Leading is not misleading.

In late November, the London production of the stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption got busted for putting a quote on their marquee that said the following:

“A superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting drama.” – Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

Good quote, right?

Only one problem . . . the quote was referring to the FILM version of Shawshank, and the reviewer had gone on to say, “In almost every respect, the stage version is inferior to the movie.”

Ballsy move on behalf of the Producers, right?

I’m a big fan of pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to promotion.  On the first poster of The Awesome 80s Prom, we put a quote on the top that said, “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life!”  We listed the source as, “The Awesome 80s Movie, Dirty Dancing.

But there is such a thing as going too far, and this certainly qualifies.  David Merrick’s Subways stunt had a wink to it (and hopefully The Prom’s did too), which made them work.  The Shawshank stunt is just about pulling the wool over a customer’s eyes.

And it gives us all a bad name.

Although, I guess it did get the show some publicity.  And I am writing about it here, and I bet that a lot of you never even knew there was a stage version of Shawhank in London, so . . . dang it, they succeeded in some fashion.

However, this stunt looks like the prods could get in some legal trouble as well, and more importantly could cause bigger problems for the Producers that have much smarter and savvier ideas in the future.

And that makes this stunt just selfish.

Oh, and for a future blog?  Why the bollocks are Londoners fascinated with play versions of successful movies?  Rain Man, Shawshank, When Harry Met Sally, etc.?  Think the movie companies would ever allow those productions here?  I bet not (and I’m sorta happy about that), but I am oh so curious how one would sell.  Your thoughts?

  • John says:

    Wasn’t the London version of THE GRADUATE that transfered to Broadway basically the same as those you named? I know it was adapted from the screenplay. I assume the others are adapted as well.
    I don’t believe the Graduate was a smash, but there was a high level of curiosity. I imagine that would be about the same on this side of the pond. Generally, not worth the effort.
    I’ve also been curious why these keep popping up in London. I suppose a faithful transfer of a beloved, oft-seen, oft-quoted film has a certain appeal. It’s always interesting to see the familiar, and to see the familiar re-interpreted live can be fascinating. Not original, but at least you know what you’re in for when you go to the theater.
    Personally, I miss the word-for-word parodies, like THE REAL LIVE BRADY BUNCH. I loved that show and went back week after week.

  • Duncan says:

    Yeah, here we only get musicals of successful movies.
    …and The Graduate, as noted above, though I don’t know how it would have sold without the stunt casting of Jason Biggs and Kathleen Turner.

  • Scott says:

    NOT a fan of the misleading quotes. It sure does lessen the credibility and forthrightness (is that a word?) of the producer. Not that I *care* about quotes on play OR movie ads, but I often look at who the quote is from on movie ads. You can tell the movie is bad when the best quote they can get is from a 3rd level paper or radio reviewer. I roll my eyes at nonsensical or silly quotes on theatre posters. I’m just waiting for ADDAMS FAMILY to have a quote from the Daily Mortician. Or better yet, Ken, maybe they could get a quote from the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys. Top THAT, Mr. Merrick. (and I better get a cut of that if they do!)

  • CL Jahn says:

    This British thing puzzles me. The few times it works over here are things like THE BRADY BUNCH thing. Now that I think of it, a room-mate and I kicked around an idea for a live production of WKRP IN CINCINNATI. And I just remembered that the roomie who thought of it was Scottish. Hmmm.
    My experience has been that once a movie has been made from a play, it is harder to sell tickets to regional productions of the play, unless the movie is awful or doesn’t get wide distribution. If people can watch the DVD at home in their underwear, they are less likely to want to pay to watch people they’ve never heard of doing it differently than their favorite overpaid Hollywood stars.
    The exception seems to be children’s theatre; when kids get fixated on something, they want to devour it in any and every form there is. Oh, and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. I know of some folk who were kicking around the idea of running it all the time in a local theatre, changing out the cast on an ongoing rotation to keep it fresh.

  • Ed says:

    It’s hardly only Londoners who are fascinated with stage versions of movies:
    Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, 9 to 5, Shrek, Hairspray, The Full Monty, Billy Elliott, Mary Poppins…and dare I forget Xanadu?
    They all played Broadway recently (okay, a while ago for Monty) and those are just off the top of my head.
    Yes, The Graduate, too.

  • Michael says:

    I think movies transformed into plays work only when they are truly transformed into theatre pieces–as is Brief Encounter at St. Anne’s Warehouse. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s been extended to January 17 and I highly recommend it as a completely different experience than the movie.

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