The Footlights: Broadway business slips, movie adaptations to the rescue?

Catchleapsplit_lIt’s crunch time, folks! Or at least that’s what seems to be happening, but how does that affect Broadway? Quite directly, it would seem. As of now, Xanadu and [title of show] have bit the dust, Legally Blonde will do its very last "Bend and Snap" on Oct. 19th, and Hairspray is slated to stop the beat in January (though that announcement that Harvey Fierstein will once again put on the housedress might boost sales a tad). Some new shows (13, A Tale of Two Cities) are lurking perilously in the 50 to 60 percent attendance bracket. Only the unstoppable Fantastic Four (Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, The Lion King) are doing superhero business. And Billy Elliot and Shrek, with their marquee recognition, seem poised to grab the hit show baton.

But other than some announced revivals of plays and musicals this spring — Guys and Dolls with Oliver Platt (!), Blithe Spirit with Christine Ebersole and Rupert Everett — there has been almost no fanfare about new productions, save for Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, which still needs a teeny cup of ambition by the looks of the reviews from L.A. Could this be because the economy has spooked investors? Revivals of Brigadoon, Godspell and for colored girls… were scrapped this fall, though one upcoming superhero might not be so afraid of the profit margin.

addCredit(“Everett Collection”)

Earlier this month, we’ve heard that a musical of American Psycho is being developed (personally, I see Xanadu‘s Cheyenne Jackson just nailing — pun intended for the film’s fans — Patrick Bateman and he’d better sing this one in that score), and some other movie transfers are just about ready to go (Catch Me If You Can, Pure Country, Leap of Faith).But is it me, or do some of these sound not worth your $120? You cansee blood splatter in a Martin McDonagh play for a fraction of thatprice in most regions (without having to listen to "Sussudio" I mightadd), and while Catch (pictured, below) sounds like a good,healthy project (with its witty, brisk screenplay and a bevy ofcolorful characters to bring to life onstage), is anyone clamoring tosee a stage version of a crappy country pic (with the worst C&W star turn of all time or a lackluster Steve Martin movie (pictured, above)? Sure, the gospel numbers would probably be rousing, but Faith‘s screenplay left a lot to be desired. Why not musicalize Roxanne if you’re going for the Wild and Crazy Guy’s best work? Norbert Leo Butz (who channeled Martin in his Tony-winning Dirty Rotten Scoundrels role) and Sherie Rene Scott (The Last Five Years and Scoundrels with Butz!) reteaming, can’t you just see it? Okay, I’m exciting myself now…

So, PopWatchers, has the economy hit your theatergoing wallet? Andis there any movie you’re dying to see get a full-blown Broadway show?The ghostlight is on…

More on Broadway:
Photo Gallery: 20 Hollywood stars on Broadway Stage section: Theater news and reviews
Jason Clark’s Footlights columns

Comments (49 total) Add your comment
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  • Auriana

    I used to go to Broadway shows all the time in high school and college…back when it was $65-$85 for orchestra seats. Now with prices reaching over $100 and the $65 range being the worst seats in the house, who can afford to go? I’ve been sticking to off Broadway fare (Evil Dead the Musical, My First Time, etc) as they tend to be a bit more reasonable in price. I’d love to go see Spamalot or Wicked but can’t afford to do so. I’m also rather irked at this new obsession with shows based off of movies and that they tend to be a lot more shiny and glittery if they want to succeed. My favorites were Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Jane Eyre…darker, deeper shows.

  • anne

    after having missed out on seeing Hair this summer in Central Park – I keep hoping they will revive the show for Broadway. The buzz for it was ridiculous. Great reviews too. A producer would have to be nuts not to try and get this going as a Braodway Show. Yes, i was hoping to see it for free this summer but I would have gladly paid for tickets if it guranteed me a seat and I didn’t have to get up at 4am to go get in line for 6 hours or more.

  • Anonymous

    Why hasn’t there been a revival of “The Wiz” yet? Every other show from the 70’s has been revived at least twice already.

  • NineDaves

    the whole criticism of film to musical adaptations that has been rampant in our media really bothers me. broadway has always adapted material from other sources: books, poems, etc. it’s nothing new. and the film industry does it too. movies of tv shows. movies of books. tv shows based on movies. it’s a post-modern world. and in any economy, it’s good marketing to find a product that has name recognition and sells. when done right, we priase them (see hairspray). but it’s always a gamble. i didn’t have faith in xanadu, but it was one of the best shows i’d seen on broadway in years. legally blonde also surprised me. so you can’t write off any of these projects based on title alone. because the ones that should have worked – cry baby, saturday night fever, urban cowboy, high fidelity, etc – didn’t. personally, i don’t care if it’s a jukebox musical, a disney musical, an adapted musical from a film – i just want it to be good old entertaining theater. in the end, isn’t that what sells?

  • NineDaves

    oh, and anne – hair is coming to broadway in spring of 2009. so you’ll get to see it!

  • NineDaves

    oh, and one last thing. not every show from the 70s has been revived. i’m still waiting on pippin. i think the wiz has potential, but not with that green wicked witch packing them in up the street.

  • A few things…

    You forgot to mention the revival of West Side Story.
    Norbert Leo Butz will be in Catch Me If You Can, so I’m sure it will be good.
    It’s not that hard to find discounts to Broadway shows, especially the ones that aren’t selling.

  • Rob Grizzly

    Maybe I’m just tired, but I don’t feel like clicking on all the links (which seems to be every other word of this article) to see what the heck you’re talking about. This was oddly written.
    Broadway business is frustrating, and I do blame the economy. And an overall lack of interest. Some of these shows just don’t grab me. (Though, I would love to see Blithe Spirit).
    It’s a funny question, because the movies I’d like to see as plays would be impossible to do. But because I’m slightly annoyed, and this is too easy- Movie’s I’d like to see as Broadway plays:
    10. Toy Story
    9. Silence of the Lambs- musical
    8. Forrest Gump
    7. Pirates of the Carribean- musical
    6. RoboCop- musical
    5. Goodfellas
    4. Braveheart
    3. Jaws- musical
    2. Gladiator
    1. Kill Bill -musical
    Sorry for being an ass, but yeah, pull one of these off, and maybe I’ll buy a ticket again.

  • Nix

    The Grizzly Man may be dourly tongue-in-cheek, but his suggestion of ‘Toy Story’ just struck me as a possibly winning idea.

  • jcpdiesel21

    I would really like to see a musical adaptation of Catch Me if You Can! The story is so crazy and unbelieveable as it is, and songs and dancing could make it even wilder.

  • aps

    i think that most of those “new” shows seem like…junk. I have no desire to see really any of them. maybe billy elliot. less than no desire to see shrek as well as others. catch me if you can may have promise. but…still.
    I’ll still catch maybe 2 (max of 3 probably) a year, with an effort to try and get lucky with the tickets almost more than getting into the show i really want to see.
    overall though, i’m still disappointed in the crop.

  • Andy

    It’s very easy to see shows on Broadway for no more than $35. Join Theater Development Fund. BroadwayBox has lots of discounts for shows at roughly half off as does Playbill. No one should have to pay $120 for a Broadway show – that’s just insane.

  • Mary Beth

    If 9-5 gets to Broadway, count me in. LOVE THE MOVIE, and therefore would love to see a musical version as well.

  • NineDaves

    and here we go again. a day after this post, they announce a musical based on the film “once.”

  • Kim

    How about they start producing actual new musicals? New stories? Written by the thousands upon thousands of struggling musical theater writers out there putting together great material that no producer will look at because there’s no brand name? And get people excited again about new stories and new ideas?

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