“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?

Advertisements

The Crucible: Re-staging a classic for the 21st century

Arguably the most prolific of Arthur Miller’s works, The Crucible has become and English class staple. I’ve both read it and seen it performed, as has a large majority of high school students across the country.

This Tony season, The Crucible is one of two Arthur Miller works produced and nominated (A View From The Bridge is the other). Both are undertaken by director Ivo Van Hove, a first time Tony nominee. The trend this awards season has seen revivals earning significantly less nominations than the original productions, but The Crucible has proved an exception to this rule. The original production only garnered 2 nominations, but this production has received 4.

With such an iconic story, how did Van Hove bring The Crucible into the 21st century? The simple answer is by keying up the metaphors and scaling down the period accuracy.

As someone who is generally skeptical of “modernized” productions, this revival of The Crucible turned the notion of watered down and palatable modernization on its head. Anyone who is familiar with the recent cinematic release of The Witch knows that the horror isn’t in the thing that jumps out at you from the shadows, it’s the thing that you can’t see at all.

Even from looking at production photos, it’s clear that Van Hove took the historical accuracy of stage and costume design in the opposite direction. The cast is clad in monochrome clothing, suggesting something between a dystopian future and the modern era. The set is much the same, the only clear difference being the wall (and “chalkboard”) used for projections.

ascenefromthecrucible_photo_janversweyveld

What I believe Van Hove aims to do in stripping down the production is to draw attention to the central conflict rather than let the audience be lost in the setting of Salem. The Crucible was built as an allegory for the McCarthyism “red scare” trials, and this production reminds us of the habit of the human mind to mold it’s own with hunts.

By giving this simple lens, I received the message that this conflict could arise anywhere, and it has. From with trials, to the red scare, to the war on terror, a human’s greatest enemy is the unknown. The determination to make an enemy where there is not one is a horror story in itself, one that is reflected in the plight of Abigail Williams and the people of Salem.

81392-7

Saoirse Ronan makes her Broadway debut as Williams here, and Ben Wishaw stars as John Proctor, the protagonist. At first glance, the softness and gentle acting of Wishaw makes for a curious choice for the strong-willed farmer, but it proves to be a strong choice. Sophie Okenedo (nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Play) stars as Elizabeth Proctor, and the difference between Okenedo’s fierce Elizabeth and Wishaw’s John sheds new light on two characters turned archetypes.

John Proctor has long been played as the steadfast man, absolute in the face on conflict, his affair with Abigail Williams the one blight on his character. I appreciate Wishaw in this role for the simple fact that he plays Proctor as more complex than that. His resolution is quiet, and in this state, we’re able to see how his slip into temptation was possible. In contrast is Elizabeth, who Okenedo allows to be strong-willed without dipping into shrill stereotypes. I find myself understanding the divide between husband and wife with this characterization, and it makes their reconciliation deeper and more believable.

sophie-okonedo-and-ben-whishaw-in-the-crucible-directed-by-ivo-van-hove-photo-by-jan-versweyveld1-630x420

I feel that what Van Hove has managed to do with The Crucible is to breathe life into an old classic, but without all of the tradition that may have weighed it down. Arthur Miller ensured his work would be timeless simply through the power of his writing, but this production of The Crucible has taken the plot out of time to remind the audience of the limits of human rationality and the honors of conviction.


 

The Crucible is also nominated for Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jan Versweyveld) and Best Featured Actor in a Play (Bill Camp).


 

MITM Musings: If you’re familiar with The Crucible, how would you take to a non-traditional production like this one? For better or worse, the modernization of works has become a massive trend in recent years- would you rather see more of this or just stick to the way the classics were produced?

Why Eclipsed is making Tony history and breaking glass ceilings

Nominated for 6 Tony Awards this season, Eclipsed truly is one of a kind. Penned by Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed offers something completely unique to both the Tonys and current stage politics: and all female cast and female lead creatives.

Last year the team behind Fun Home made history as the first female writing team to win for Best Original Score. That revelation took a lot of people off-guard, including myself. However, it came as no surprise to me that Eclipsed premiered at The Public Theater, where Fun Home and Hamilton also launched. The Public, along with a good portion of Off-Broadway theatres have become hubs for diverse stage work, and have slowly been pushing that trend towards larger Broadway stages.

0f5d320b023c4b2f850f6a7067003121

In recent years, the move and trend towards diversity in stage work  has been bumpy to say the least, but Eclipsed offers yet another milestone- not only are the cast all women, but they are all women of color. This extends to the creative team too, where all members are either a person of color or female, something almost completely unheard of on Broadway either historically or currently.

The show itself is based in Liberia during the country’s still ongoing civil war. Four of the women featured are all wives of a rebel general who’s lives are turned upside down when a new wife is brought to the compound.

07eclipsedjp-facebookjumbo

Rather than focus on the war at large, Gurira chose to focus on those it still affects most: the women captives, the wives of war, and female soldiers. I discovered that Gurira wrote the script after research and a trip to Liberia, where she interviewed women who would become the basis for her characters. These women have been captured by Liberian rebel forces and forced to become soldier wives to strengthen the rebel cause. Many are raped and assaulted, all are held hostage.

