I have a confession to make, I’m a theatre nerd. Not only that, I enjoy musicals. Immensely. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching a stageful of actors portray a bunch of Mormon men traveling to Uganda to convert Africans to Mormonism whilst singing about how they need to turn their gay off? There are, of course, a multitude of other reasons I enjoy the art of theatre and the American musical but let’s save that for another post.
For those of you who have been out of the loop for the past 15 or so years, Broadway producers and writers have somehow got it in their heads that the surefire route to making millions of dollars and being the toast of society is to convert well-known movies into musicals. Not only that, it seems that any and all movies are fair game from Ghost to The Wedding Singer. You probably live under a rock if you haven’t heard anything about the Spiderman musical and the controversy that has followed it since it’s inception (Luckily, Inception has not been turned into a musical…yet).
Is it a good idea to port movies over to live theatre? Seems like it would be. There have been countless plays and musicals that have made the trek from stage to silver screen. Some of the most beloved movies of all time were plays first like A Few Good Men and A Streetcar Named Desire which both saw success in the live-theatre before seeing wider success in movie theatres. Surely the reverse would be true. Yet, every time you turn around some movie that was turned into a stage production is closing. You’d think producers and writers would take a hint and stop, right? Nope.
For every movie turned musical that closes five others seem to be in the works to replace them. The most recent graduate from screen to stage: Rocky. Not The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which actually was a stage production first before it became a film) but Rocky, the film franchise about a boxer who, while down on his luck, gets a random title shot against the heavyweight champion of the world amidst finding love in the unlikeliest of places. That Rocky.
I know what you’re thinking, “Finally! I’ve been praying and hoping they’d bring that to musical format for years!” Well for the one person who actually wished for that, you’re in luck. For the rest of us, prepare to cringe. Rocky is currently in previews at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. Now I openly admit that I have not seen it nor do I have any indication of the quality of the book, music, lyrics, direction or performance. This is not a review, it is simply an opinion that certain topics and stories may not be the best fit for the art form that is the American musical.
It’s hard not to think that it’s really all about the money. If it was such a brilliant concept for a stage production wouldn’t it have become one shortly after the first, second, third, fourth, fifth or even sixth film? You can’t tell me that it’s taken them 38 years to get the book, lyrics and music to a place where it’s ready to take the theatre community by storm. I have fond memories of watching Rocky and attempt to watch it at least once a year. The fact that a staged musical for this story exists only taints whatever good that film brought to me.
To prove that I do not like the idea of bringing “ANY” film to the stage I will openly admit that the Back to the Future series contain my three favorite films of all time (II, I & III: in that order). It has been announced that Robert Zemeckis is on board to bring Back to the Future to the stage in musical-format for the film’s 30th anniversary in 2015. I have an undying love for this series. I have watched them collectively well over one hundred times and will continue to do so. I am certain, that for me, no film will ever be able to replace them. In regards to the decision to bring them to the stage in the form of a musical: I think it’s a terrible idea. There is nothing that can be done to do that film justice. It is simply not meant for the live performance format. It was a very visual movie. Yes it’s soundtrack played a large role however the eighties are over and the last time I checked there were no hit Broadway shows with scores reminiscent of the style of Alan Silvestri.
I would love to be proved wrong but in my opinion the transition of screen to stage only serves one purpose: taking a story with a built in audience to guarantee revenue for producers. If I wanted to destroy beautiful works of art I’d do it the old fashioned way: splash a bucket of hot pink paint on them and call it a day. At least that wouldn’t be nearly as painful as what Broadway is doing to my favorite films.