Two factors run Broadway: creativity
and money. When looking at the 2007 lineup of opening shows, it seems that producers are only focusing on the latter.
Just as movie-remakes are a bad idea, so is turning films into stage musicals.
First up is the April opening of “Legally Blonde.” We think it’s a great movie. It’s funny and has a surprising amount of heart. Besides, we all love Reese Witherspoon. But as a Broadway musical occupying the Palace Theatre – one of the strip’s best venues? We think not.
“Legally Blonde” on Broadway will not star Witherspoon. Who wants to see Elle Woods played by anyone else but the Oscar winner? Not us. We present exhibit A: last season’s “The Wedding Singer.” The Adam Sandler classic’s musical version was panned by the critics and only lasted over half a year.
Theatergoers show up for their love of Sandler and Drew Barrymore, but leave realizing all they’ve been presented with was a cheap imitation.
The Walt Disney Company is notorious
for this movie-to-stage trend. And why should it stop when all it sees are profits from their shows? “The Little Mermaid” is set to replace “Beauty and the Beast” next December. The movie is perfect; there is no way the stage version can improve upon it.
Its only hope is to reinvent itself visually, as director Julie Taymor did with her abstract vision of “The Lion King.” And even if this happens, it won’t be upstaging the film version; it will only be proving that the show has some level of creativity.
This profit-driven trend needs to end because it blocks original plays by talented playwrights from getting their works produced. In addition, transposing
these films onto the stage is cheapening the cultural treasure that is Broadway.
“The money necessary to create a new musical today is prohibitive to anything
new or risky,” said Peter Reynolds, director of this season’s Temple Theater production of “Ragtime”.
“When it costs millions of dollars to mount a Broadway musical and upwards of $100 to buy a ticket to that musical, one can understand the impulse of producers and audience members to ‘play it safe.'”
Taking chances on original plays will be worth it in the long run. With upcoming
openings like “Catch Me If You Can,” “Father of the Bride,” and (get ready for this) “Shrek,” Broadway will become a banal tray of leftovers for these washed-up acts. We can live without seeing Donkey belt out a solo onstage.