Why Her Nirvana Musical is a Bad Idea

by Celeste Mora

If Courtney Love was hoping to escape the cries for more Nirvana tributes, she hasn't done a very good job. The controversial grunge-rocker announced today that she plans on pursuing a musical to memorialize her late husband. Although Courtney said just two years ago that a Nirvana musical would "never happen," she seems to have changed her mind. In a recent interview with NME, Love was bursting with Nirvana musical memorial plans.

After being swarmed by tons of Nirvana fanmail and social media posts pushing for a musical to become a reality, both Frances [Bean Cobain, Kurt and Courtney's daughter] and I have thought long and hard and agreed that if we can reach up to the highest shelf and select a team of the greatest and most respected writers, producers and directors, then a Broadway musical is very likely to happen.

Hold up, did she say a Broadway musical?

If recent genre rock operas have taught us anything, lovers of musicals and grunge should stop encouraging Courtney to pursue a musical to memorialize the gods of grunge. Let's look at Rock of Ages, the Broadway hit that stitched 80's rock hits together to supposedly paint a scene of life in the glam metal age. Critics could only give the show backhanded compliments like, "it's frequently more fun than it has any right to be," "it could have been a whole lot worse," and "so what if the story is stale as the air in a dive bar at 6 a.m.?" Yet somehow, Rock of Ages grossed over $165 million, and was turned into a movie with Tom Cruise.

Even that stinking pile of rotting eyeliner known as American Idiot made $76 million on Broadway, even though it's horrendously dated plot and overproduced versions of Green Day songs inspired more nausea than nostalgia. Yet Courtney Love wants to try to make a "great story" out her late husband's "legacy."

Sure, Broadway has decided to take on more rock-based shows lately, instead of sticking to a strictly jazz-hands musical theatre routine. But instead of building on subversive, provocative rock operas like Hair, Broadway has given us overproduced, pre-packaged larks into rock counterculture. And that might be the death of the Nirvana musical.

In theory, a Nirvana stage production could be interesting, but it would have to be raw, unpolished, and angry, just like the band it claims to memorialize. I just can't picture some recent Tisch grad suddenly smoking two packs a day to capture the grunge vocal, any more than I can envision him enjoying his orders to forget hair-washing for the next several weeks. Also, I doubt any Broadway theatres are equipped to crank the speakers up to 11, blow a few fuses, then crank them again to get the raw Nirvana feel.

But beyond the musical problems, I'm worried about Courtney's hopes for the project. She told NME that she wants to do this for her daughter, Francis Bean, so that she can see "her father's spirit" in the performance, and she promises to do this through some never-before-told story about her life with Kurt. But how can she tell an unknown, uplifting tale after being the subject of one of the largest ongoing media circuses of all time?

Even if Broadway doesn't crush the grunge ethos into neatly-wrapped musical bonbons, audiences will still have to watch the same descent into drug addiction and, ultimately, suicide that they saw play out 20 years ago. I'm not sure how profiting off her father's tragedies will help Francis Bean to cope with them, but I do know that this is a bad way to memorialize Kurt Cobain.