“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?

Spring Awakening and the Evolution of the Language of Theatre

Originally staged in 2006, Spring Awakening is actually based on a 19th century play of the same name. From that base, Duncan Sheik created a rock opera about the struggles of 19th century German teens which rang true enough with modern audiences to garner 11 Tony nominations. This time around it’s only received 3. So what sparked this re-staging, and how does a critically acclaimed revival get so little attention from the Tony Awards?

Deaf West, the company who revived Spring Awakening, is housed in San Francisco, and their mission is directly attached to their name. Composed primarily of actors who are deaf or hearing impaired, Deaf West incorporates American Sign Language into their performances. Michael Arden (Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bare, Big River) felt that at it’s heart, Spring Awakening was about the dangers of miscommunication. Much of the conflict in the script is due to the divide between the struggling teens and the adults who refuse to listen.

Michael Arden and Deaf West felt that what better way to intensify that gap than to layer in a language divide between the characters?

04spring-master1050

The revival of Spring Awakening features 8 deaf actors, 8 hearing actors, and 7 on-stage musicians. Every line of dialogue and lyrics are accompanied by American Sign Language. But how does this affect audience members who do not understand the language?

It’s a simple concept, and yet fits in another layer of metaphor: every deaf actor also has a “voice”, who is an on-stage musician. The hearing actor speaks and sings for the deaf actor while they sign.

28springjp-sub-master675

Wendla Bergman (Sandra Mae Frank) and her “voice” (Katie Boeck).

While this may sound somewhat chaotic, it intensifies the feelings of Moritz and Wendla, both played by deaf actors. They, most of all, feel lost, and though Wendla can sign to her mother and her mother can sign back, there is still a disconnect between parent and child. In the opening scene as Wendla’s mother struggles to explain to Wendla where babies truly come from, Wendla looks to her “voice” actor to help her make her mother understand her desire for knowledge and maturity. The audience grasps immediately this lack of communication will lead to conflict down the line.

The only actor of the company who does not use sign language in any fashion is the headmaster of the boys school. His lines of dialogue are projected onto the chalkboard instead. The reason for his lack of conformity becomes clear- he attempts to mold the boys into the school’s version of adept students and adults, with no room for deviation.

Watch a trailer for the revival opening: HERE

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This revival is the first to feature deaf actors on the Broadway stage, as well as a cast member who utilizes a wheelchair (not hearing impaired). Michael Arden has been nominated for Best Director, and the production itself has garnered a Best Revival of a Musical nomination. So why has it missed so many potential nominations?

Opinions are splintered, but the leading thought is that it’s due to the 2015-2016 season was absolutely flooded with new productions. And this is true- only 5 out of the potential 16 eligible musicals were revivals this season.

So many have asked, was Spring Awakening simply overpowered by the bombshells of Hamilton and Shuffle Along? Or did critics simply like the original staging more?

If the former is true, it once again raises the question of just how many of the award categories need to be separate? As it stands currently aside from the separations of play and musical, only Best Musical/Best Revival of a Musical are separate. The trend in recent years has seen the nominations swing in the direction of the majority, either revivals or originals. The work it takes to produce and original show vs. a revival contain far different components, so maybe it’s time for the administration committee to ask themselves why they largely compete for the same awards?

Finally, if the latter is true, then once again the opinion of the public and the critics are split. Audiences saw to it that this production of Spring Awakening was highly profitable, so much so that a National Tour has been announced for 2017. So it seems that the audience’s opinion is currently the one that matters.

MITM Musings: So which line of thought do you think is the most valid? And if you had the chance, would you like to see a Deaf West performance?

 

Tony Nominations: Part 2

And now for the nominated musicals! Rather than wait until our final count, it deserves to be said now that we have a record-breaking season on our hands. Hamilton  has received 16 nominations in 13 categories, making it the first show since The Producers in 2001 and Billy Elliot the Musical in 2009 to earn more than 13 nominations.

The Producers still holds the record for most Tony wins, with 12, making it one of the very few musicals to win every category it was nominated in, and the only to sweep wins all available musical categories. Will Hamilton be on track to break this record as well?

