Wednesday, June 8, 2011
New York City Adventures Day Three: From Big Screen to Broadway
The trend of turning films into musicals started of course with Disney, and the Broadway musical, Beauty and the Beast. Disney also has done The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Mary Poppins on Broadway as well. Disney has had commercial success, with each of these shows (except The Little Mermaid). Beauty and the Beast was on Broadway for 13 years, Mary Poppins is still a big hit and has been on Broadway for 5 years (a long time these days), and The Lion King is still one of the hardest tickets to get, and does amazing with a show in Vegas. In these rough economic times Broadway producers have tried to ensure their shows would be a huge commercial success (sometimes instead of a better show).
After Disney's success many other producers started to look to other types of films. Classic films like Sunset Boulevard (with Glen Close). The oddball comedies have been some of the greatest success stories and some of the greatest flops. Mel Brooks created and produced the The Producers (starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) and then tried to capture lighting in a bottle for a second time with Young Frankenstein, Frankenstein like his head fell flat. John Waters had a huge hit in turning his darker film Hairspray into a musical (with the likes of Harvey Fierstein, and Matthew Morrison), but audiences left the theatre wanting to cry with his adaptation of Cry Baby. Then came the modern film adaptations like Legally Blonde the musical, which has done well on tour (not my cup of tea) and the ever endearing tony winning musical Billy Elliot. I saw Legally Blonde on MTV and just did not like the show at all. I think it loses the heart of the movie and just isn't a great show. Billy Elliot is a great show, but to me the dancing is the star (my favorite musical that year was the original and off beat Next to Normal.
I have seen two musicals within the past year that were adaptations of films: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Catch Me if You Can. The first show was adapted from a film with the same title by Pedro Almodovar. I was so excited to see this musical, despite reviews I was going to see a show that starred Sherie Rennee Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Laura Benanti, and the infamous Patti LuPone (all big talents), and it was the worst show I have ever seen on Broadway. Individually the acting wasn't bad and the singing was good, but the show was a big mess.
Now, onto the show I saw this past Saturday. Catch Me is You Can is an uneven show, although entertaining. Aaron Tveit who starred in Next to Normal plays Frank Jr. and is very charming, but he overshadowed Norbert Leo Butz who plays Carl Hanratty. Butz's number "Don't break the Rules" is the showstopper and he plays the cranky FBI agent with gusto. This is a musical so lighthearted and fun it is difficult to walk away hating it. Sure there are issues with the adaptation and the overuse of Frank's parents, and rushing the ending but overall this is a fun show.
With more shows currently on Broadway right now like Sister Act, and more coming like Bring it On: The Musical, Dirty Dancing, Father of the Bride, and Revenge of the Nerds. I think with some of these musicals being great fun, and often successful. My hope is that Broadway sticks to creating original work, and they don't lose their backbone they once had and continue to defy gravity.