Monday, 1 July 2013

Old films, new stage musicals

This one's perfect for the stage!
A couple of news stories on the BBC website caught my eye recently, both about films being adapted into stage musicals. They’re both films I like, but one is definitely an ‘OH HELL YES!’ adaptation, and the other more ‘WTF’.

 The ‘WTF’ musical is an adaptation of The Third Man, Carol Reed’s noir set in postwar Vienna, with naive Holly Martins looking into the death of his friend Harry Lime, only to uncover illegal trading in counterfeit and substandard medicines within the war-ravaged city. The film does have one of the most iconic pieces of theme music ever, but there’s only so much you can do with one zither melody so a lot of music will have to be introduced. And where will it go? Will Major Calloway sing about maintaining his stiff upper lip amid the rubble? Will Holly Martins have a quick warble about how everyone’s lying to him, or Anna a soaring solo about her dodgy passport? If someone can arrange for Harry’s speech about the Swiss inventing the cuckoo clock to form the centre of a Busby Berkley-style number where showgirls in Viennese waltz dresses rotate on a huge Ferris wheel, I’ll be very impressed, but really, the idea of a Third Man musical strikes me as a bit ‘Springtime for Hitler’.

The other musical is Woody Allen’s adaptation of his own film Bullets Over Broadway. OH HELL YES. To start with, it’s a comedy, so more suited to random song and dance numbers. Moreover, it’s a comedy set in the world of 1920s theatre - a playwright in love with an older actress is leaned on by a gangster to give his ditsy girlfriend a leading role; her minder turns out to have a genius for writing plays and isn’t happy at the way his charge is mangling the production. OH HELL YES. There’s a lot of opportunity to work songs in at appropriate points there. And, as a lover of the era, Woody’s planning to use genuine 1920s songs, not have new ones written. He’s written a few musical films, so adapting his own non-musical film into a musical should be a piece of cake for him. OH HELL YES. Mr Robot detests musicals, but if this one ever comes to London, I might force him to go along anyway.

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