Follies? Broadway the Long-Haul: Stage to Screen
There has been some whisperings in the air that, with the financially successful transfer of Into the Woods to the screen, director Rob Marshall is considering a screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies. If that film were to happen today, the gestation from stage to screen would be 44 years. Given that it would take a few years for the film to be completed, we would be looking at closer to 46 years from opening night on Broadway to sitting at our local Cineplex and finally devouring Follies in movie form. This inspired me to start thinking: what are some of the longest gestations between opening night and film adaptation in Broadway history? If Follies does happen, would it hold the record?
Into the Woods opened on Broadway in 1987 and the film opened in 2014. That means there was twenty-seven years since the giant crushed the spirits of the our favorite fairy tale characters at the Martin Beck Theatre. That is a pretty long time when you consider that, of all of Sondheim's musicals, Into the Woods is perhaps the most family-friendly and the property that screams for the cinematic benefits of special effects and grand scenic and costume designs.
It was also a twenty-seven year trek for Chicago, which opened on Broadway in 1975. It wasn't until 2002 that the Kander and Ebb tuner found its way via director Rob Marshall. The show's original director-choreographer Bob Fosse, around his death in 1987, had professed that he had a plan on how to adapt Chicago to the big screen. Sadly, we never got to see that plan. If Fosse had lived, it's journey may have been much shorter.
Les Miserables is a harder number to decide on. Do we go with the original inception in Paris, 1980, putting our wait at thirty-two years, or do we go with the London premiere at the Barbican theatre in 1985 (much closer to the version we know now) which puts our wait at a mere twenty-seven years? Since this article is about Broadway to the silver screen, let's go with the 1987 opening at the Broadway Theatre, shortening our wait to an easy twenty-five years. 2012 finally found us storming that barricade, up close and personal.
Finian's Rainbow also took its sweet time making the transition, although that story is mired in the specter of McCarthyism. Opening on Broadway in 1947, the musical dealt with themes that, although timely, were bound to raise the ire of the anti-communist sentiment as it grew through the time period. An animated version of Finian's Rainbow in the 1950s was scrapped when the film's backers withdrew. Director John Hubley and lyricist E.Y. Harburg refused to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, making the project a toxic one to be associated with. It wouldn't be until 1968 that director Francis Ford Coppola would see to it that a film was made. Twenty-one years until Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, and a high-strung Tommy Steele would pine away for the mythical Glocca Morra.
So, it appears that Follies would hold the record at approximately 46 years. There is always a chance that we will see a film version of another musical that hasn't been brought to the table yet. Bloomer Girl anyone? Promises, Promises for the win? What Broadway musicals that predate Follies (1971) would you like to see steal this record?