A couple days ago, my friend commented that theatre criticism was a dying medium. I asked if the theory behind this was that blogs were diluting the critical landscape, thereby making theatre critics obsolete. In response, he concurred that theatre criticism as a profession was on the decline, and of course, I had to agree. Much like all journalism, the proliferation of the cyber landscape with non-paid writers, critics and theorists has eliminated the need for these types of paid investigations – after all, why should a newspaper pay for an article when it can be published (and accessed) for free on any individual’s blog?
There are many factors which will still facilitate the thriving of paid journals, specifically online, but nonetheless, even these bodies are turning increasingly to more unconventional types of journalism in response to the pedestrianization of critical and investigative response. My favourite example is “Bros on Broadway,” a new feature launched by TheatreMania.com in which every day men, ostensibly ones who haven’t seen a play since middle school, are sent to review shows from a distinctly non-theatrical perspective. The ones released so far include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cyrano de Bergerac. And man are they funny. More
I can see it now. A woman in handcuffs belting about the trials and tribulations of love, as her lover-to-be blindfolds her and gets out his whip. Then, perhaps, a lovely contrapuntal ballad in which the two express their desire for each other while harkening back to their mutually unhappy childhoods. And finally, an alternately airy and driving tenor showstopper from the man about unexpected fulfillment in the strangest of places and the oddest of ways. Ladies and gentlemen: Spank! Or, 50 Shades of Grey: The Musical.
There’s a long history of musicals which are based on books, beginning way back with half of Oscar and Hammerstein’s oeuvre. It makes sense of course: musicals can express emotions, pining and thoughts in the way simple spoken text can’t. What better way to adapt a book (and all it’s intertextuality) than by turning it into a musical? A movie will give the audience the over-layers, but a musical will turn all of that subtext into sublime sung-text.
Of course, there’s a certain amount of financial consideration going into producing a musical version of an international bestseller. I could again launch into an analysis about the dialectic of art for art v.s art for fiscal return, but I won’t. Because, ultimately, I think that Spank! could be a thoroughly exciting musical. After all, most of the great musicals involve some kind of camp, and what’s campier than a trashy erotic novel geared to middle aged housewives?
Warner Brothers announced today that they have purchased the rights to adapt the Tony award winning hit Memphis into a blockbuster film. With Les Mis: The Movie on the horizon (catering both to film audiences in its trailer and to die-hard theatre fans with its promise of singing recorded live on set) and its distinctly Oscar ready release date (Christmas Day), studios are inevitably anticipating an overwhelmingly positive reception for this long awaited adaptation. I have no little doubt that Les Mis will be as delicious as a slice of Marie Antoinette’s proverbial cake, but is it really necessary in light of the three other concert recordings which have been released over the past 25 years? More
Last week production on Rebecca, based on the 1938 gothic novel and subsequent hitchock thriller about the haunted estate at Manderlay came to an uncompromisingly abrupt halt. Paul Abrams, the mysterious overseas producer who’s ship had come to the rescue back in August when lead producer, Ben Sprecher, announced a $4.5 million shortfall, took his exit just as suddenly as reports filtered in that he had died of malaria last week. Leaving the production in the lurch, Sprecher was forced to admit that he had never actually met Mr. Abrams, had corresponded with him simply via email and, in the absence of both a death certificate or obituary, couldn’t be certain that the mysterious investor ever existed. More
A few weeks ago, Chaplin opened on Broadway to middling reviews. Ben Brantley described the portrayal of the Little Tramp as “devoured by a swarm of man-eating cliches” and The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that “its impossible to believe that [Charlie Chaplin] would express himself in such prosaic, cliched terms.” All of this heat over the reduction of a beloved icon to a simmering pot of bland stew got me thinking – why do some biomusicals sail, while others arrive virtually DOA?
The history of the biomusical, while not prolific in its output, traces back generations and has born a few hits and a volume of flops. Marilyn: An American Fable infamously tanked amongst a chorus of dancing plumbers showering attention on a bathing Ms. Monroe. Coco, starring Katherine Hepburn as the mother of contemporary fashion, was a critical disaster despite moderate financial success (because of the marquee star’s fanbase). And Rosie O’Donell’s Boy George and Leigh Bowery megaflop Taboo received disparaging pre-press rivaled only in recent memory by Spiderman: Turn of the Dark. More