“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?

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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