Who cares where it’s from, as long as it’s good.

I’ve written about adaptations a bunch of times on this blog, including this entry which detailed the rise of movie-based musicals over the past 30 years (from 6% to 19% of new musicals).

And, more recently I was asked by a NY Post reporter if I was focusing on movie catalogs to find future source material, to which I responded:

I look for source material that will make a great musical and I don’t care if it’s from a book, a  movie, or a postcard!

If you’re looking for a much more thorough analysis and opinion of the above, check out this awesome blog by Howard Sherman, former Executive Director of the American Theatre Wing.  In it, Howard examines . . . ummm . . . in it, Howard talks about movies like . . . uh, and when he talks about A Chorus Line, he . . .

Oh, forget it, there’s no need to summarize or paraphrase what he said, because he said it best himself with quotes like this:

About musicals from movies:

. . .  there’s absolutely nothing wrong with musicals based on movies. When it is done with enough craft, with care and talent, no one begrudges a show its origins, although there is a tendency to now judge the source even before the show is produced.

About the often-cursed-about jukebox musical:

. . . while I think we need original scores lest the craft of musical theatre songwriting be lost, there have been terrifically entertaining and creative shows based on music cobbled together from other sources, whether it be earlier musicals, pop radio or a songwriter’s catalogue. Again, the only question is whether it’s done artfully.

Read the complete article here.  And thanks, Howard, for caring enough to write the very best.


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  • 42nd Street was made from a movie and pulled from catalogues! I’m no proponent of the over-use, but I think this could only bring more people to broadway. Good ones might succeed and the rest will mostly go to the same places musicals written for the stage exclusively go, when they are less than successful.

    Broadway and Vine is funding movie-to-musicals specifically!

  • Paul Argentini says:

    I enjoy your columns. I don’t want to comment. I respectfully ask you to read an e-mail about my latest play. Others say send in the first ten pages and you might hear in about a year. I know how to write a play, to make characters come alive, to bring the audience up to the edge of their seats. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but is there someone down in the boiler room that’ll take a look at my first ten pages? I’ll bet chalk to chewing gum they’ll want to see more. I appreciate the sympathy that made you read this far. Thank you.

  • Sue says:

    How come Saturday Night Fever hasn’t come to Broadway yet? Come on Ken, get the rights. I’ll volunteer as a Production Assistant.

  • A Contrarian says:

    Just two examples of successful adaptations that were NOT just like the movie: “Smiles of Summer Night” becomes “A Little Night Music” and from short stories about Berlin to “I am a Camera” play/movie transformed into “Cabaret” musical further transformed into musical movie.

    Very unlike much of what goes on today.

  • Jon Mann says:

    Most creative products are inspired by existing works, either directly or indirectly.

    Creators are sensitive and should be encouraged to try any combination of original/adapted/hybrid use in developing material that they may then choose to present as stageworthy.

    Convention and rules can clearly be an impediment to progress and opportunity in theatre or any other enterprise where creation is essential.

    It is the quality of the product and its ability to draw an audience which counts in the end. So, if producers, rights holders and investors have the will to breathe new life into material that has already proven popular why shoot down the effort before its given a chance to fly?

  • The important thing here is “as long as it’s good.” A lot of these movie musicals start with a bad product and end with a bad product. Or, more often, start and end in mediocrity. There are some exceptions of course.

    We in theatre need to seek out what is moving, stirring, intriguing, unique. The musical Once, for instance, started with an indie film that had a very small audience and created a Tony Award winner. I personally felt the musical lacked a little of the heart of the movie, but at least it had phenomenal source material to start with.

    I haven’t seen Sister Act or Ghost, but they were mediocre movies to begin with, so how good can the musicals possibly be?

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