Read about Danai Gurira’s trip: here

This tie to reality allowed me to become completely engrossed in the script, as the women struggle to live, hope for peace, and find comfort in each other. Often times, scripts fall prey to the “strong woman” stereotype, but the way that Gurira writes these characters and Liesl Tommy directs them never feels contrived. The conflict that the protagonists face feels real because it is literally rooted in reality.

Many critics have pointed to Eclipsed as revolutionary because the voice it gives to the unheard, and I have to agree. All female casts are rare enough, but combined with this subject matter puts the play in another league. Both Gurira and Tommy are African born, and their passion for African women and their voices is clear. They say, and I agree, that shining a light on the Liberian struggle through performance allows audiences to access the hardships in a more meaningful way.

Having only read the script and not seen a full performance, I can only comment about the writing of Danai Gurira and direction of Liesl Tommy, but the acting nominations point to a strong cast as well.

uptown_broadway_cover

Lupita Nyong’o already has an Academy Award for her work in 12 Years A Slave, so her nomination for Leading Actress here seems to reflect her ability. Also nominated in the acting categories are Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh for Featured Actress. Clint Ramos is also nominated for Costume Design.

Out of all Tony eligible new plays, Eclipsed has the most nominations (tied with The Humans at 6 each). Movie, television, and theatre critics alike have historically pointed to the lack of female driven performances and reasoned that the gap exists because these pieces aren’t engaging or entertaining. Eclipsed has provided the next brick in the wall of female driven performances, and with 6 nominations and critical acclaim, it is a strong brick indeed.

“But Where Is The Award For Best Sound Design?” And Other Award Vacancies

In recent years, the debate for against including sound in the Tony technical awards has looked like a tug of war.

Only created in 2008, sound design was the youngest Tony Award until 2014, when the organization decided to pull the plug- quite literally. Unless reinstated, sound design will remain the shortest lived award in Tony history. But many sound designers and members of the technical theatre community continue to put up a fight.

2artsbeat-blog480

Brian Ronan accepting the 2014 Best Sound Design of a Musical Award. Received for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

Every other major award show includes a category for excellence in sound design (this includes the Oscars, Grammy, etc.) but the Tony Awards were last on this train. The reason given? The same as why the committee decided to retract the award: the voters and committee don’t understand the craft, and when the award was still included, most voting members chose to forgo voting in the sound design category anyway.

The Tony Administration Committee has since said that they feel sound design is more of a technical award than a theatrical award. To many, this appears more of a lack of understanding than a shift in definitions.

414

Hashtag started by the technical theatre community in 2014 after the announcement the Sound Design awards would be discontinued.

It’s been suggested by current West End and Broadway sound designers that Tony Award voters be educated on what to listen and look for with sound design, the same as they would listen to the original music in a play, or score of a musical. The committee has stated their hope to create a Special Tony Award for sound designers- but this would make sound the only “technical” category not included in the main award set.

Read about the committee’s announcement: click here

This has raised the question about what other awards the theatre community feel the Tony Awards have overlooked, and once they’re put in to a list, it may come as a surprise that these categories have never been historically considered.

  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Makeup and Hair Design
  • Best Original Score (Play)

 

MITM Musings: Have you ever thought about any other “missing” awards that could be added to this list?
Do you agree with those who want to add back the award or those who want to create the Special Tony Award?

 

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

14665-3

 

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

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

 

Tony Awards Rules Round-up

With the Tony Nominations Ceremony just around the corner (broadcast tomorrow!), it’s now time to dive into how it becomes possible for a show to be nominated. Ever wondered what classifies a show as “being on Broadway”? How about what qualifies a person to be on the voting committee? We’ve got it covered here.

 

635935857666773051-420801720_b_new_tunein_2016

Rules: New Play or Musical

For this award, a new play or musical is considered one that hasn’t previously been produced on Broadway and isn’t determined to be “classic” (in the historical repertoire). This decision is made by the Tony Admin. Committee, who were discussed in our previous post. proj-shufflealongThe “classics” rule was decided on in 2002, and says that shows transferred from Off-Broadway or the West End are eligible as “new”, as are productions based closely on films or books. This is certainly the case this season, where many shows, including School of Rock, Misery, and Tuck Everlasting, are all based off of priorly published material.

This rule has been the subject of some controversy, as some feel that allowing plays and musicals that have been frequently produced to be eligible as “new” gives them an unfair advantage, because they are more familiar with the Tony voters. On this flip side of this in the current season is Shuffle Along, which although based on the 1921 show of the same name, features a plot about the production of the original show, as well the legacy the show had in the theatre world.

 

Voters

There are approximately 868 eligible Tony Award voters, which is a number that changes slightly from year to year.

 

Eligible Tony voters include the board of directors and designated members of the American Theatre Wing, members of the Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists, and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. There are also members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America and voting members of The Broadway League.

Eligibility Season

To be eligible for Tony Award consideration and nominations, a show must have officially opened on Broadway by the eligibility date established by the Management Committee. Like the number of eligible voters, this date also changes from year to year. For the 2015-2016 season, the cut-off date for opening was April 28, 2016.

“Broadway” Theatre

rrogers_08A Broadway theatre is currently defined as having 500 or more seats, among other requirements. While the official rules define a Broadway theatre in terms of its size, not its geographical location, the list of Broadway theatres is determined only by the Tony Admin Committee. As of the 2015-2016 season, the list of eligible “Broadway” theatres consists of 40 theatres in the New York Met area, almost all in the Theatre District.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.