Best Musical:

Bright Star                                                         Hamilton

14296-3                                            13717-3

School of Rock-The Musical                           Shuffle Along

13693-3                                  proj-shufflealong

 

Waitress

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Best Revival of a Musical:

The Color Purple                                            Fiddler On The Roof

colorpurple240                                        13908_show_portrait_large

 

She Loves Me                                                  Spring Awakening

she_loves_me_key_art_with_billing                                       spring-awakening-large-643x441

 

Best Book of a Musical:

Bright Star-
Steve Martin

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

School of Rock-
Julians Fellows

Shuffle Along-
George C. Wolfe

 

Best Original Score:

Bright Star-
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

School of Rock-
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater

Waitress-
Sara Bareilles

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:

School of Rock-
Alex Brightman

Fiddler on the Roof-
Danny Burstein

She Loves Me-
Zachary Levi

Hamilton-
Lin-Manuel Miranda

Hamilton-
Leslie Odom Jr.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:

She Loves Me-
Laura Benanti

Bright Star-
Carmen Cusack

The Color Purple-
Cynthia Erivo

Waitress-
Jessie Mueller

Hamilton-
Phillipa Soo

 

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

Hamilton-
Daveed Diggs

Hamilton-
Jonathan Groff

Hamilton-
Christopher Jackson

Shuffle Along-
Brandon Victor Dixon

Waitress-
Christopher Fitzgerald

 

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

The Color Purple-
Danielle Brooks

Hamilton-
Renee Elise Goldsberry

She Loves Me-
Jane Krakowski

Disaster! The Musical-
Jennifer Simard

Shuffle Along-
Adrienne Warren

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

American Psycho-
Es Devlin and Finn Ross

Hamilton-
David Korins

Shuffle Along-
Santo Loquasto

She Loves Me-
David Rockwell

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical:

Tuck Everlasting-
Gregg Barnes

She Loves Me-
Jeff Mahshie

Shuffle Along-
Ann Roth

Hamilton-
Paul Tazewell

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Hamilton-
Howell Binkley

Shuffle Along-
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhaur

Spring Awakening-
Ben Stanton

American Psycho-
Justin Townsend

 

Best Direction of a Musical:

Spring Awakening-
Michael Arden

The Color Purple-
John Doyle

She Loves Me-
Scott Ellis

Hamilton-
Thomas Kail

Shuffle Along-
George C. Wolfe

 

Best Choreography:

Hamilton-
Andy Blankenbuehler

Shuffle Along-
Savion Glover

Fiddler on the Roof-
Hofesh Shechter

Dames at Sea-
Randy Skinner

On Your Feet!-
Sergio Trujillo

 

Best Orchestrations:

Bright Star-
August Erikmoen

She Loves Me-
Larry Hochman

Hamilton-
Alex Lacamoire

Shuffle Along-
Daryl Waters

 


 

Final Count

Most nominations: 16- Hamilton (in 13 categories)

10- Shuffle Along

8- She Loves

5- Bright Star

Eligible Musicals with no nominations:

  • Allegiance
  • Amazing Grace

Eligible Musicals with only 1 nomination:

  • Disaster! The Musical
  • On Your Feet!
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • Dames At Sea

Meet the Eligible Shows (Part 4)

The final category in our eligible shows round-up are the shows potentially up for Best Revival of a Musical. These shows have graced the Broadway stage in previous years, but have been given a new lease on life for the 2015-2016 season.

Able to be entered for Best Revival of a Musical

The Color Purple colorpurple240

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple was originally produced in 2005. Following the life of Celie as she struggles living as a black woman in the 1930’s South, the musical showcases the bonds of sisterhood, hope, and how having strength in the face of adversity is one of the most powerful weapons one can wield.

Where: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Run: December 10 2015-

 

 

Dames at Sea dames-at-sea-logo

While the show originally debuted Off-Broadway in 1968, the 2016 production of Dames at Sea is the first to make it to Broadway. Set in the style of the large and flashy movie-musicals of the 1930’s, the plot parodies the genre as a “tap happy gem”, which centers on a play within a play: the titular Dames at Sea.

Where: Helen Hayes Theatre
Run: October 22 2015- January 3 2016

 

 

Fiddler on the Roof 13908_show_portrait_large

Originally produced in 1964 and following a movie-musical of great success, Fiddler on the Roof follows the little town of Anatevka in 1905 Imperial Russia. The protagonist, Tevye deals with marrying off his daughters on the eve of the Russian pogroms against the country’s Jewish population.

Where: Broadway Theatre
Run: December 20 2015-

 

 

She Loves Me she_loves_me_key_art_with_billing

Produced on Broadway in 1963, She Loves me goes in line with this season’s 1960’s revival trend. Inspired by Miklos Laszlo’s play Parfumerie, the show revolves around two shop employees in Budapest, who in spite of constantly butting heads, are unaware that each is the other’s secret pen pal who they’ve met through “lonely heart ads”.

