How a Screenplay About the Iraq War Became a Hit Off-Broadway Show

Show-Score | By Robbie Block | Mar 29, 2017

It took just two years to convince the country to go to war in Iraq, but it has taken over 11 to get "Baghdaddy", the show about it, just right. 

It wasn't easy, but "Baghdaddy" has found it's unique and exciting soul | By "Baghdaddy"

When J.T. Allen penned the screenplay for "Curveball" he knew he had a winner. Immediately drawing interest from big agencies, production companies and managers, Allen's script about how the country was convinced to go to war in Iraq, looked like it was destined for the silver screen; Hollywood thought otherwise.

Despite all of the heat in the world, the screenplay stalled out and was left to collect dust on Allen's shelf. That was until friend and "Baghdaddy" producer Charlie Fink read the script.

Fink knew that Allen had written something special and wanted to find a way to adapt it to the stage. He had one note that has resonated with the piece and it's various writers over it's lifetime, as Oscar Wilde said "if you want to tell people the truth make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."

Fink and Allen called in back up, and in 2010 Marshall Pailet ("Claudio Quest", "Triassic Parq") & A.D. Penedo ("The Three Times She Knocked") wrote a successful one act version of "Baghdaddy" (then called "Who's Your Baghdaddy? or How I Started the Iraq War") that won "Best Show" at the DC Fringe Festival. It was no surprise that DC would love a piece based on the political machinations behind the war, but the challenge was adapting the piece to appeal to all theatergoers.

The cast of "Baghdaddy"

The authors of the piece struggled for years to turn it into a full length Broadway style musical. How es one tell a story about the death of over 1,000,000 people and make it palatable? Well in 2015 they had their answer: tell the story inside a support group that has been formed by the disgraced spies who passed along the false intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The characters now tell their story inside of the group, set in a spare church basement where our heroes atone for their sins. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, these characters are looking for redemption, while conjuring the memories and emotions that led them to the brink of disaster. Once the audience realizes that they are a part of the support group, and thus complicit in it's previous crimes, "Baghdaddy" enters the vein of political in the best way; the way that makes you think about your own place in the complex system of the American politic.

In September of 2015, The New Musical Foundation presented a limited 10 week engagement of "Baghdaddy" at the off-Broadway Actor's Temple and from first preview they knew they had a hit. With critics and audience coming together in support of the show (it has a ShowScore of 85), now infused with more dance numbers and the same memorable music, "Baghdaddy" had arrived.

Now as pertinent as ever, "Baghdaddy" is back, playing at the St. Luke's Theater in all of it's singing, dancing and political glory.

Previews start April 6th and tickets can be purchased here with a discount using the code SHOWSCORE