Monday, August 11, 2008

Musical Monday

Today on Musical Monday, we look at the "Inspiration Chain" phenomena in today's musical theatre and movie business.

Musicals have long been inspired by literature, plays and real life human stories. It is a modern trend to turn successful movies into stage musicals. Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Legally Blonde, 9 to 5, Billy Elliot... the list goes on. Some work and some don't (I am looking at you, Dirty Dancing).

Often times, the same stage musicals which were based on a movie are then turned into movie musicals. The Producers and Hairspray are two prime examples.

The original movies are often times inspired by plays. The play, Chicago, made its stage debut in 1926. In 1927 it was turned into a silent movie starring Phyllis Haver and Julia Faye. In 1975, the Bob Fosse's musical version Chicago hit the Broadway stage, for a disappointing run. It wasn't until the 1996 Broadway Revival starring Bebe Neuwirth and Anne Reinkingthat Chicago: The Musical became a household name and thus leading way for the 2002 Oscar winning film adaptation.

Let's not forget about the power of the pen. Novels have also inspired many creative chains. The Color Purple, a powerful and beautifully written novel by Alice Walker became an eleven time Oscar nominated film directed by Stephen Spielberg, starring Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah. Oprah then produced the 2005 musical version, and she has long admitted on planning to produce the movie musical version.

One of the most impressive novels to be transformed is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Frank Baum's childrens novel inspired the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz which then inspired the stage musical of the same name. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz also inspired the musical The Wiz, which then was turned into a movie musical starring the way-to-old-to-play-Dorothy, Diana Ross.

The inspiration doesn't end there. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz inspired a book titled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Which then inspired Wicked. Do I even need to explain that Wicked is a musical? If you have not heard of it, it is currently playing in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Stuttgart and Melbourne, in addition to a road show touring to every mediocre city in the United States. There is a major buzz by Universal Pictures to turn Wicked into a movie musical, but only when the timing is right.

Then there are other musicals which are inspired by a novel, a play and a movie. Auntie Mame was originally a novel written by Patrick Dennis. This novel was then turned into a play starring Rosalind Russell who then went on to star in the movie. After this, Auntie Mame was turned into a musical and the name changed to 'Mame'. Mame also went on to become a movie musical with the controversial casting of Lucille Ball as Mame. Of course when I say "casting" what I really mean is she produced the movie, hired the director and chose the cast.

Is this inspirational chain of movie to musical to movie musical a positive or negative? Does it represent entertainment producers fear of taking a risk on original material? What is your opinion?

No comments: