it? It predicts the future. And it makes it bad.]

Amory: If that voice sounds familiar, that was a 15 year-old Ryan Gosling in the episode “Say Cheese and Die.”

Ben: I like to call him Hot Goss.

Quincy: Then in 2015, there was a Goosebumps movie starring Jack Black as author R.L. Stine …

[Jack Black from Goosebumps movie: You go home, you put on your PJs, you get your blankie, you go nap nap. In the morning, this’ll all just feel like a bad dream.]

Amory: So in three decades, Goosebumps has gone from the page …

Ben: To the small screen …

Quincy: To the big screen …

Amory: And now, to the stage.

Amory: So, confession. Quincy, when you first told us that there was a Goosebumps The Musical, I was expecting it to be hot garbage. Because, while I was a theater kid, I actually don’t like a lot of musicals. I’m not someone who listens to cast recordings for fun — I find them kinda cringey out of context. I also don’t love the commercialization of Broadway we’ve seen over the last decade — like, do we need Shrek The Musical and Spongebob The Musical?

Ben: Humph! How dare you, how dare you?

Amory: And now Goosebumps The Musical on top of all that? But to my fellow musical skeptics out there, like they say in the theater … suspend your disbelief … for the length of this episode, at least. Because I did, and …

[“Goosebumps” from Goosebumps The Musical: Goosebumps, goosebumps. You’re covered head to toe in goosebumps. And yet you feel a strange delight. Muahahaha.]

Ben: Did you feel a strange delight, Amory?

Amory: I freaking loved it. I listened all the way through, and when I was done, I immediately texted Quincy and was like, how is this not on Broadway?

Quincy: Yeah, and what will it take to get it there?

Ben: Well since you learned about Goosebumps The Musical online, Quincy, maybe the Internet can help?

Quincy: Maybe so.

Amory: And trying to answer these questions, Ben, led Quincy and me to some interesting characters …

R.L. Stine: I just like to scare kids.

Rupert Holmes: And it’s about a wonderful university where you learn to murder.

John Maclay: I’ve been in theater for so long, I never assume anything good is going to happen.

Amory: Yeah, hahaha.

[“Goosebumps” from Goosebumps The Musical: Then follow if you dare, but all who do, beware. For you may find a scare that fills your soul with fright and gives you goosebumps in the night.]

Amory: I’m Amory Say-Cheese-and-Die Sivertson

Ben: I’m Ben The-Beast-from-the-East Brock Johnson.

Quincy: I’m Quincy Welcome-to-Camp-Nightmare Walters. And we’re coming to you from WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.

Amory: Today’s episode? Goosebumps …

Ben: … The Musical.

Amory: Listener beware …

Quincy: You’re in … for a scare.

Ben: Muahahahahaha.

[“Goosebumps” from Goosebumps The Musical: (Singing.) So follow if you dare, but all who do, beware. For you may find a scare that fills your soul with fright and gives you goosebumps in the night. And gives you goosebumps in the night.]

Quincy: One reason, at least, that most people haven’t heard of Goosebumps The Musical – other than on Instagram – is because it’s really only been performed by community theaters.

In places like Paris, Kentucky. Netcong, New Jersey, shout out to our listeners there. And Newburyport, Massachusetts.

[Newburyport cast rehearsal: (Singing.) You’re going numb and growing goosebumps. And yet you feel a strange delight, hahahaha!]

Quincy: And that’s where I go to catch a glimpse of this elusive thing. It’s about an hour drive north of Boston.

The entire cast learned that this show existed through Facebook. That’s where the calls for the auditions were posted.

The guy directing this production is John Moynihan at Firehouse Center For the Arts. And he grew up with Goosebumps.

John Moynihan: But yeah, I mean Goosebumps was a big part of my childhood.

Quincy: But the real muse behind this production? His wife. Johns thinks she found out about it online as well, on Playbill.com or something in October of 2021. That’s when the cast album came out.

