General News

Broadway's newest source

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May 08, 2001 | 2:00pm EDT

With the huge Broadway success of Mel Brooks' The Producers, it looks like you can bring the movies to the stage.

On Monday, Brooks' musical stage adaptation of his classic movie received 15 Tony nominations, including nods for best musical, for stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and for Brooks for best book and score. Brooks based the show on his 1968 film, which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. A down-on-his-luck Broadway show producer and his accountant decide to produce the worst show ever, after raising thousands of dollars in investments, and watch the money roll in when the show flops miserably. Of course, the fictional musical, Springtime for Hitler, becomes a smash success, thereby ruining them both. Broderick's character is much different from Wilder's original character, but the film poses a perfect scenario for a real-life Broadway musical.

The Americanized stage adaptation of the 1997 English hit The Full Monty also got a nomination for best musical. Instead of blue-collar workers from Northern England, the musical features blue-collar workers from Buffalo, N.Y., who not only strip but must sing for their suppers, bringing a whole new meaning to stage presence.

Even though the book was first produced as a Broadway play in the 1960s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is best known for its Academy-Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson. This year saw a critically acclaimed revival of the play, staged by the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Co. and starring Gary Sinise as McMurphy, the unconventional convict who turns a mental ward upside-down. The play and Sinise each received a Tony nomination. [for complete list of nominations, go to http://www.broadway.com]

Is this a trend for future shows?

Not necessarily.

If it's a trend, then it's a "fake trend," said Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The success of a show is based on a good story and compelling characters, regardless of its source, he said.

"Whether the material is original or from a movie or from a comic book, if it's a great story, people will gravitate towards it," he said.

Here's a look at some other movies turned into or likely to become stage productions:

That Thing You Do!: Tom Hanks' 1996 directed and scripted film is now being considered for a Broadway musical, with Hanks' production company, Playtone, putting the deal together. They are looking for a top-notch musical director, with Des McAnuff (The Who's Tommy) on the list. The stage production would follow the quick rise and fall of the Wonders, a fictional mop-top 1960s band from Erie, Pa., whose swinging title song (written by Adam Schlesinger) propels them to the top of the pop charts. The idea to turn the film into a stage musical came from the numerous requests to the production company by local high schools eager to mount their own productions.

The Witches of Eastwick: The musical version of the 1987 film, based on the novel by John Updike, is currently playing to rave reviews in London. Starring Lucie Arnaz as Alexandra (played by Cher in the film), the story remains pretty much the same. In the tiny New England town of Eastwick, R.I., three modern-day witches innocently plot to bring the perfect man to them, over several weak martinis and peanut butter brownies. But when their longings are made flesh in the arrival of one Darryl Van Horne, all hell breaks loose.

Saturday Night Fever: Based on the smash 1977 film, the musical seemed to be a natural fit for the stage, with the cool 1970s tunes-and the dancing. The story was the same: Tony Marino dreams of making it big in the world of dancing, but at the same time he must deal with two women in his life--one who wants him and one he wants. The stage musical wasn't able to capture the hearts of theatergoers quite the same way as the film did for its audience. The musical opened on Broadway in 1999 and closed quickly. There also was a British tour that closed in February 2000.

Sunset Blvd.: Andrew Lloyd Webber's staged musical is based on the Academy-Award winning 1950 film starring the incomparable Gloria Swanson and William Holden. The musical opened in London in 1993 and went to Broadway quickly after, starring the larger-than-life Glenn Close. Once again, the stage production did not live up to its hype and couldn't capture the magic of Billy Wilder's exquisite film. Webber also collaborated with Jim Steinman on a musical adaptation of the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind, based on the Mary Hayley Bell novel. It closed in January after running for 2 ½ years in London, but it has failed to make it to Broadway.

Also, there have been a few other flops, such as the stage production of Big, based on the hit 1988 Tom Hanks film, which opened on Broadway in April 1996 and closed in October 1996. Footloose, based on the just-as-silly 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, also flopped on Broadway but continues to tour nationally.

The Tony Awards will air June 3 on PBS and CBS.

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