“Based On”: Broadway’s Adaptation Addiction

Some years, as with the shift between revivals and new shows, adaptations swarm the eligibility lists. Depending on the source material, adaptations can either feel contrived or give the audience something completely new and profound. Personally, I lean on the side of original work as I feel it better expands the industry and keeps it fresh.

However, adaptations are never something that should be ruled out, because how else would we have ended up with the hits of Les Miserables and the Phantom of the Opera- both of which were novels before they came to the stage? These may be poor examples however, as these two stories have seen a multitude of adaptations over the years with all kinds of media. Perhaps here, it was the passage of time that led to these specific adaptations being well received. Les Miserables was published by Victor Hugo in 1862, and the musical first debuted on the West End in 1985. Gaston Leroux published The Phantom of the Opera in 1909, and it wasn’t until 1986 that Phantom came to the stage.

The current trend seems to be to snatch plots up as soon as they premiere elsewhere and work on transferring them to the stage. It’s not only Broadway that’s fallen prey to this- The Hunger Games from page to screen, and Star Wars from screen to graphic novel are some recent examples.

It feels like a different game when producers adapt things for the stage, especially if they become musicals for one simple reason: there was no music in Victor Hugo’s novel before Schonberg and Boublil put it there. So what about this season’s adaptations? Of the 5 eligible this year, all have been nominated for awards.

13693-3School of Rock: originally a 2003 film starring Jack Black, this production incorporates music from film and adds new songs as well. Changes to have been made to characters,  names, and plot points. Critics gave generally favorable reviews, but many have asked-what does adaptation add to the plot that the movie didn’t? Personally, I view this as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s scramble to make another hit after the Love Never Dies disaster. The show seems fun with great leads in Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess, but much like Rock of Ages before it, it doesn’t seen like anyone was clamoring for this story to be re-told, especially as the movie is still generally recent. Received 4 nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

14295-3Tuck Everlasting: originally a book published in 1975 and then adapted into the 2002 film, the source material obviously contains no music. The production clearly injects musical numbers and manages to weave plot lines unique to book and film. The show had some star power in the form of Terrance Mann and Andrew Keenan-Bolger, but it’s been largely ignored by the award committee. Reviews here were favorable, but the show closed just this past week. The score is whimsical, and the injection of music gives light to the story’s fairytale aesthetic, but I believe the production as a whole wasn’t hard-hitting enough in a season full of Eclipseds and Hamiltons. I think if this would have opened alongside Mary Poppins and Once in lighter seasons it would have fared better. Received a nomination for Best Costume Design.

ap_ogAmerican Psycho: originally a book published in 1991 and then 2000 film starring Christian Bale, this production also poses as a cross between horror and black comedy. It draws heavily on book material and the 1980’s setting to influence music choices. The show opened first on the West End in 2013 and has received favorable reviews for both productions. Here’s another show largely ignored by the nomination committee, but since 2013 has already become a “cult classic”. None of the violence is toned down, so a la Sweeney Todd, many don’t have the palette for it, which is why I think it’s been largely ignored. Music and lyrics are by Duncan Sheik, who’s Spring Awakening also received few nominations for it’s revival this season. Received two nominations for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design.

miseryMisery: originally a book published by Stephen King in 1987 and then 1990 film, this production is the only nominated or eligible staged adaptation that is a play, which is down from recent years. Though the film earned Kathy Bates an Academy Award, this show had mixed reviews. The star power of Bruce Willis couldn’t save this production, though perhaps some of this is due to the writing. The novel has already been adapted into two different plays, and to me, a third version feels like this was staged largely just to capitalize on the star power available. This show was also largely ignored by committee, with Laurie Metcalf garnering the only attention for her role as Annie Wilkes, same as Kathy Bates in 1990. Received a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

14665-3Waitress: originally a 2007 film, the source material is a largely cult hit, and as most of the others, has no music. The production draws heavily from source material but manages to inject and original score by Sara Bareilles, who is a Grammy-winning artist. The film was critically acclaimed, and the show received mixed to positive reviews. Here’s another show that pulled in less nominations than everyone expected, including myself. Personally, I think the opening ran too close to the eligibility cutoff to have full stock taken, however it may be the same case as Tuck Everlasting. Though containing some gritty subject matter, the show is on the lighter side of the spectrum and maybe would have benefitted in the nominations corner had it opened a few years previous. However, no plans have been made to close the show while other eligible shows this season have already had their last run. Received four nominations for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Actor in a Featured Role.

At the end of the day, this year has seen new works dominate both the eligibility rankings and the nominations themselves, but that is not always the case. Some of the longest running shows currently on Broadway are adaptations: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom, etc. These three shows garnered heavy attention from the nomination committee when they premiered, so perhaps the attention from the Tonys give shows the boost they need to last beyond premiere season.

However, I feel that writers can’t keep making it in the business if there’s nothing fresh to write. If every story goes through the adaptation saga disregarding parodies, what’s going to constitute a success in the industry? Theatre has historically been such an outlet for original work and creatives that didn’t fit into the entertainment mold, I would hate to see it become more commercialized than it already is. While I appreciate the attention that these large-scale adaptation successes have brought to the theatre community, I never want the industry to lose the original creative spark that drew so many of us to the theatre.

MITM Musing: Of your favorite shows, are any adaptations? If you could pick literally anything to see an adaptation of, what would it be? Any predictions as far as how these adaptations will fare at the Tonys?

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Tony Nominations: Part 1

The day is finally here: Tony Noms day. For Broadway it’s almost like Christmas in…May? Because the nominations list is long, we’re going to split up our nomination posts- one for the nominated plays and one for the nominated musicals. Up first: the nominated plays!

