“Transparent” has made a pretty good TV show, nabbing dozens of award nominations in its three-season life thus far, including eight Emmys.
But could it be even better ― if it had been a musical?
Turns out, it actually might have been one. Faith Soloway, sister to series creator Jill and longtime musical theater devotee, staged a meditation on the potential missed opportunity during her production at New York’s Public Theater on Monday evening. Soloway serves as a writer on the show alongside her sister.
“When we were first thinking of ‘Transparent,’ believe it or not, one of the first ideas was a musical documentary, even before Jill wrote the pilot,” Soloway told HuffPost before the show. “Jill had just won Best Director at Sundance, and she wanted to direct ― that was always her dream. And so she wrote up the pilot. It was a beautiful pilot, and then the show started rolling along, but we always had this little dream of a musical just because it’s where I’ve lived for all my life, the comedy-musical-theater world, composing and all of that.”
“Should ‘Transparent’ Be a Musical?” featured eight songs by Soloway, some that could’ve found a home in the alternative vision for the Amazon hit, alongside others that were presented just for fun by the cast of Pfefferman stand-ins.
Themes included the separation of church and state (not a “Transparent” song), pondering the precise definitions of gender, and the emotional boundaries between a mother and daughter (definitely “Transparent” songs). “Your boundary is my trigger,” a Shelly Pfefferman character belted out onstage in that fiery, discordant number after her daughter Sarah had introduced her to both terms.
The evening was co-hosted by Alexandra Billings, who plays Davina, the trans confidante of Maura Pfefferman, the character played by Jeffrey Tambor who is based on the Soloway sisters’ real-life family ― like several others on the show. The Soloways’ father came out as transgender in his daughters’ adult lives.
In a sweet moment toward the end of the night, Soloway introduced a poignant song meant for Maura to sing on “Transparent,” explaining her initial attraction to Shelly while still living as a man. Soloway explained how her own father (her “Moppa,” a portmanteau of “Momma” and “Poppa”) chose her mother in part due to her small stature, reasoning that, as a tall person, he would have trouble fitting into her clothes and thus might be able to stop his “obsession” with gender.
In the song, the Maura character croons an ode of love to Shelly ― “and your shoes.” It revealed the genuine pain of inner conflict while still earning some laughs, just as the Amazon show does so well.
“For me, I can see it,” Soloway said about doing the show as a musical, for real. “I can see the blends of the tone ― the comic and serious ― and I can hear the music.”
“But it’s interesting to ask people, well, do you think it should be a musical?” she continued, adding, “There’s also that joke that everything does become a musical.”
“Transparent” is likely sticking to its successful, less-melodic formula, even after Shelly’s (Judith Light) magnificent one-woman performance in last season’s finale. But Soloway hinted that fans can expect a few more musical theater references in Season 4, as her original vision lingers in the background.