Loren Bouchard’s new series, “Central Park,” takes the musical moments that fans know and love from “Bob’s Burgers” and supersizes them, turning the show into a true musical series that fully leverages the talents of its stacked cast of theater veterans. But for Bouchard and co-creator Josh Gad, that was no simple undertaking.
“I said I wanted to do a show set in Central Park, and I wanted it to be a huge musical event series, thinking Loren was going to throw me out of his office going, ‘Please, somebody call security on this ‘Bob’s Burgers’ fanboy,” Gad told TheWrap. “Much to my surprise, he said ‘yes.'”
Casting started immediately, with calls going out to friends and colleagues who might be a good fit. “If we’re going to do a musical, we need to assemble the Avengers of musical theater,” Gad said.
First to join was Gad’s “Frozen” co-star and “partner in crime,” Kristen Bell, followed quickly by his college classmate Leslie Odom Jr. Soon they were joined by Kathryn Hahn, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s” Tituss Burgess, Odom’s “Hamilton” co-star Daveed Diggs and Stanley Tucci.
“All of our first choices said ‘yes,’ which was incredible until we realized we hadn’t written a damn word. So I said we should probably write a show now,” Gad said.
The series centers around Odom’s character, Owen Tillerman, the caretaker of Central Park, and his family. Like “Bob’s Burgers,” “Central Park” has several men voicing women, including Tucci as Bitsy Brandenham, the wealthy entrepreneur who makes it her mission to pave over the park after her dog goes missing, and Diggs as Helen, Bitsy’s disgruntled assistant.
Gad himself voices the mysterious busker, Birdie. Not much is revealed about the character — whose interest in and knowledge of the Tillerman family borders on troubling — but Gad and Bouchard drew on a variety of narrator-slash-guardian angel characters for inspiration, ranging from Jiminy Cricket to the two guys in the tree from “Something About Mary.”
“When you cast first, then you end up with the right voice, hopefully,” Bouchard said. “It’s a little complicated when you’re casting men as women and, on this show, there’s the component of ethnicity. But we had the cast and we fit them together as best we could. And when the writing springs from knowing who the voices are, it’s not hard. … The rest starts to flow pretty easily.”
The songs, on the other hand, were a little more complicated. They enlisted a number of songwriters to create the music for the series, including “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” duo Elyssa Lynne and Kate Anderson. Other recognizable names include Sara Bareilles, Fiona Apple, Meghan Trainor, Cyndi Lauper, Alan Menken, Darren Criss and Aimee Mann. In total, the show has 48 original songs.
“I had to beg, plead and barter to get four songs an episode,” Gad said. “But I really believed in the promise of a fully-fledged musical. I really wanted characters to have to sing to express themselves … And that is a cumbersome and expensive proposition.”
“It’s a big undertaking, but [when] you see and hear people react to the music, it all becomes worthwhile,” Bouchard said.
“Central Park” is available to stream on Apple TV+.