John: So my wife is a big, like a huge Goosebumps and R.L. Stine fan. So she was just like looking around one day and said, “Hey, did you see this? This new Goosebumps The Musical?” And I was like, No, I haven’t seen it. But, you know, I’m going to listen to and listen to a couple of songs and just like the music is just so good.

Quincy: The musical is an adaptation of Goosebumps book number 24, Phantom of the Auditorium, which is loosely based on Phantom of the Opera. But in the book, a phantom haunts a middle school production of a play called, wait for it, The Phantom. And the phantom doing the haunting is trying to avenge the role he never got to play in his middle school production of a play called, wait for it…

Ben: The Phantom!

Quincy: The Phantom! That’s right.

[That is so meta, man!]

Quincy: This is from that cast recording John’s wife discovered. And it didn’t take much for their 7 year old daughter Avonlea to be evangelized.

Quincy: How much of a fan are you?

Avonlea Moynihan: This much.

John: Use your words.

Avonlea: 100% much.

Quincy: Ask her what her fav songs are and …

Avonlea: “Whodunit?” ; “The Legend” ; “The Phantom …”

John: “The Story” …

Amory: “The Story of the Phantom.” 

Ben: So like, basically the entire musical. Which is how I felt about Phantom of the Opera.

Quincy: Exactly.

Avonlea: “Super Scary Play” and “Watch Your Step.”

Quincy: Could you sing any of them for us?

Quincy: And Avonlea looks like she almost malfunctions, trying to figure out which one to sing, probably a calculation of which song is her favorite and which one she sounds best on and what will also be enjoyable for the audience, and John helps her out.

Avonlea: (Singing “The Story of the Phantom.”) ‘Cause though he was pretty, yes, and a keeper, the phantom’s love was so much deeper. A loss that nothing could console.

Quincy: And because John knows the musical so well rehearsal didn’t miss a beat when the person playing Ms. Walker, the drama teacher in the story, is running late.

John: (Singing “The Legend.”) The principal closed the production and demanded the script’s destruction, but one survived right underneath his nose! And though it was forbidden, Ms. Walker kept it hidden …

Quincy: All amusement aside, John says this is an important work. Because it comes at a time when the theater world is trying to appeal to broader audiences in order to stay relevant. And he thinks Goosebumps The Musical could accomplish that and endure.

John: I think that a show like this deserves the opportunity–the opportunity to be out there to a wider audience. It should be for everybody so that theater can continue to continue to live on after, you know, after this generation and the next generation passes away.

Quincy: Oh man, that got so dark John.

John: But, I mean, like I said. This is one of those shows that hits that nostalgia. But it also is so relatable to kids.

[Newbury cast rehearsal singing the lyrics of “Super Scary Play”: Because we’re the leads in a super scary play!]

John Maclay: We really have, like, different pockets of audience for this show.

Amory: This is another John. John Maclay. He wrote the book for Goosebumps The Musical.

John: There’s like musical theater fans who love it. And then there’s goosebumps, folks who are like, what? A musical? Oh, wait, it’s good!

Amory: I’m firmly in both camps. But musicals and Goosebumps were pretty different parts of my childhood. So I wouldn’t have thought to put them together. And neither did John. The idea for Goosebumps The Musical actually came from his agent.

John: She said, Do you think Goosebumps would be a good show? I was like, Yes, I bet it would. She said, Well, I know this composer who’s so great and I think you guys would be friends and really work well together.

Quincy: That composer was Danny Abosch. And, conveniently …

Danny Abosch: Like, in fact, one year I actually dressed up as Curly, the goosebumps skeleton for Halloween. Second grade. My mom has the pictures.

Amory: Danny was in, and Goosebumps The Musical was officially commissioned by two children’s theaters: one in Wisconsin, another in Oregon. It debuted in both places in 2016, and from there, it kinda did the equivalent of going straight to VHS …

Ben: That’s a very OG-Goosebumps-era way to put it, Amory. VHS does anyone know what that is?

