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Musicals from Movies


Beg, Borrow or Steal: Musicals from Movies

by Kenneth Lyen

When you run out of ideas, go steal a few. That seems to be the current message for musical theatre. There is no doubt that there is still money to be made from stage musicals. Just look at Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Cats. These shows, based on literary works, have made multi-millionaires out of the composers and producers. However the risk is huge, and the chances of losing money outweigh the chances of making it.

The risk can be minimised if you chose a story that is familiar. The Disney musicals based on their already successful cartoons, like Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, have been immensely successful on stage. Other musicals based on highly successful films include My Fair Lady, Sunset Boulevard, Witches of Eastwich, The Producers, and Hairspray.

You cannot blame musical producers who resort to taking successful movies and converting them into stage musicals. It's a business, after all. A rip off? Yes, if you like. Anyway, there’s a huge slew of musicals ripped off from succesful movies coming up on the horizon. These include:

Monty Python’s Spamalot. Based on the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The title is taken from a line in the film: "I eat jam, and ham and Spam a lot."

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Taken from the 1988 film of the same name starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the story is about two con men working in a small French town that aint big enough for the both of them. They agree on a bet in which the loser must leave town.

Tarzan. Using Phil Collins’ songs from the successful Disney 1999 cartoon, the musical will include the hit number "You’ll Be In My Heart".

Another musical taken from the film is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is currently showing in London. In the pipeline are: Legally Blonde, High Fidelity, Catch Me If You Can, and Spiderman.

I love musical theatre. I always make it a point to watch as many musicals as I can afford when I go to London. I don’t mind revivals because I wasn’t old enough to see the originals, and at least the revival affords me the opportunity to see these otherwise long forgotten musicals. I’m also not a snob. I enjoy musicals based on movies. The Lion King is a good example where the translation from screen to stage allows for additional creative touches. Everyone in the theatre watching the Lion King dropped their jaws and uttered the word, "Wow!"

Yes, Mr Musical Writer, please beg, borrow or steal ideas from films. But from time to time, can’t you perhaps think of an original story? No no no, I’m not pressurising you. (Spiderman? Good grief!)