Music

‘Tearing It to Shreds and Starting Over’: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo Give Update on Stage Musical ‘Invincible’

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are hoping their stage musical, Invincible, will prove to be just that as they continue to work on it — amidst several other projects the couple has going, both together and separately.

The production, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet built around the pair’s songs from Benatar’s albums, debuted to mixed reviews during late 2022 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Calif. — not long after Benatar and Giraldo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now they’re planning to bring it to New York this fall — not in performance, but to make what they say will be significant changes before bringing it back to the boards.

“The place we’re at right now is about tearing it to shreds and starting over,” Benatar tells Billboard. “We have the liberty to do that because we haven’t gone to even off-Broadway or anything like that. So we’re tearing it apart, doing a similar show but with a lot of different elements to it.”

Giraldo predicts that the next incarnation of Invincible — which includes such Benatar favorites as “Hell Is For Children,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” “Heartbreaker,” “We Belong” and, of course, the title song — will be “different and the same at the same time. It will take it in a little different direction, maybe go back to the very beginning. I think we got too far in the weeds with it and it started getting a little messy. So maybe we’ll be going back to breaking the rules a little bit, trying to be brave.”

Benatar says the greatest lesson came in the way the duo’s songs were adapted within the original version of the show. “The goal for the production we did was to do a hybrid of taking our music and reinventing it into a more theatrical form,” she explains. “Some of the songs didn’t really work like that. Some of them can be augmented; ‘We Live For Love,’ for example, ‘We Belong,’ things like that work well in a theatrical form. But we learned that some of the arrangements that are on the original (recordings) are very exciting and actually work better (in the musical) if we keep them closer to the original. That was kind of a surprise, and a big lesson to learn. But that’s something you can’t learn until you put it in front of human beings to see it.”

Neither is discouraged by the need to reboot, however. “It was a learning experience for us,” Giraldo acknowledges. “We made mistakes. We learned great things along the way. It’s a different kind of (endeavor) to be sure.” Benatar, meanwhile, affirms that “it’s been exciting. It’s been fun. You just keep evolving ’til we get to the place we feel like it’s time to put it out there.” They’re not saying when that might be, but she has a where in mind — Cleveland, which is Giraldo’s hometown.

“We love it there,” Benatar says. “It’s a home kind of thing, as good as New York to us as a family place. It’s always fun to go there; the audiences are amazing, really receptive. So that’s possibly the first place to open in this (next) form.”

The revived Invincible is just one project Benatar and Giraldo – who return to the road Saturday, July 6, In Atlantic City with dates booked through mid-August — have targeted for the near future.

Next year will also see the release of a children’s book the two are writing and composing companion songs for. They’re keeping details, including the title and publication date, under wraps for now, but it’s inspired by the relationships they have with their three grandchildren, two girls and a boy. “It’s about everything we do and everything they do…and it’s about music,” Benatar says. “It’s sweet.”

On his own, meanwhile, Giraldo is continuing work on two long-gestating endeavors — a memoir and an all-star holiday album he’s been working on with some of his musical friends. He’s also recording an album with former Benatar band drummer Myron Grombacher, a friends from his early days in Cleveland and in Rick Derringer’s band. The guitarist says the two plan to reconvene after he and Benatar tour this summer, working as just the two of them, but they’re open “to have some guest people on board” if it feels appropriate. “We’ve got about 21 songs,” Giraldo reports. “We were childhood friends, so this is what we do — just make music, have a great time playing and do the best you can.”

It’s been a minute since Benatar and Giraldo have released new music of their own as well. Their last full album was Go in 2003, while there have been some one-off singles and soundtrack contributions between 2015-2020 — most recently “Together.” They also joined Dolly Parton for her version of “Heartbreaker” from last year’s Rockstar album.

“That’s a possibility, if the time feels right,” Giraldo says. “It’s not like we don’t have a lot of material. We do have a lot of songs. Here’s the deal…the best records, I believe, are done in 29 days; you just get in there, do it and get done. You have to be able to block that time out so your primary focus is on that recording. That is the most difficult part. As you get older…it’s hard to find that block.”

Benatar, however, sounds ready for it. “We have about 125 songs around, waiting to be recorded,” she says, laughing as she adds, “If you can get my husband in there to do it, please be my guest.”

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