Amory: Alright, it did the equivalent of going straight to streaming platforms.

Ben: Video high systems …

Amory: Really?

Ben: No. (Laughs.)

Amory: Instead of becoming a smash success on Broadway and then having every theater in the country want to put on its own production, as Quincy said, Goosebumps The Musical stayed in the community and youth theater zone.

Ben: No neon lights.

Quincy: Maybe some little ones? But yeah, no.

Amory: But then, last year, that cast recording was released a full 5 years later!

[Goosebumps The Musical cast recording, “A Super Scary Play“: This is our time, this is our day. ‘Cause we’re finally doing a super scary play.]

Quincy: The cast recording made it possible for the music of Goosebumps The Musical to reach a national, and even international, audience.

John: I’ll get this text from Danny saying, Hey, we have two songs charting in the Republic of Malta. What, what, what?

Amory: And this cast recording has a pretty dreamy line-up.

How did the cast recording come to be? Because this is a Broadway star studded cast that you have here.

John: Danny willed it to happen. It was just a year of his life where he just lived and breathed and ate and slept the Goosebumps album. And I just sat at my house outside Chicago getting these amazing updates like, Hey, here’s Sheryl Lee Ralph singing a song. It sounds brilliant. I like. That’s great.

Quincy: Sheryl Lee Ralph, by the way, just won an Emmy for the ABC show Abbott Elementary. 

[(Emmy award acceptance speech) Sheryl Lee Ralph: I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like.]

Amory: But she’s also a Tony-nominated Broadway star who sings what I think is Quincy’s and my favorite song in the whole show?

Quincy: For sure.

Amory: It’s called “The Legend.”

[Sheryl Lee Ralph singing “The Legend“: The play was called The Phantom, it was the scariest of shows. Is that how it started? No one knows, but that’s how the legend goes.]

Sheryl Lee Ralph is the star of the hit sitcom 'Abbot Elementary'. But she is also a Tony-nominated singer, and appears on the original 'Goosebumps The Musical' cast recording. (Courtesy Danny Abosch.)
Sheryl Lee Ralph is the star of the hit sitcom ‘Abbot Elementary’. But she is also a Tony-nominated singer, and appears on the original ‘Goosebumps The Musical’ cast recording. (Courtesy Danny Abosch.)

Amory: Also on the cast recording is Alex Brightman, who’s currently playing the title role in Beetlejuice the musical on Broadway — yes, that’s a thing — And then there’s Krystina Alabado from Mean Girls the musical — also a thing — and Noah Galvin from Dear Evan Hansen

Despite being a Broadway underdog, 'Goosebumps The Musical' has attracted serious talent for its official cast recording album, like Alex Brightman, who currently stars in 'Beetlejuice' the musical. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)
Despite being a Broadway underdog, ‘Goosebumps The Musical’ has attracted serious talent for its official cast recording album, like Alex Brightman, who currently stars in ‘Beetlejuice’ the musical. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)
Danny Abosch and Krystina Alabado in a 'Goosebumps The Musical' recording session. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)
Danny Abosch and Krystina Alabado in a ‘Goosebumps The Musical’ recording session. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)

Danny: Broadway stars that I really did not even expect to say yes. And the fact that they did is amazing. I’m still pinching myself about it.

Amory: And, we should say, it is not normal to release a cast recording stacked with Broadway actors before the show is on Broadway. Or in this case, before it’s even a twinkle in the eye of a Broadway producer! And yet …

Stephanie Styles: I was so happy when they asked me and just like it’s also truly my like, childhood dream show, the concept of it.

Quincy: Stephanie Styles is known for the Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate, but on the cast recording for her “conceptual childhood dream show” — as she described it on “The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales” — Stephanie plays Tina, the understudy and jealous classmate who thinks she should have gotten the female lead instead of Brooke.

