Musicals: From Stage to Screen

I have always loved and adored musicals but I am fully aware that the genre seems to be the most difficult to please people who aren’t the biggest fans of them. After rewatching Chicago and the up and coming release of In the Heights it has me thinking about musicals going from stage to screen. Then if you have actually seen them on stage before the film adaptation or if you see the film first and then the stage musical. For obvious reasons a lot of changes have to be made when taking a show from the stage and putting it on screen, this is the main reason I feel Wicked has been left in production for around 12 years now. It’s one of my favourite stage musicals that I have currently seen nine times, but I really cannot picture how it will transfer to film without losing its magic and quite frankly being rather ridiculous on screen?

In the Heights is a show that I have been very lucky to see on stage twice, the first time on Broadway the night before it won the Tony Award for Best New Musical in 2008 and then in the West End in 2016. Both times I appreciated the unique nature of the music and quite frankly I think it is better than Hamilton. Both obviously coming from the genius mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, seeing him perform on Broadway was certainly very special. I have been looking forward to seeing the film adaption of In the Heights since it was announced and that is now only a few weeks away. The reviews that have been released so far have been extremely positive and this increases my excitement to see the film. As we always seem to go through phases with musicals and one often leads to more being released.

I am really hoping that people who are not the biggest fans of musicals will give In the Heights a watch though as it really is not like any other musical you have seen before, we have come a very long way from the traditional musical numbers and acting. The rap/hiphop style is something so unique and different that it is a true joy to witness, I feel I have now moved more into begging people to see it, even though I haven’t myself yet either. I just hope audiences will be open minded and see something that dares to be different.

Not forgetting that we are also getting Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in film version (now coming to Amazon Prime rather than the cinema) which is still a rather new stage musical and utterly brilliant. A very quick turnaround I feel for this one from stage to screen, although the release like In the Heights is also more than a year later than it was supposed to be. This is another that is going to be very interesting to see how many changes needed to be made, although we did get the cinema screen back of the musical which I personally love when shows are only in the West End as it gives everyone across the country a chance to see it.

Now just moving back to Chicago as that is the film that sparked the idea for this blog post, I became obsessed with the film version not too long after its 2003 release. I actually first came across the music video (anyone remember them?) that was put together with clips from the film around Catherine Zeta Jones singing All That Jazz and I was immediately intrigued with that incredible song. Eventually then watching the full film and it was one where I would watch it and then start it again straight away, I guess its a good job I didn’t have Letterboxd back then! This then pushed me to wanting to see it on stage and from that my true love of theatre grew very big. I had always enjoyed seeing the odd show but this was the start of a true obsession and love for theatre. The thing is though the film is very glitz and glamour or as Billy Flynn states Razzle Dazzle, the stage show is not. Its Bob Fosse’s dance moves with all black outfits. The band are on the stage and it is one of the most basic sets you will ever see. In that sense I was a little surprised but at the same time totally loved how this then highlighted the songs and dance moves. Oh and just as a little amusing moment David Hasselhoff was actually starring in it the first time I saw it! I have gone on to see many productions in both the West End and touring productions. Theres something about Chicago that everything that is in it is still so relevant to this day.

This then raises the question on how you feel about a film version being made of a stage show that you have already seen? Something that has happened to me more in recent years as I have to admit that majority of the time with older musicals I have seen the film before the stage show. As long as you remember it is going to have to change in some ways for the film. An example of this has to be Evita, hopefully everyone is aware that the Madonna factor really messed up some of the narrative for the story with her demanding to sing “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” which totally changes the meaning of the song and it loses the emotional edge that you see on stage. Although a good thing is that “You Must Love Me” which was written for the film is now performed in the stage show, so some give and take with this show is pretty good. It’s a show I have really come to love and adore not missing it whenever it tours, don’t get me wrong it is extremely depressing but so powerful.

Dreamgirls and Jersey Boys are two examples that I can think of where the film version is pretty much the same as what you see on screen. That was something I was quite surprised about when seeing the stage shows, more than I had seen live after watching the film versions. I really would love to be able to see more stage shows before the film as I think it really then makes you see the film in a very different manner. Maybe the casting was spot on as well for the stage and then film? Although the Jersey Boys film didn’t receive fantastic reviews I personally thought it was very close to the stage version.

Have you managed to see any musicals on stage before the film version? If so, which ones were they and how did you find the adaptations?

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