It’s been a while since I’ve written about anything theatre- or Broadway-related on this blog. While it’s largely been because I simply haven’t seen much theatre lately, it’s also because there’s little out there that I’m actually itching to see.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. There are plenty of plays I want to see on Broadway, from “Lobby Hero” to “Angels in America” (despite the fact that I technically already saw all 9-to-ten hours of it it when the London production screened in movie theaters last summer) and beyond, it’s more the musical side of things that has left me a bit disinterested and uninspired. I’m just not too psyched to see every film released in the last 20-30 years made into a musical and I like to think I’m not the only one.
With the announcements just this week that both “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Beetlejuice” have stage musical adaptations in the works, the number of movie-to-musical adaptations on or headed to Broadway grows even higher. It’s a somewhat disheartening trend that seems to only be picking up speed. If you look at the list of Broadway shows that are either currently running or set to open soon on Broadway.com right now, you’ll see that at least 14 of the 59 are musicals based on movies. (That’s not even counting “The Spongebob Squarepants Musical,” which people seem to like and it makes absolutely no sense to me.)
It’s easy to deduce why this trend has become more prevalent. Broadway only thrives when there are butts in the seats and tourists coming from out of town who are looking to take in a Broadway show are likely to select a familiar title over something new and unusual. Producers are primarily interested in investing in projects that they are confident people will want to see and a beloved pre-existing entity seems like a safe bet. And yet, most of the biggest crossover hits (shows that have enjoyed popularity and attention outside of the tight-knit theatre nerd community) of the last several years have been shows like “The Book of Mormon,” “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” largely original shows born out of unique, untested ideas. (And I know that “Hamilton” is obviously based on a true story and the book about it by Ron Chernow, but if you want to tell me that a hip hop musical about the lesser known founding father is on the same level of familiarity as a musical adaption of “The Devil Wears Prada,” which is a real thing that’s coming, then I’d love to sell you a beach house in Kansas.)
It all feels too similar to the onslaught of reboots, revivals and sequels that have taken over television and film. With so much of the viewing public moving away from watching things live or in a theater and towards the ease of streaming, studios and networks are somewhat less inclined to go with a risky new story as opposed to a safe pre-existing one. But much like the musical adaptations of “Groundhog Day” and “Ghost” that came and went on Broadway, many of those TV and film reboots or revivals fell flat with audiences. It’ll be interesting to see how this latest crop of movie-to-musical adaptations, including “Pretty Woman” and, I kid you not, “King Kong,” fare when they actually start to open on the Great White Way. Maybe they’ll succeed and I’ll be proven wrong, but it feels more likely that they’ll only accentuate how desperately we need more original musicals back on Broadway.
That being said, if anyone has an in on “Mean Girls the Musical” tickets, hook ya girl up. What? It’s Tina Fey. That’s an entirely different ballgame.
What do you think? Are you fatigued by the movie-to-musical adaptations that have taken over Broadway? Did you make a sound so loud and so startling when you discovered that John Mulaney is hosting “SNL” later this month that the people around you thought something terrible had happened? Because I did. Let me know in the comments. And, as always…