Where: Studio 54
Run: March 17 2016-

 

 

Spring Awakening spring-awakening-large-643x441

Though the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening only opened in 2006, the 2016 revival has brought a Broadway first to the stage: a company full of deaf and hearing-impaired actors. Produced by California theatre company Deaf West, Spring Awakening takes the trials of 19th century German teens with the music of Duncan Sheik and translates it for a whole new audience.

Where: Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Run: September 27 2015- January 24 2016

 

 

MITM Musing: Are you familiar with any of the musical and play revivals this season? With so many already earning critical acclaim, what’s your personal favorite?

Meet the Eligible Shows (Part 3)

As is the case with Broadway plays, Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical also earn their own categories. While some years are full of revivals that bring audiences back to a familiar show, this year the original musicals far outweigh the eligible revivals. Let’s jump in and meet the new shows that have stepped onto the Broadway stage!

Able to be entered for Best Musical:

Allegiance tour_img-370570-90

Inspired by George Takei’s childhood experience of living as a Japanese-American duing WWII America, Allegiance chronicles the Kimura family in their struggles following Pearl Harbor. Forced to leave their homes for internment camps along with 120,000 other families, stars Lea Salonga, George Takei, and Telly Leung fight “between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden love.”

Where: Longacre Theatre
Run: November 8 2015- February 14 2016

 

Amazing Grace  14014-3

The story behind the “world’s most beloved” song written by John Newton, Amazing Grace follows the young English composer as he comes of age in a Britain that makes its fortune through slavery. The son of a slave trader, while at sea he finds himself in his darkest hour, and the moment leads to an “anthem of hope” that guides him home.

Where: Nederlander Theatre
Run: July 16 2015- October 25 2015

 

 

 

American Psycho ap_og

Direct from the West End and inspired by the film starring Christian Bale, American Psycho is set in the “excess of 1980s Manhattan”, and tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a young and handsome Wall Street banker who pursues his “darkest American dreams.” A rich businessman by day, Bateman takes part in some darker hobbies by night, and his mask of sanity has begun to slip in between the two.

Where: Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
Run: April 21 2016-

 

Bright Star 14296-3

Inspired by a true event and set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Bright Star finds its protagonist in Alice Murphy, a successful Southern literary editor. As she mentors aspiring writer Billy Cane, a young soldier just returned home from World War II, she begins to confront a haunted past that may completely alter her life once more.

Where: Cort Theatre
Run: March 24 2016-

 

 

 

Disaster! dvdfd

This homage to disco and 1970’s horror flicks takes place in 1979 Manhattan, at the opening of Barracuda, the world’s first floating casino and discotheque. Unaware of impending natural disasters, the cast of characters roll through their opening night in plots reminiscent of cult classics such as The Poseidon Adventure and Airport 1975.

Where: Nederlander Theatre
Run: March 8 2016-

 

 

Hamilton 13717-3

Set in Revolutionary era American, Hamilton chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton, founding father “without a father” who would come to be the first Secretary of the Treasury. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is a hip-hop fusion that brings personal connections back to history and politics.

Where: Richard Rodgers Theatre
Run: August 6 2015-

 

 

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan onyourfeetposter

Based on the life story of superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband, producer Emilio Estefan, On Your Feet! features heavily the music of their career. The musical showcases the early struggles of the couple as they fought with record labels and executives alike to bring their Cuban-fusion genre to the American public, as well as their eventual success and legacy.

Where: Marquis Theatre
Run: November 5 2015-

 

 

School of Rock: The Musical 13693-3

Following in the footsteps of the 2003 film of the same name, School of Rock once again features the class of pseudo-teacher Dewey Finn and the formation of his class band to settle his personal old scores. Featuring new original music as well as music from the film, the show tells the story about the power of hidden talent, and that sometimes its okay to “stick it to the man.”

Where: Winter Garden Theatre
Run: December 6 2015-

 

 

Tuck Everlasting 14295-3

Adapted from Natalie Babbitt’s novel, Tuck Everlasting spins the tale of the Tuck family, who have unwittingly gained immortality through a mystic spring, and Winnie Foster, the young girl who falls accidentally into their secluded life. Romance, compassion, and loss frame a show that endeavors to ask what the true meaning of life becomes when you no longer have an end in sight.

Where: Broadhurst Theatre
Run: April 26 2016-

 

 

Waitress 14665-3

With a book by Jessie Nelson, and music & lyrics by Grammy-nominated Sara Bareilles, Waitress tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress in an unhappy marriage to her husband. When Jenna unexpectedly discovers she is pregnant and begins to fall for her gynecologist, she looks for an unusual way out: a pie contest with a grand prize that may change her life.

Where: Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Run: April 24 2016-

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