When songwriting duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (of Hairspray, Smash, and Mary Poppins Returns fame) were approached by Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige about writing a musical number for the first episode of Hawkeye, they each had their own approach. Wittman proceeded to educate himself by watching every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in a period of days, while Shaiman was excited by the chance to impress his MCU-loving husband.
"We thought, this is a crazy idea and we definitely have to do it," Shaiman says of their initial reaction. "I had to do it just to become the greatest husband on Earth. It was a thrill."
Shaiman and Wittman say they were pleased by the positive response from Marvel brass to their Hawkeye contribution — which you can now stream as the song "Save the City." But before arriving at the superhero spectacle, their first idea had been a song from the perspective of ordinary New Yorkers witnessing the Chitauri invasion of New York City. Ultimately, it was decided that the focus of the scene should be Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) watching a campy version of something he witnessed firsthand.
"It's important for the Hawkeye character to watch that event that was such a seminal part of his life and feel slightly uncomfortable like, 'what have they done to my world?'" Wittman says.
Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios 'Rogers: The Musical' as seen in 'Hawkeye.'
"It was a fine line to walk. We knew that we had to write a good song, an entertaining song, something you'd hopefully enjoy," Shaiman adds, "but it also had to make Clint roll his eyes and think, 'what is this?'"
Together with Kate Bishop's own memories of witnessing the Battle of New York as a young girl, Rogers: The Musical is a big part of Hawkeye showing how normal humans living in the MCU are processing the superhero world around them. After all, they don't have MCU movies of their own to watch.
"They don't go to the movies," Wittman says. "They're living it."
"Definitely part of the discussion with Marvel was that the things that are quoted in the musical have to be things that people who actually live in the universe would know," Shaiman adds. "So we figured Captain America has said 'I could do this all day' enough times that someone heard it, or maybe when they created this musical they interviewed people who were there. But then also putting Ant-Man in that scene show how, no matter what, entertainment versions of real-life stories will always get something a little wrong."
For now, Rogers: The Musical only exists in the form of one song — which Shaiman and Wittman see as an Act I closer, the kind of catchy tune Broadway attendees might be humming in the bathroom during intermission. Would they ever consider writing a full-length Marvel musical…?
"Of course!" Wittman says. "Get people to start calling Kevin on the phone and tell him."
"But we've got to move fast because I bet people are already writing it on TikTok," Shaiman says. "There are a million things that you could create in a Marvel musical, especially with Steve Rogers. The fact that he exists in the '40s as well would allow us to write a whole lot of different genres, so the whole Marvel story would take place over decades. It would be a thrill to get to do that. But for now we're just extremely excited about the way the show came out."
The first three episodes of Hawkeye are streaming now on Disney+.