Broadway boredom: the worst screen-to-stage musicals ever

As singalong adaptations of Peaky Blinders and Fever Pitch threaten to reached the stage, what have been the most regrettable instances from the past?

If you stroll down Broadway or the West End these days, you might think youre in Hollywood. The names of movie stars pepper the marquees, and stage adaptations of reach movies have become banality. Sometimes its a natural fit: musicals such as The Lion King, Newsies and An American in Paris were each accommodated seamlessly for the stage. But news that Peaky Blinders may be was transformed into a West End musical and Fever Pitch will soon reached the stage as an opu is harder to understand. Its difficult to imagine Tommy Shelby singing a tune in between beatings and nightmares, or the football-loving hero of Fever Pitch breaking into an aria.

Turns out musicals based on non-musical cinemas arent as rare as youd gues. At their best, musicals such as Sunset Boulevard, Kinky Boots and Spamalot shed new light on their iconic origin stories and expose the magic of theater to movie buffs who wouldnt usually leave the cozy confines of cinema. But more often than not, its an expensive attempt to cash in on a successful product with little thought given to whether the story lends itself to the musical form. Theatergoers, it turns out, are a bit more discerning than the individuals who pack multiplexes every weekend. With an average price of over $100, they deserve better than these colossal errors in the screen-to-stage genre.


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In 1996, when the musical adaptation of Penny Marshalls Big premiered on Broadway, the New York Times panned it, writing: In an uncertain world, Big operates on one certainty audiences know the story and they like it. A reliance on the audiences pre-awareness may have been a novelty back then; today most of our pop culture is defined by it, which is surprising considering how poorly Big turned out. The reviews werent uniformly awful, but the Broadway mob, perhaps turning up their noses at an adaptation of a comparatively lightweight cinema, simply didnt show up. The depict was also blamed as corporate propaganda, as it brought on FAO Schwartz as a producer. With the legendary doll store closing its doorways in 2015, we can now safely say that absolutely no one emerged from this disaster unscathed.

High Fidelity

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If Rob, the hero of Nick Hornbys book High Fidelity and Stephen Frearss film adaptation, were to make one of his famous Top 5 lists about the worst screen-to-stage adaptations, he would have to point his incisive critical gaze squarely at himself. Nothins great, and nothins new, but nothin has its worth, he belts out in the opening ballad of this Broadway flop. The audience was not convinced of the latter component. The musical, which was criticized for its overreliance on obscene lyrics in a transparent try at edginess, was a side-one, track-one failing, closing in December 2006 after only 13 performances.


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If there was a how-to book for constructing musicals, heres a rule that should go on page one: dont open the second act with a song-and-dance number about pig slaughter. Carrie opened on Broadway in 1988 and quickly became the biggest money-loser of its day, expensing investors$ 7m( admittedly chump change by todays criteria ). It shut after 16 previews and five performances, dedicating it one of the shortest runs in Broadway history, although it performed better in a 2011 revival off Broadway, where the audience was more accepting of its campier parts. It turns out the older-skewing Broadway crowd wasnt ready for a musical featuring a copious sum of pig blood that resembled, as one critic put it, strawberry ice cream topping.

The Fly

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Adapting a movie into a stage musical may be common these days, but it takes special kind of madness to turn one into opu. Then again, the opu based on David Cronenbergs The Fly was not without precedent. If Metamorphosis could run, why not The Fly? Quite a few reasons, as it turns out , not the least of which was that the adaptation simply wasnt particularly good. Despite pulling off some neat stunts the lead performer literally crawls across the set ceiling at one point The Fly wasnt musically obliging. Veteran film composer Howard Shores score was called curiously tame, and the bad buzz from early performances rapidly swatted this misguided opu back into non-existence.

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark

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Critics and investors expected Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark to open the door to a slew of superhero stage adaptations to match the recent trend in cinema. Instead, it became Broadways latest and greatest cautionary narrative. With high-wire stunts and songs by Bono and The Edge, and with culture fascination with comic book stories at an all-time high, how could it have failed so badly? It actually ran for three years, but high production costs( weekly budget of $1.3 m) kept the depict firmly in the red. In addition, it was dogged by the reporting of serious injuries to the casting and crew. One stunt double even required unspecified amputations after getting his foot stuck in a stage lift. Between this and The Fly, perhaps its simply time to stop constructing musicals based on cinemas about all those people who turn into insects.

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