Stephanie Styles is a seasoned musical theater actress who fell in love with 'Goosebumps The Musical' the first time she got ahold of the music. (Courtesy Danny Absoch.)
Stephanie Styles is a seasoned musical theater actress who fell in love with ‘Goosebumps The Musical’ the first time she got ahold of the music. (Courtesy Danny Absoch.)

[Stephanie Styles singing “Understudy Buddy“: Your cover’s got it covered, so take all the time you need, like a week. Or a month. Or a year. Or the rest of your life. Just kidding!] 

Quincy: And then I listened to the songs and I was like, these are unbelievable songs. Like they’re so good.

[Stephanie singing “Understudy Buddy“: Hey Brooke, hope you’re doing fine. Figured I’d drop a line. Not literally, ’cause I totally know all your lines!]

Amory: But despite its clever lyrics, sophisticated music and a killer cast, Goosebumps The Musical still hasn’t garnered the kind of attention its creators – or, honestly, I – would have hoped for.

Quincy: So what will it take? Composer Danny Abosch actually has a pretty good idea.

Danny: Broadway musicals can cost upwards of ten, $20 million to produce.

Amory: Yeah.

Danny: So it takes a lot of, you know, capital to mount a Broadway production.

Amory: Whew! OK, let’s call this ingredient #1 for getting a show to Broadway: Someone with sights as high as their pockets are deep.

Danny: And it’s, you know, for that reason alone, even if you have connections and an amazing script and amazing cast and amazing music, sometimes just for that reason, it doesn’t it doesn’t come together. And I mean, the people who invest in a Broadway musical need some hope that, you know, that this is going to recoup their investment. And especially right now, it’s just it’s a very hard time for Broadway shows.

Ben: Ok so it sounds like ingredient #2 is an audience? Like, you need to be pretty confident you can get those butts in those seats?

Quincy: Yeah, which with a brand like Goosebumps and a cast of big Broadway names like the one on the recording shouldn’t be as much of a hurdle, I wouldn’t think.

Amory: Maybe not, but then there’s ingredient #3, which is honestly one I hadn’t considered before, even though, in some ways, it’s the most obvious: You need an available theater, in one of the most competitive theater hubs in the world.

Danny: Phantom of the Opera just announced it’s closing; the longest running Broadway musical of all time.

Amory: I know. So wouldn’t this just slot in perfectly? Phantom of the Opera closes, Goosebumps goes right in its place…?

John: I’m a big fan of you continuing to ask that question at every opportunity.

Amory: When one show closes, another one opens. But, spoiler alert, I don’t have 20 million dollars. Ben and Quincy, I’m guessing you don’t either.

Ben: I’ll tell you what I do have… Tap shoes and a dream!

Amory: I should have known that was coming. And we don’t have access to a Broadway theater …

Ben: Nope.

Amory: But you know? Most people have only heard about Goosebumps The Musical online at this point, and I think we can harness the power of the internet to help it find an even bigger audience.

Amory: Do I need to start a Change.org petition? What do I need to do? You’re laughing. I’m not. I’m serious.

Danny: I’m laughing because if I wasn’t laughing, I’d be crying.

John Maclay and Danny Abosch are the biggest cheerleaders for 'Goosebumps The Musical'. Here they are at a community performance of the show. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)
John Maclay and Danny Abosch are the biggest cheerleaders for ‘Goosebumps The Musical’. Here they are at a community performance of the show. (Courtesy Danny Abosch)

Quincy: Crying because Danny and John not only put a lot of work into Goosebumps The Musical, but they’ve also been its biggest cheerleaders — attending local productions, making an appearance at BroadwayCon this summer, running social media accounts for the musical, running ads through those social media accounts, like on Instagram for, say, posters …

Danny: We take the attitude that like, you know, no one’s doing this for us. If we want to get this show to Broadway, it’s on us to get it there. And so we’re pounding the pavement and really, you know, doing everything we can to get the word out about this show. And it never seems like enough. It seems like, you know, with everything competing for eyeballs on social media and and the like. But yeah, we’re trying our best.

