London is seeing yet another musical theatre adaptation of a successful film, a trend that seems to be happening quite often over the past decade.
A month after the well-known film From Here To Eternity became a musical, the British adaptation of the 2000 thriller American Psycho opens today at the Almeida Theatre. This time, Whovian Matt Smith is the face –and voice- of Patrick Bateman, the character made famous by Christian Bale.
Dunkan Sheik, composer of the musical, admitted being “a bit loth to jump into it at first” when he was approached in 2009.
“It made me think of a new way of using music in the context of musical theatre”, stated Mr Sheik.
But this is not the first time a famous film is adapted into a musical. In what it seems to be a trend over the past years, many successful movies have seen their transfer from the big screen to the stage, with Spamalot being one of the most obvious examples. This satire is an adaptation of the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And the list goes on.
Some adaptations have had successful runs and received several awards, like Billy Elliot, Once –whose main song had won an Academy Award-, Hairspray, The Producers or Spamalot itself, while creations such as Catch Me If You Can –which won the Tony Award for Best Actor- or Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark have proved to be stage failures.
As of today, 142 movies have been adapted into musicals only on Broadway, which proves the strength of this type of theatre amongst audiences.
For Stewart Pringle, Time Out critic and Artistic Director of Theatre of the Damned, the driver behind the trend is purely financial. According to him, “there’s no question that musicals adapted from big, splashy, well-known films have a better chance of going the distance in the West End when compared to an entirely original new musical”.
And Pringle sees this trend as much as a vehicle for attracting audiences as a way of giving audiences something of a known quantity.
“West End tickets are cripplingly expensive, and if an audience member is going to be paying out more than £50 for a ticket then it helps if they know it’s going to be basically a version of their favourite film with a few songs tagged onto it.”
The key to success of these adaptations is the immediate connection with their movie counterparts, as it has happened in the past that some of them had different titles and they were soon forgotten, like Betty Blue Eyes, based on the film A Private Function. “If they’d stuck ‘Alan Bennett’s A Private Function: The Musical’ in massive letters on the poster, I think there’s a chance it’d still be running”, observes Pringle.
“I think the trend of adapting films is one that may eventually pass, and it’s one that’s contributed to great box office figures for the West End in a very difficult financial time”.
It has also created loads of new theatregoers, which may go and see all types of musicals more often.
That way, this film craze on stage has given birth to some masterpieces, as well as some ridiculous musicals, as Pringle points out. “The Bodyguard is ridiculous, but it’s also loads of fun. Legally Blonde was similar, and The Lion King is every bit as worthy as anything Lloyd Webber has made in about twenty years”.
So before this tendency dies, the latest addition to the list is this bold Matt Smith driven vehicle, filled with electronic songs and obscure settings. In words of its director, Rupert Goold, it is “a musical for people who maybe haven’t been to a lot of musicals”.
American Psycho: A New Musical Thriller is set to run until 25 January 2014.
- The Little Mermaid, American Psycho, Stephen Ward: what to see at the theatre this week (theguardian.com)
- Why Matt Smith is the perfect Psycho (telegraph.co.uk)
- The best West End musicals on now (telegraph.co.uk)
- Theatre Thursdays: The Princess Bride on Broadway… Yay? (ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com)