Friday, September 17, 2010

"Well, they make musicals..."

What is it with London theatre producers and their sudden obsession with Whoopi Goldberg's back catalog?

Admittedly, Ms. Goldberg has a starry Broadway background having taken over the role of Pseudolus in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum from Nathan Lane, starring as the titular character in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, as well as subbing for Jackie Hoffman in Xanadu (the reason I saw that show for the third time ;-). And admittedly, past musicalizations of movies starring Whoopi have had some success: The Color Purple and the Disney behemoth, The Lion King. But still, I could take the announcement of the West End creation of a musical version of Sister Act, but now comes this:

Ghost the Musical to Open at London's Piccadilly in Summer 2011

What's next? Jumpin' Jack Flash: The Musical? 10 Forward: The Star Trek Cantina Musical? As Susan Powter once said: "Stop the insanity!"

I realize that big, splashy musicals are a risky endeavor. I also realize that I am something of a hypocrite as I:
  1. was one of the few people who saw the short-lived, Dolly Parton-penned musicalization of 9 to 5
  2. am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the musicalization of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (slated to take over the theatre once West Side Story closes, would have been ironic if it were to take over the Winter Garden from Mamma Mia!)
  3. am moderately interested in the idea of the musicalization of The First Wives Club.
  4. saw Xanadu 3 times.
Both 1 and 2 are resultant though from a casting choice driving me to see it: Allison Janney in 9 to 5, hottie Nick Adams in Priscilla in the Guy Pearce role. 3 is just a guilty pleasure of mine. 4 is a parody of the movie even though the movie is almost a parody of itself.

Off the top of my head I can name at least 2 dozen movie-based musicals in the past few years. I also would bet that many of y'all would be hard-pressed to name even half that many non-movie-based musicals of the past few years. We need our original musicals (watch for the post title reference), too!

The other thing I should note is that there's absolutely nothing wrong with derivative works. My personal theatre God, Stephen Sondheim, has worked on projects of a derivative nature: West Side Story, A Little Night Music (based on the Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night), Passion (based on an Italian movie), etc. But the musicals I'm decrying aren't "derivative" they're reproductions. Rapidly, Broadway and the West End are becoming some sort of Madame Tussaud's for Hollywood where the medium isn't wax, it's song.

4 comments:

The Diarist said...

I'll see your Swayze/Whoopie musical and raise you.

Just Jack said...

Ahh but that's actually not movie based. While I'm only inclined to go see it based on schadenfreude, it has a creative team headed by Julie Taymor who actually managed to make the musicalization of The Lion King interesting through her directorial choices.

The producers are definitely playing on the name recognition, but this (as well as the Addams Family Musical) fall into the "derivative" category (which doesn't guarantee quality, just semi-originality). Unlike:
Legally Blonde
Hairspray
The Producers
Cry Baby
Young Frankenstein
Mary Poppins
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Elf
Billy Elliot
Beauty and the Beast
The Little Mermaid
The Lion King
Tarzan
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The Full Monty
...

Reminds me of the Forbidden Broadway lyric to their parody cover of "Be Our Guest" titled "Be Depressed:"

Now Stephen Sondheim's teacher
Is an animated feature

The Knowledgemonger said...

Music by Bono & The Edge? Really?

Just Jack said...

Yeah, Bono's trying to EGOT I bet ;-)