Here’s the thing about adapting movies . . .

I’ve been thinking a lot about adapting movies into musicals these days.  Maybe it’s because we’ve got a couple movie-turned-musicals coming up this season.  Or maybe it’s because we’re working on a killer infographic on adaptations.

Or maybe it’s because I just really want to see Magic Mike XXL.

But as I was thinking about these tricky adaptations, I stumbled upon a takeaway to help me determine the types of movies that make good adaptations . . . and more importantly, the ones that don’t.

Here’s my warning to myself and to us all.

Be careful about movies with big stars as the central characters.  Often big stars, because of their talent, because of their charm, or more simply, because of their celebrity, make the source material seem better than it is.  Strip the star from the source material, and you’ve got less than you think.

Great actors, comedians, etc. make scripts and stories seem better.   And never is that more clear than when you adapt a screenplay into the musical medium.


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  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    There are two big star movies i’m thinking about trying to get the rights to I think would make fantastic musicals, but they are both over 50 years old, so most of the stars are dead or reeeeeeeeal close

    • Dan Radakovich says:

      The hardest part about old screenplays is finding out who has the rights, The easiest way is if they themselves were adaptations, as the original author’s estate will usually have them and/or know who bought them. It can be a long process though. If they are still published the publishing company will usually have the right to sell adaptation rights, or can steer you to where they would be held. Perhaps I could help with suggestions, feel free to contact me.
      Dan Radakovich

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    The question is whether the big star is the driver or the driven. For example one reason I am having some difficulty in getting people to pay any interest in my adaptation of the 1960 bestseller of Vern Sneider’s “The King from Ashtabula” [ok the major one is that it is a straight play NOT a musical-grin!] is a combination of a failed musical variant of his earlier adapted novel “The Teahouse of the August Moon, “which was put on under the title from the first line “Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen,” and the fact that the lead actor in the movie variant was Marlon Brando in yellowface equivalent…something several other white actors did on Broadway in its 4 year run as they had the influence to force it[Sakini being the male lead] including greats such as Efram Zimbalist Jr. So in its case the first problem cannot be attiributed to the second being too big a star, since the role attracted stars beforehand. The musical’s dificulties were from an iffy score and way too much concentration of the production as a musical on ancillary elements of the tale, including bad timing [during Vietnam occupation stories were downers] and changing a buddy tale to a overly gay misogynistic rant that had no relationship to the pleasant army satire of the original story[“You’ve broken a hardened woman’s heart”re. Col. Purdy’s wife re misogyny; and the crossdressing star of Boys in the Band doing the Sakini role, the captain and doctor in girl’s kimonos in a fashion show spoof, as well as the idiotic change inthe title which did not indicate the story’d relationship to play/movie]. Note this was done just before Mel Brooks came up with his tale of the Producers :).[pre musical version flick, which had 2 great stars Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The story is first key, the music second, and stars will come if the former exist. They have careers they are worried about too.

  • Bill Avery says:

    I want to see Top Gun the Musical with real jet planes flying around the theater – (or, puppet planes by Julie T!) Now that would be a real producer’s challange – the next Spider Man! A money pit! Come to think of it, the backstage story of the making of “Top Gun the Musical” could be another musical just as well! The options for spending are boundless. It would be so technical that Local 1 could easily get behind it – that would be called “Golden Time” the Musical.

    Are you up for it?

    Bill Avery

  • FrankieJ says:


  • Anzu says:

    Why didn’t ROCKY work/last on broadway. I heard it was good. I didn’t see it though.

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