Amory: Well Quincy? Did you buy that poster for Goosebumps The Musical?

Quincy: Umm, no. But it got me to listen to the cast recording, which, one, is probably a better outcome anyway. And two, it got you to listen to it.

Ben: Which might get me to listen to it, and maybe some Endless Thread homies, too?

Amory: And there’s even more reason to have faith. Maybe Goosebumps The Musical is just on a similar trajectory to Goosebumps the books…

R.L. Stine: They just sat there on the shelf. They didn’t do anything for months. No one bought ‘em.

Amory: And this guy would know. He wrote them.

Amory: Can you give us kind of the brief origin story of how Goosebumps began for you?

R.L. Stine: You want me to go back to primordial times.

Quincy: Coming up, the architect of age-appropriate spooktacular page-turners himself… R.L. Stine.

[SPONSOR BREAK]

[“Stay Away” from Goosebumps The Musical: (Instrumental.) (Gong rings.) (Screams.)] 

Amory: R.L. Stine, as his somewhat mysterious-sounding name would suggest, is kind of an elusive guy. He doesn’t really do media interviews, but our request was coming at a special time.

Amory: How are you personally celebrating the 30th anniversary of Goosebumps.

R.L. Stine: By talking to you.

Amory: Love it.

Amory: We were under the careful supervision of his mini-me: an R.L. Stine ventriloquist dummy, positioned just over the real R.L. Stine’s left shoulder.

Ben: Oh God.

Amory: I’m expecting it to open its eyes and they will be red and upset.

R.L. Stine: Yeah, well.

Amory: Not into it. But really, it’s all R.L. Stine’s fault. Any of my fellow Goosebumps kids read his book Night of the Living Dummy? Or watch the episode of the TV show featuring Slappy the ventriloquist dummy?

[Slappy: Let me go right now! Help!  (Screams.) Ahhhh!  (Laughs.)] 

Ben: The actual stuff of nightmares.

Amory: Right? And so imagine my surprise when I heard R.L. Stine say this …

R.L. Stine: I don’t really want to terrify kids.

Amory: So but that’s, but you’ve made… You’ve done that for 30 straight years.

R.L. Stine: They’re not terrified. I hate it when kids come up to me at a book signing say, oh, you gave your book gave me nightmares. I hate that.

Amory: Then why write it? Why write it? 

R.L.Stine: It’s to get them reading! You know, the most satisfying part for me is all these parents who come to me and said, “My kid never read a book in his life. And I caught him reading with a flashlight under the covers,” or people who come up to me and say, “I wouldn’t be a librarian today if it wasn’t for you,” or “You got me through a bad time.” You know, that’s really what it’s about.

R.L. Stine, author of the book series 'Goosebumps', says the books were not an instant hit. The series gained popularity through "kids telling kids" in the early 90s. (Courtesy Dan Nelker)
R.L. Stine, author of the book series ‘Goosebumps’, says the books were not an instant hit. The series gained popularity through “kids telling kids” in the early 90s. (Courtesy Dan Nelker)

Amory: But as Stine himself said, the Goosebumps books weren’t an automatic hit when the first ones came out in 1992.

R.L. Stine: Because there was no advertising. There was no hype. No one really knew me at the time But somehow, after four months or so, somehow, kids discovered them and took them to school and show them to others. There was a secret kids network of kids telling kids.

Ben: Kids telling kids, huh? So do you need to start a “secret” Goosebumps The Musical network? Like, “Yeah yeah everyone knows about Wicked, but have you heard about Goosebumps the Musical?!”

Amory: Honestly, I kinda already have. I’ve told just about all my theater-loving friends about it.

Ben: That’s not secret. That’s not a secret.

