Earlier tonight, I went to catch the touring production of The Producers, the massively successful Broadway show. I’ve never had a chance to see it when I’m in New York, so this was a really nice chance to see what all the hype was about. Sure enough, I thought it was a really terrific musical. And, yeah, I was walking in with the baggage of not only being a big fan of the original film but also a big fan of Mel Brooks in general. And, with that in mind, it was great to see his song skills (a staple of many of his movies) take shape in that setting.
Now, I was also struck with thinking about the fact that the musical is currently making its way to the big screen, featuring much of the original cast as well as new additions like Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman. It should be a fun film, but it’s certainly odd to have a film inspire a musical that then inspires a completely different film. It’s actually sort of the perfect post-modern crux in the film/musical/film dynamic happening between Broadway and Hollywood. Some of the biggest Broadway hits of the last few years started as films, from The Lion King to The Full Monty (a personal fave) to Hairspray. Plus, right now there’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels wrapping its first season. Even Monty Python’s Spamalot, while not literally an adaptation, comes really close.
Then, you have the resurgence of movie musicals, with the source material taken from popular Broadway shows. Recent examples: Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, and the upcoming Rent. What’s puzzling, though, is whether or not Hollywood will be able to successfully bring back original movie musicals. Moulin Rouge was pretty close, but practically the entire song score was comprised of pop singles from the last few decades. So will there be an upcoming, popular live action movie musical that didn’t start on Broadway? From Justin To Kelly hardly qualifies.
Even the standard Disney animated musicals have begun to evaporate (and, in some cases, thankfully). The best animated musical of the last 10 years was South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, but that hardly kick-started a foulmouthed musical trend (unfortunately). And, hey, remember when Dan Mirvish lobbied the Academy to reinstate the Original Musical Oscar category last year? If you don’t, here’s a story about his struggle, and the formation of the “Indie Musical Challenge.”
But don’t even get me started on Broadway plays these days. Almost all of them running right now, from Glengarry Glen Ross to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Twelve Angry Men, are based on successful movies, yknow?