Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Singin' In the Rain and Chariots of Fire on stage? Yup.

Cross pollination in the Theatre is not new, there is a long-standing practice of creating plays and musicals from other literary forms.

However, when I was in London recently and contemplating what plays I might see, I was struck by the number of offerings, which are based on a motion picture or television program. It was an ‘hmmm’ kind of moment. But as I thought about it, I realized that that cross pollination has been going on for a few years, now. Though, certainly it is more prevalent than ever now, even here in Denver.

The Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC) is currently producing White Christmas, which is based on the 1954 film of the same name, which itself is based on the 1942 film Holiday Inn – cross pollination times 3. Both films feature songs by Irving Berlin (as does the DCTC production) and star Bing Crosby.

The Arvada Center has Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical, which is based on the 1947 film starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood.

White Christmas, Holiday Inn and 'Miracle' are Christmas-time viewing favorites. It also should be noted that Miracle on 34th Street has been remade (it shouldn’t have been- why mess with something so good) in 1994.

Beyond these two productions, here is a rundown of recent or current theatrical productions based on a motion picture or television program:

The Bodyguard, the Musical, based on the 1992 film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, opened in London’s West End this fall. It stars Heather Headley as Rachel and Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer.

Chariots of Fire also opened in the West End this autumn. Adapted from the 1981 Academy Award winning film about the 1924 Olympics (no accident that this play opened the same year as the 2012 London Games), the stage production features the Vangelis score from the film. Hugh Hudson, who directed the film, is one of the producers of the play.

Singin’ In the Rain, based on the 1952 MGM film of the same name, opened in the West End last February. Getting rave reviews it is scheduled to run until next September. And yes, the great dance and song sequence that Gene Kelly created happens on stage – deluge and all.

Top Hat is another song and dance film translated to the stage, in London. This production based on the 1935 RKO, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers classic, opened last May. It is all about the singing and dancing.

Shrek the Musical is of course based on the 2001 film and has been around. It played on Broadway, the West End and has toured.

Newsies, the Tony award-winning musical currently playing in New York is based on the 1992 Disney film about the 1899 New York news boy strike.

Mary Poppins is another Disney film that has been running on Broadway for five years – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Spiderman. After some serious technical issues, the rock musical based on the 2002 film and comic book character opened on Broadway in June of 2011. It features music and lyrics by U2s Bono and David Howell Evans (the Edge).

Disney has also given us the stage musical The Lion King based on the 1994 animated film of the same name. The stage version opened originally in 1997 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. It has since seen productions, many continuing, everywhere, including Broadway and the West End. It has been a huge success and money maker. Tim Rice wrote the lyrics and Sir Elton John wrote the music. It is currently the 5th longest running musical on Broadway.

There is also Wicked, which was ‘suggested’ by the 1939 MGM classic The Wizard of Oz.

And The 39 Steps which is a comic version of Alfred Hitchcock’s more serious 1935 film and which has been playing in London forever. There was also a production by DCTC at the Ricketson Theatre in 2010.

Finally a couple of plays that came from Television.

Yes, Prime Minister, which I recently saw in London, which is based on the BBC Television series, Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister.

Steptoe and Son. This classic BBC comedy series has now been adapted to the stage. The London version will open at the Lyric Hammersmith next March. The BBC’s television series was the inspiration for American Television’s Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson.

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