With the recent release of the film version of Into the Woods, I thought it might be fun to share my top three favorite film versions of musicals that originated on the stage.
A number of adapted musicals have enjoyed big box office success and some are quite good; both for their stand alone entertainment value and in their homage to their source material. My Fair Lady and Grease are two good examples.
For me, there are three that stand above the rest for a variety of reasons. In two of the three cases, I think the film adaptations are actually better than the original stage versions.
Dreamgirls (2006) Directed by Bill Condon and adapted from the Tony Award-winning original 1981 Broadway musical directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. Dreamgirls was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning two Oscars: Sound Mixing and Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson.
Suggested by the rise of The Supremes, Dreamgirls is an exuberant tribute to the sights and sounds of the 50’s & 60’s.
I find the film version superior to the stage production because of the visual, on location advantages and smoother scene/time transitions. The screenplay (by Condon) stays true to the original.
Chicago (2002) Directed by Rob Marshall (Into the Woods). Screenplay by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls). Based on the 1975 Bob Fosse, Kander & Ebb musical, whose stripped-down 1996 revival, far exceeded the success of the original. Still running on Broadway after 18 years.
I’m not a fan of the stage version. I find it drab and dull. On screen though, Chicago is an exciting, vibrant song and dance masterpiece. By far, the best example of a film adaptation being much better than the original.
West Side Story is a contemporary re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet love story, told against the backdrop of the gang-controlled streets of New York.
Ground breaking in so many ways with some of the best choreography ever created, West Side Story is perfection.
The result was honored with a record 10 Academy Awards– the most of any other movie musical and the fourth biggest winner, overall in Oscar history.
I’ve loved West Side Story since I was a kid. When I finally saw it live on stage for the first time, I was completely blown away. It’s one of the few works that I wouldn’t say one version is better than the other. The film and stage versions are equally brilliant.
I’m always shocked when someone says they’ve never seen West Side Story. If you’ve honestly never seen it. Put it on the top of your list now.
In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning I had an epiphany. It wasn’t a new thought. It was so obvious and had been in my head for a while. Sometimes though, a clear realization suddenly hits you like a ton of bricks. I waited before I shared because I felt like I needed to let a few things play out first.
No more theatre.
Let me explain.
In addition to trying to find gainful employment in the industry for the past year and a half, I had spent nearly six months of the past year, working on a plan to produce my own season of five shows– that was to begin the end of January 2015. After waiting for months, I’d finally received dates but by then it was too late to market, sell and produce a theatre subscription series effectively and be ready to open by the first set of dates. I could have still thrown something together for the first show– but with no assurance of an audience. I’m not in the financial situation to do anything that is a likely, losing proposition nor do I want to. (There were more “complications” that I’ll go into in another blog post.) So, I felt I’d reached another dead end.
My epiphany was quite simple. I’ve come to the realization I don’t need to do another production. I want to– but want and need are two totally different things.
If I never have the opportunity to work on another show– I’ve done pretty much every thing in every area of theatre that anyone can possibly do. With over 30 years and more than 200 productions under my belt; including the production of my top two bucket list shows– I think I can say, I’ve pretty much done it all.
Don’t get me wrong, I have not lost an ounce of my passion or creative drive for live theatre. I just feel I’ve come to a point that it’s time to let it go. If opportunities come up– great. If they don’t, I’m okay with that too. I’m not going to obsess over it anymore.
I don’t really want to work on vanity productions… work for less than I’m worth without substantial creative rewards… or donate my time to efforts where my passion and commitment is greater than that of anyone else involved.
My last production, Spring Awakening, was a thoroughly rewarding experience. Maybe that’s the best way to go out.
After a year and half, the job search– inquiries, applications, interviews have been a huge disappointment. Especially when I see so many of the people being hired are younger, inexperienced and/or friends of somebody making the hiring decisions. I’ve watched a number of the positions for which I applied and was past over, be reposted a short time later. I’ve watched organizations hire the wrong people and a short time later– they are looking for a bail out. Other positions, particularly those a substantial distance away, don’t pay well enough to make the commute worthwhile or only offer poverty level wages for exempt, full time hours.
I’ve also noticed a large number of organizations are only seeking part time without benefits but with full time expectations; or unpaid interns to fill what should be full time paid positions. I understand for many organizations, this is their only choice, or final attempt, to stay afloat. Quite a few long-standing organizations are on the edge of financial collapse and a number have shut their doors in the past few years. Many arts organizations are struggling to survive. What they really need is someone like me, with the experience and background to help them stabilize their company and infuse their efforts with new growth.
Office politics and financial instability are killing many fine arts institutions. That, and poor leadership without vision.
So I’m going to stop frustrating myself in the search and instead, focus on being productive through other facets of my creativity.
Less looking and more doing.
Maybe that right management or creative theatrical position will turn up. Who knows? I’m not going to wait for it though.
It’s a new year. So, on to new challenges, new adventures and new discoveries.
Writing, photography, design… creative management, consulting, branding, marketing… who knows where I’ll end up. I have more creative interests and talents than I have time to pursue. Maybe pursuing one of my often overlooked interests will leading be in an entirely different direction.
Wherever it is, I’m sure the journey through 2015 will be an exciting one.