Amory: This is the goal, Ben. We’re trying to make it not a secret, but in a sneaky way.

Ben: This is like the opposite of a whisper campaign, it’s like Amory-singing-at-the-top-of-her-lungs-campaign.

Amory: But you know who I didn’t think I’d need to sing its praises to? Mr. Goosebumps himself!

R.L. Stine: I don’t know anything about it. I’ve never seen it.

Amory: You’ve never seen it?

R.L. Stine: No, I don’t know. 

Amory: R.L. Stine has never listened to the cast recording of Goosebumps The Musical.

Ben: What?!

Amory: Even though he made a cameo on it!

[“Whodunit?” from Goosebumps The Musical:

Ms. Walker: Principal Stine and I will be discussing this with your parents.

Brooke: Cancel the play? No! 

Principal Stine: We may not have a choice. We also discuss what other punishments might be appropriate.]

Ben: Principal Stine. Good stuff.

Amory: This is ridiculous to me, because can I just say it is fantastic.

R.L. Stine: And it is? It is.

Amory: It is!

R.L. Stine: You’re kidding.

Amory: I’m not kidding, Mr. Stine!

R.L. Stine: Are you sure? Are you sure?

Ben: Are you sure, Amory?

Amory: You know what? R.L. Stine doesn’t have to take it from me. Because Quincy and I spoke to someone who may as well be president of the secret Goosebumps The Musical network…

Kristen Stickley: I have a specific memory of listening to the title track, the song “Goosebumps,” for the first time. And immediately afterwards I texted my friend who was also listening to it, and I told her, “This sounds exactly the way that Halloween used to feel when we were kids.”

[“Goosebumps” from Goosebumps The Musical: What keeps you up … is meeting up with a ghost? (Screams.)] 

Quincy: This is Kristen Stickley. She loves musical theater, and she loves all things spooky. Goosebumps in particular. So Goosebumps The Musical?

Kristen: This is right up my alley. And the first time I ever heard about it, I was like, there’s no way this can be real. Because this sounds like they wrote it specifically for me.

Quincy: “No way it could be real” is exactly how I felt when I saw that Instagram ad. I found this certified superfan through Danny, the composer, who met Kristen this summer at BroadwayCon. She poured her heart out about the music — to him, and to us.

Kristen: The fun and the innocence and the spookiness and the nostalgia of the original series. Just in the music alone, I’m like, “What do you mean this music didn’t play every time you opened a Goosebumps book! I could have sworn!”

Amory: Unlike us, who just learned about Goosebumps The Musical a couple months ago, Kristen has been rooting for it since she found the cast recording online last year. And she’s not alone — let’s not forget the Republic of Malta — but Goosebumps The Musical clearly still feels like a secret.

Quincy: Yeah, even in the heart of Broadway, our colleague Megan found exactly one person who had heard of it, and he didn’t seem to know that much …

Megan: In like a sentence, how would you describe it?

Michael Haber: Thrilling.

Megan: In a sentence

Michael: Oh, oh. The show is crazy, high energy and thrilling.

Kristen: I really think that once this show reaches a wider audience, it’s, it’s inevitable that it’s going to end up blowing up in popularity, because everybody I’ve come across who’s listened to it has said the same thing: “I cannot believe no one told me about the show, like, it’s actually so good.”

Amory: There’s something else Goosebumps The Musical might have going for it: timing. Because the music was written and recorded by people who grew up reading the Goosebumps books. And so did some of the folks producer Megan encountered on Broadway. People like Ellen and Jason from Detroit.

Ellen: Now we’re in the demographic where we grew up with that stuff as kids and now we’re adults with, you know, a little bit of money to spend, you know, not too much, but enough to have a nice night out. So I would be down to see it.

Jason: Yeah, I’m thinking nostalgia.

Amory: Goosebumps fans like Ellen and Jason and me, we are ready for more Goosebumps.

