The Top-Ten Films I'd Like to See Made Into Musicals
I must apologize for being absentee the last few days. I have been off on a journey to welcome my new nephew into the world. I cannot wait to teach him all about the wonders of musical theatre! Now that I am back from "Uncle-Land" I guess I should get back to my writing.
I am the first person to say that I prefer original musicals, with original stories, to those adapted from films, but realistically, most major musicals of yesteryear were adapted from plays. It was inevitable that we would turn to film as the basis for our musicals. Truthfully, there have been some artful and/or delightful musicals adapted from films that I have quite enjoyed. Among them are Carnival!, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, La Cage aux Folles, The Producers, Spamalot, Grey Gardens, and Little Shop of Horrors come to mind as fully realized adaptations that are augmented by the musical form.
With the trend of Hollywood influencing much of the material that is becoming Broadway musicals, I have been pondering what films I would like to see make that journey from screen to stage. Mychoices do not mean to exclude other titles, or to incite outcries of " artistic blaspehemy." These are my thoughts on what I'd like to see and I invite you to add to the list.
The Top-Ten Films I'd Like to See Made Into Broadway Musicals
In & Out
This is my first choice of any film I'd like to see sing and dance across the footlights. The story of an engaged high school teacher who, leading up to his wedding day, is mistakenly outed as being gay by one of his former students on national television, is rife with possiibility. The response of his family, friends, co-workers, his fiancee, and the town is, at first, hilarious. Then, there is an emotional turn when he realizes that it is true and the whole town comes to his defense when his job is put in jeopardy. The situation puts the main character through an emotional journey that can be converyed beautifully through song. The supporting characters offer great song possibilities, especially though their reactions to a loved-one's coming out. Even the townfolk reveal themselves as colorful gossips, much akin to the chorus of The Music Man. I can already imagine a great eleven o'clock comedy number for his fiancee called "Is Everybody Gay?" or "I Need a Herterosexual Code Red."
A League of Their Own
I have always felt that there is something inherently musical about A League of Their Own. Maybe I'm just fixated on a female Damn Yankees, but I don't think it is that. This comedic drama about the Women's Baseball League during World War II is all about unique ladies who find themselves and explore new identities through our national pastime. The sister rivalry at the center of this story makes for interesting conflicts and plots twists, and the way the team comes together from a bunch of misfits and cement into a unit of support, are all full of emotional and sentimental possibilities. It would make a great ensemble show and I could certainly see the team made up of gutsy performers such as Jessie Mueller, Donna Lynne Champlin, Megan Hilty, Rachel Bay Jones, Laura Benanti, and Annaleigh Ashford. A fellow can dream, can't he?
My Man Godfrey
This screwball comedy of the Silver Screen is full of such colorful characters and a plot premise that is perfect for musical comedy. The story follows a spoiled, rich bubblehead named "Irene Bullock" who, during a fundraising scavenger hunt, must find a forgotten man. She spots "Godfrey" in a shantytown, who agrees to help her win the prize. She is amused by his formal behavior and unique point-of-view, and hires him to be the new family butler. What this poor man must endure in the craziness of the Bullock's eccentric, New York City home is comedy magic. Irene falls in love with Godfrey, who carefully navigates the family and learns to deal with their quirks. When the Bullock's fall on hard times, it is revealed that Godfrey used to be as wealthy as they are, and he has been investing on the family's behalf and saves them from bankruptcy. Of course, the story ends with Irene trapping him into marriage. Larger-than-life characters and grand plot twists are perfect fodder for musical comedy.
The Lady Eve
The Preston Sturges' classic film The Lady Eve is equal parts humor, romance, situation comedy, and intrigue. Predating Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by decades, the story begins aboard an ocean liner where a con-woman sets out to fleece the handsome heir to an ale fortune by wooing him. When the young man learns he's being taken, he dumps her and leaves. She continues to stalk him, hoping to get his money. Along the way she falls in love with him and he with her. All ends happily ever after (of course), but not until chaos ensues. The leading characters are the stuff that musical comedy couples are made of and the premise is just corny enough to work with Cole Porter-esque style songs.
I realize that there is a musical version of Beaches floating around out there, having played The Signature Theatre in Virginia earlier this year. Whether that production (or any other) will see the lights of Broadway is anyone's guess. Beaches, a dramatic film based on the book by Iris Rainer Dart, is the story of two childhood friends, each of a different social class, who meet on the beach and form a friendship that endures trial and tribulation, right through it's tragic ending. The two women are opposites: one is bold and brassy and the other quiet and reflective. This odd couple and their emotional ups-and-downs is practically screaming to become a Broadway musical. The question is, how much of the well-known music from the film will need to be held over to the stage score? "Wind Beneath My Wings" has become synonymous with the story and audiences might miss it if it wasn't there.
I am so "worldly" including a foreign film on this list. Despite my limited knowledge of European cinema, Amelie managed to cross the Atlantic and grab my heart. The title character in an introverted Parisian waitress who decides to spend her life trying to bring happiness to, and make life better for, others. Because of her shyness, each adventure helps her to come out of her shell and connect more with the world. What a lovely topic for a musical: learning to fall in love with yourself by doing kind things for others. I would really love to see the composers of Matilda create this score as they have just the right amount of quirkiness to capture the world of Amelie.
What does a man go through and what does he learn when he starts cross-dressing as a woman to secure a role in a popular soap opera? Tootsie presents a unique situation that opens up the story's catalyst to an oft-untold viewpoint. What is it like to be a man but to be treated like a woman? The revelations and internal conflicts alone make for an interesting character study, not to mention the possibilities of defining what his evolving perspective becomes.
Call me crazy on this one, but for the same reasons I love Tootsie, I am attracted to Working Girl as a prospect for musicalization. In this case, we see a young woman, abused by the male-dominated corporate system as she becomes more aggressive in her approach to the world of business and finance, climbing herself up the corporate ladder. It's like How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying meets Bloomer Girl. Okay - that's a stretch, but aspects of both of those shows, having confidence in yourself from the former, and not letting people's perspectives on your gender silence you into to submission (the latter), permeate the story. Both are worthy topics of musical theatre storytelling and both compelling enough to drive the otherwise predictable plot .
St. Elmo's Fire
What happens to us when we graduate from college? Life is full of disappointment and disillusion, especially when certain realities set in. St. Elmo's Fire follows a group of friends as they must grow up and become adults. Idealism goes out the window and each of them has a darker experience than anticipated. This leaves them jaded, but much wiser for the experience. Each characters goes through some form of identity crisis, thrusting the plot with both their individual and combined experiences. Perhaps a musical theme could accompany each character throughout the show, with the individual pieces combining in the end to create one masterful finale that sums up their personal life epiphanies?
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A handful of elderly Brits choose to take their life savings and move to India and spend their retirement at the Marigold Hotel. The only problem is, when they arrive, they find the establishment is not the caliber of what they have been promised. Having spent everything, they must accept their fate and live out their final days in the dilapidated resort. The premise is funny, but the relationships and new lives they create for themselves, and the dire straits of the situation, are not. It forces them to make new discoveries about themselves. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel offers so many meaty roles for aging actors and actresses, and also tells stories of a demographic that is underrepresented in musical theatre.
What films would you like to see turned into stage musicals and why? Leave a comment!