Best Play:

Eclipsed                                        King Charles III            

eclipsed-102015                                13715-3

 

The Father                                    The Humans 

80651-3                                  the-humans-poster

 

 

Best Revival of a Play:

Blackbird                                                                         The Crucible

blackbird-broadway-logo-e1456797702195                                  14095-3

 

Long Day’s Journey Into Night                                 Noises Off

caoneeswyaavx3e                                      noisesoff

 

A View From The Bridge

13824-3

 

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Gabriel Bryne

Blackbird-
Jeff Daniels

The Father-
Frank Langella

King Charles III-
Tim Pigott-Smith

A View From The Bridge-
Mark Strong

 

Best Performance of a Leading Actress in a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jessica Lange

Misery-
Laurie Metcalf

Eclipsed-
Lupita Nyong’o

The Crucible-
Sophie Okonedo

Blackbird-
Michelle Williams

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:

The Humans-
Reed Birney

The Crucible-
Bill Camp

Noises Off-
David Furr

King Charles III-
Richard Goulding

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Michael Shannon

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:

Eclipsed-
Pascale Armand

Eclipsed-
Saycon Sengbloh

Noises Off-
Megan Hilty

Noises Off-
Andrea Martin

The Humans-
Jayne Houdyshell

 

Best Scenic Design of a Play:

Thérèse Raquin-
Beowulf Borritt

Hughie-
Christopher Oram

The Humans-
David Zinn

A View From The Bridge-
Jan Versweyveld

 

Best Costume Design of a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jane Greenwood

Noises Off-
Michael Krass

Eclipsed-
Clint Ramos

King Charles III-
Tom Scutt

 

Best Lighting Design of a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Natasha Katz

The Humans-
Justin Townsend

The Crucible-
Jan Versweyveld

A View From The Bridge-
Jan Versweyveld

 

Best Direction of a Play:

King Charles III-
Rupert Goold

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jonathan Kent

The Humans-
Joe Mantello

Eclipsed-
Liesl Tommy

A View From The Bridge-
Ivo Van Hove

 


 

Final Count

Most nominations:  7 nominations- Long Day’s Journey Into Night

6 nominations- Eclipsed (in 5 categories)

The Humans

5 nominations- King Charles III

A View From The Bridge

Noises Off (in 4 categories)

 

Eligible Plays with no nominations:

  • An Act of God (new)
  • China Doll (new)
  • Our Mother’s Brief Affair (new)
  • Fool For Love (revival)
  • Fully Committed (revival)
  • The Gin Game (revival)
  • Old Times (revival)
  • Sylvia (revival

 

Meet the Eligible Shows (Part 1)

As the cut-off date for eligibility is coming up this week on April 28th, let’s take a look at the shows that have made the official jump to being Tony Eligible!

Able to be entered for Best Play:

An Act of God an-act-of-god-large-643x441

Written by David Javerbaum, this play is an adaptation of his The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. Billed as a “comedy in which the Almighty and his devoted angels answer some of the” questions that have “plagued” the human race since the dawn of time.

Where: Studio 54
Run: May 28 2015-August 2 2015

 

 

China Doll china-doll

Written by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino, China Doll brushes with “big money, fast planes, and other objects of desire.” It follows the life of Pacino, a “man of means” who is on the brink of running away with his fiancée, but the world has other plans.

Where: Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
Run: December 4 2015-January 31 2016

 

 

Eclipsed eclipsed-102015

Originally staged at the Public Theatre, Eclipsed is written by Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame. The show is set in the midst of the Liberian Civil War, and follows the trials and tribulations of a “fragile community” formed by the captive wives of a rebel officer.

Where: Nederlander Theatre
Run: March 8 2016-

 

 

 

 

The Father 80651-3

Starring 3-time past Tony winner Frank Langella, The Father captures a “fascinating” look inside the mind of a retired tap dancer now living with his adult daughter and her husband, but the mundane has a way of creeping up and clouding his mind.

Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Run: April 14 2016-

 

 

 

 

The Humans the-humans-poster

Written by Stephen Karam, The Humans take place entirely over the course of the Blake family Thanksgiving dinner. The show features the “angst, anguish, and amity” of a middle class American family as an inside slice of the new Americana.

Where: Helen Hayes Theatre
Run: February 18 2016-

 

 

King Charles III 13715-3

Written by Mike Bartlett, King Charles III takes a controversial look at Britain’s royal family. “After a lifetime of waiting”, the current Prince Charles ascends to the throne. The play explores the “people beneath the crowns” and “the unwritten rules of (British) democracy.”

Where: Music Box Theatre
Run: November 1 2015- January 31 2016

 

 

 

 

Misery misery

Based on the Stephen King thriller novel of fame, Misery was adapted for stage by William Goldman and starring Bruce Willis in his Broadway debut. Following a near-fatal car crash, an author is saved by one of his most avid fans.

Where: Broadhurst Theatre
Run: November 15 2015- February 14 2016

 

 

Our Mother’s Brief Affair 14766-3

Written by Richard Greenberg, Our Mother’s Brief Affair takes a look at “who our parents are when they’re not being our parents.” The show follows a family after their matriarch confesses on her deathbed to a past affair.

Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Run: January 20 2016- March 6 2016

 

 

 

 

Thérèse Raquin 13758-3

Based on the Émile Zola novel of the same name, Thérèse Raquin stars Keira Knightly in her Broadway debut as the titular character, trapped between a loveless marriage and a passionate affair that threatens to spin their world “violently out of control.”

Where: Studio 54
Run: October 19 2015- January 3 2016

 

 

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