Quincy: This is a lesson that R.L. Stine and some collaborators learned the hard way back in 1996. Even if they remember it fondly.

R.L. Stine: You know, back in the day, we had a wonderful Goosebumps musical.

Amory: Oh?

R.L. Stine: And it had traveled. It was produced by Ken Feld, who owned Ringling Brothers and Disney on Ice, and it was written by a wonderful composer, Rupert Holmes.

Merchandise from 'Goosebumps: Live on Stage'. Before 'Goosebumps The Musical', there was a traveling stage show inspired by the book series in the late 1990s. But the play garnered little commercial success. (Courtesy Rupert Holmes)
Merchandise from ‘Goosebumps: Live on Stage’. Before ‘Goosebumps The Musical’, there was a traveling stage show inspired by the book series in the late 1990s. But the play garnered little commercial success. (Courtesy Rupert Holmes)

Amory: A Goosebumps musical before Goosebumps The Musical?! Not exactly. There was a traveling Goosebumps stage production, but it wasn’t a musical as R.L. Stine remembers. Although the play was written by the musician, Rupert Holmes. Ben, do you know who Rupert Holmes is?

Ben: Is it Sherlock’s misanthrope great-great-great-grandson? Nope.

Amory: That’s pretty good. He was born in England. I’ll ask you another question. Do you like piña coladas?

[“Escape” by Rupert Holmes: (Singing.) And getting caught in the rain. If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain.]

Ben: Rupert Holmes is the piña colada song guy?

Amory: He sure is! And it was the success of The Piña Colada Song, AKA “Escape,” that made it possible for Rupert to pursue his theatrical ambitions and write the musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. And by write, I mean he wrote the book, the music, and the lyrics, and won Tony Awards for all three.

Rupert: They didn’t have a category that year, but I also did the orchestrations. That took three years out of my life, and that was all funded by a song that went, if you like, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. So, yes, that was a very that was a very good thing for me in terms of expanding what I do.

Amory: Rupert’s maybe also taken after R.L. Stine and written some spooky novels, including a forthcoming one titled, Murder Your Employer, about a university where students learn how to murder people.

Rupert: My theory is there are people who will leave the book on their desk at work just so that their employer will see that what you’re considering doing

Amory: As for his work as a playwright, Rupert Holmes has had many highly-acclaimed shows performed at many prestigious theaters, but when he talks about the Goosebumps: Live on Stage touring production, you can hear the childlike delight in his voice.

Rupert: The entire stage was outlined in kind of horrifying, scary figures […] And in the attic turned out to be a kind of alien invasion of creatures. […] And they had fallen to their death on stage, and now it’s haunted. […] Which is set in a funhouse, which Slappy controls and, and owns and, and taunts the children. So it was a lot of fun.

Amory: But the fun only lasted for a matter of months.

Rupert: What happened was that there was a lag. The generation that had been reading R.L. Stine, and watching all the TV shows that they did as well, had gotten to be about 16 or 17. And what happens is, when you’re a teenager and you’re in those mid-teens, you start to say, “I want to move on to adult things now.” It’s only when you’re an adult, you get nostalgic for your youth and then you go back to those things.

Amory: So here we are, fellow adults. 30 years into Goosebumps. The nostalgia is palpable. Even R.L. Stine is finally ready to welcome Goosebumps The Musical into his life and see a production somewhere …

R.L. Stine: I have to go. I have to go. You talked me into it.

Quincy: Or maybe, since R.L. Stine is based in New York City, Goosebumps The Musical will come to him.

Amory: Ooh, I like where your head’s at, Quincy. And since our piña colada-loving, Tony Award-winner Rupert Holmes has some experience with this, maybe he can help answer the question …

Amory: What does it take to get something to Broadway?

Rupert: A miracle these days. A miracle. A miracle.

Ben: Woof.

