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Unlocking the score of Broadway’s ‘Outsiders’

Songwriters Justin Levine and Jamestown Revival’s Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance explain how freeing themselves from a “musical theater sound” led to the most authentic musical theater sound of all.

(L-R) Justin Levine with Jamestown Revival’s Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay, 2024 (Credit: Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, better known as the duo Jamestown Revival, were asked to write a song on spec for a potential musical of “The Outsiders.” At that time, “The Outsiders” was more of a plan than a production — a musical adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel and the subsequent Francis Ford Coppola film in the earliest stages of development. So Clay and Chance strove to write, what they called, a “musical theater song.” 

What resulted was not what producers had in mind. And Chance confessed, “It didn’t feel honest,” Chance confessed. The producers agreed. But the duo had also written a second song. In a what-the-heck attempt they sent it along with a note that roughly read: We also wrote this one that we know isn’t what you want. But it was exactly what the producers were hoping for.

That song, “Stay Gold,” inspired by a famous phrase from Hinton’s novel, sounded like Jamestown Revival. The tune is in the final version of the musical, currently running at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. As Chance recognized, “‘Stay Gold’ came from an honest place, almost like we would write one of our own songs.”

There is a common misconception of what musical theater “sounds like.”

Clay and Chance confided that they hadn’t fully understood the “genre” of musical theater. “I didn’t know if there was room in musical theater for songs that weren’t traditional musical theater,” Clay said. But what is “traditional musical theater”?

“When we started, [we thought] musical theater was the conventions of Disney musicals that we grew up on or things that were from the ’90s,” Chance said.

In actuality, that’s a box that past musical theater scores simply don’t fit in — nor should future ones.

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