The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency to be made into musical

Edinburgh Napier academic collaborates with Alexander McCall Smith on project

Date posted

16 August 2017


Last updated

14 June 2022

An Edinburgh Napier academic has teamed up with one of Scotland’s most successful authors to write a musical based on his series of worldwide bestsellers. 

Senior lecturer in music Graham Weir – who saw international success as a member of electro-pop pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) - has joined forces with novelist Alexander McCall Smith to write the music and lyrics for a show based on his The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of books.

The musical was announced this week at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with the sold-out crowd being treated to four of the show’s songs.

Weir has also recorded and appeared with artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Wet Wet Wet, Hue and Cry, Phil Cunningham and Joan Rivers.

Graham said: “It has been fun, but very absorbing coming up with the lyrics and music – my wife Lorene has put up with me working on this throughout a lot of weekends and holidays! Tuesday’s Book Festival event was the first time Alexander and I have gone public with the project. It’s encouraging to see the buzz the announcement has caused among his vast worldwide readership, not least as they're our core audience for the show!

“I know from long experience that the entertainment world can be capricious, but if we do get the show staged the experience for me as an academic will be invaluable. The University supports the integration of staff professional practice within degree programmes, and I can see the potential for my work on the musical to dovetail with the kind of innovative teaching projects my colleagues in subjects like Music, Acting and Events Management are leading.”

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith was first written as a short story for friends before being published as a full-length novel in 1998. The 18th instalment of the series – The House of Unexpected Sisters - is set to hit shelves this September.

Alexander McCall Smith said: “Graham and I have known each other for several years through the composition prize which I sponsor at Edinburgh Napier, but it is only recently that we’ve put our heads together to create something new.

“We’re having a great time swapping song and story ideas and the show is shaping up to be something special!”

An honorary graduate of the University, Alexander McCall Smith is a long-standing friend of Edinburgh Napier’s having sponsored a composer prize within its Music department for a number of years. He also recently composed a new poem to mark the 400th anniversary of the passing of mathematics genius John Napier, from whom the University takes its name.

Entitled A Cosmos of Numbers, the poem was read out at a memorial service at the Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh in March by Edinburgh Napier Principal, Professor Andrea Nolan.

Header image and image below of Alexander McCall Smith copyright of Chris Watt.

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