Amory: Alright I grant you that that doesn’t sound very hopeful, but pulling those ingredients together — the money, the cast, the audience, the timing…

Rupert: You need to be lucky enough for some show to completely collapse right when you’re ready to go.

Amory: All of that is the miracle! And there are, like, two dozen of them on Broadway right now!

Ben: And you said Phantom of the Opera is closing soon, right? Boomshacka.

Quincy: It would be superfan-approved…

Kristen: Oh my gosh! That’s simply poetic. And going from one phantom haunting the theater to the next one? It’s only the natural order, I think.

Rupert: You know what? I’m going to I’m going to support you in that belief and just know that there’s 50 other musicals all vying for that same theater right now.

Ben: Oh go get caught in the rain, Rupert!

Amory: So what can we do to give Goosebumps an edge? I floated my online petition idea by superfan Kristen, who said, basically, “Hey, it’s worked in the past!”

Beetlejuice the musical was supposed to close on Broadway a couple years ago. But you know what helped save it?

Ben: Saying Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice?

Amory: You know, kind of. It was the more than 36-thousand signatures on the “Save Beetlejuice the Musical” online petition!

Kristen: It eventually found a new home in the Marquee Theater on Broadway, and they are constantly attributing it to the passion of the fans and, and making it known very loudly that there was a really huge desire for the show to continue to run. And so I don’t know if what needs to be done as a petition similarly, but I will be the first one to start that petition.

Amory: Kristen, WAY ahead of you. In the show notes of this episode, you will find a link to a petition to get Goosebumps The Musical to Broadway. Is it going to take a miracle? Yes. Most definitely. But who knows that better than the guy whose wildly successful book franchise almost never launched?

R.L. Stine: And if it was today, the bookstores would have yanked them off the shelf. They wouldn’t be around.

Quincy: And the guy who’s been able to reinvent himself over the course of his career — from piña coladas, to Tonys, to murderous novels?

Rupert: The year that Babe Ruth hit the most home runs in baseball, he also led baseball in strikeouts. Why? Because you can’t hit a home run unless you’re willing to make a big swing. And if you make a big swing, the odds are in favor of you looking like an idiot. But give it your best shot and, and know what you’ll do if you fall slightly short of that. How you can capitalize on that? Because you’ll get another at bat.

[“Opening Night” from Goosebumps The Musical instrumental.]

Amory: So swing with us, sing along with us, sign the petition to get Goosebumps The Musical to Broadway, and who knows …

Kristen: I don’t think it’s farfetched to say it’s only a matter of time before it gets the major production that it deserves. And I will be front and center when that happens.

Megan (on Broadway): If you had the chance to get tickets to see Goosebumps The Musical, would you go?

Rose Pizanka: Of course.

Rebecca: Absolutely. Yes.

Megan: If it came on to Broadway, would you be interested in seeing it?

Anonymous teenager: Probably. I’m not gonna lie, I liked Goosebumps. (Laughs.) 

Ellen: We like horror, we like musicals. Sign us up!

Michael Shea: Absolutely. 

Megan: Okay! Thank you so much. 

Amory: Curtain call!

[CREDITS]

Ben: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston.

Amory: This episode was produced by Quincy Walters, our web-producer and Broadway-correspondent-with-tap-shoes-and-a-dream Megan Cattel, and by me. It was written and co-hosted by Quincy, me, and …

Ben: Ben Brock Johnson. Mix and sound design by Emily Jankowski. Goosebumps The Musical music by Danny Abosch, lyrics by Danny Abosch and John Maclay.

Amory: Yeah, and big thanks to them for letting us spookily serenade you with it throughout this episode. The rest of our team is Dean Russell, Nora Saks, Grace Tatter, and Paul Vaitkus.

Ben: Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between digital communities and the ventriloquist dummy that I hid in Amory’s house for her to find one day and FREAK THE F OUT. If you’ve got an untold history, an unsolved mystery, or a wild story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up. Email Endless Thread at WBUR dot ORG.