As Jane Krakowski so eloquently sang in GRAND HOTEL, “I Want To Go To Hollywood!” She could, in fact, be speaking not just for herself but for many of today’s musical theater hits. Seeing the fantastic LES MISERABLES film this week inevitably got me thinking about musical theater and movies.
For as long as Hollywood and Broadway have existed, the two have been on a seesaw of influence. Up through the 1960’s it was common for popular Broadway musicals like WEST SIDE STORY, My Fair Lady, and Oliver to find their way from the stage to the screen.
In more recent memory, however, more often we’re seeing it go the other way: movies that were Hollywood hits are being adapted into musicals for the stage. For a comprehensive rundown of recent movie musicals releases, you can check out THIS LIST.
The good news for those of us who spend more of our time bringing musicals to life on the stage rather than on screen is that the numbers prove time and again that movie versions of stage musicals have a significant positive influence on their live theater counterparts.
When the movies of stage musicals are done well, the show’s brand is boosted for both stage and screen. For example, the successful musical film version of HAIRSPRAY prompted huge boosts to both the Broadway production as well as subsequent regional productions around the country. The national tour of LEGALLY BLONDE saw a big increase in ticket sales following the MTV airing of the Broadway production. In fact, LEGALLY BLONDE’s success inspired other shows including Tony Award winner, Memphis, to film their Broadway production for national screenings as a strategic part of their national tour marketing.
Rumor has it that with the success of the LES MISERABLES film, the next “movie on [Cameron Mackintosh’s] mind…” is a film version of MISS SAIGON. I personally think it would make an excellent movie musical and could add another blockbuster to theater seasons all over the country.
We should all applaud our Hollywood counterparts who are helping us keep stage musicals going strong. It speaks to the power of live theater that movie versions of musicals actually serve as huge, high-budget commercials to get audiences that much more excited about seeing the musicals in their original on-stage form.
After all, here in the theater we don’t need newfangled technology to be masters at the original 3D viewing experience.
You can reach Brisa via MTIShowspace or on twitter: @brisatrinchero. I also blog about the art and business of new musicals at www.makemusicals.com. I look forward to hearing from you!