Music has charms to soothe the savage beast (or breast, if you're going with the correct but weirder version of the saying), but these movies-turned-musicals have the power to have us plugging our ears and rolling our eyes. While many films have transitioned well to the stage, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail adaptation Spamalot, as well as The Producers, many others have failed to live up to the success the movie experienced. Some words are just better left unsung.
- Fine, this started as a comic book, not a movie, but the stage version, called Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, mimicked the popular film franchise. Some of the big problems with the idea of putting an action flick in front of a live audience is the danger and the huge cost associated with keeping actors safe. And even with the record-breaking budget of $70 million, Spider-Man couldn't seem to keep its actors from injury. Several cast members were hurt during rehearsals and many began to think of the show as cursed. The director left, the stunts were toned down, which made them more boring, and the whole story was rewritten. And to top it off, the songs, written by U2's Bono and the Edge, received lackluster reviews. The show may have picked up since its original disasters but it feels more like pre-spider bite Peter Parker rather than the impressive Spiderman.
- Just because the movie had "singer" in the title doesn't mean it needed to involve more music. The 1998 film succeeded largely due to having Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore as the leads and because we all felt we were in on the joke that the movie seemed to be playing on: "Look how crazy we all were in the '80s!" Watching the musical, though, you feel like you're just watching a cast of celebrity impersonators, rather than a bunch of people living blissfully through the golden years of the '80s. Though the plot follows very closely along with that of the movie, developing a depth in the characters seems to have been foregone for dance numbers that evoke memories of the decade's music videos. Most of us will agree that the songs in the movie version were plenty with just the right amount of sass and humor. The extras in the musical just make it tiring.
- Young people who aren't familiar with the 1980 hit film starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda as they try to overthrow their horrible boss are missing out. If they don't know about the musical based on the movie, they're pretty lucky. Sitting through it feels a bit like working a 9-to-5 job, trying to keep up with every set change and looking for a moment of peace and quiet. Parton took part in adapting the movie for the stage, but much like her hair and her breasts, the show is obviously overinflated. Even with a standout actress like Allison Janney in the lead role, the show flopped with its caricatures of the characters, campy, slapstick humor, and loud musical numbers.
- Yes, Carrie, as in Stephen King's Carrie. Do we need to go farther than saying the cast dances and sings about slaughtering a pig? OK, we will, but it's not going to get any better, as you'd probably expect. Some of the bizarre source material for the extravagant Broadway numbers provides laughs, but a lot of the lyrics and lines are corny to the point of being unenjoyable and the acting leaves a lot to be desired. None of the vulnerability and cruelty of high school are fully realized in this adaptation. The King novel/movie could've been turned into a dark smash-hit, something like Sweeney Todd, but all aspects of the production missed the mark.
- Some things just don't work without Tom Hanks. Meg Ryan, "Life is like a box of chocolates," and of course, the classic tale of a boy turned into a grown-up, Big. Producers thought this movie would be a huge money-maker as a Broadway play, so in 1996, they opened it with high hopes. One of these producers, though, was F.A.O. Schwarz, the famous toy store with the floor piano you play with your feet, and this might have been the nail in the Big coffin. After opening in Detroit, audiences panned the show for coming off as a two-hour advertisement for the toy store, with promotional lines of dialogue and tie-ins in every scene. It was overhauled for Broadway, but still met mixed reviews, many believing it didn't share the heart and charm of the movie.
- You can't really go wrong musically with the Bee Gees' music that carries this musical, but beyond the fun of the rock group, there isn't a lot of new substance to sink your teeth into. Any of the grit or wonder that bedecked the movie in the '70s is gone; references to race, drugs, or violence that brought a realism to the screen have been replaced with vapid impersonations of the film's characters. If you're just looking for a cheesy disco play or Bee Gees tribute show to attend with your kids, Saturday Night Fever will work but don't expect it to have any of the impact the film had.
- It's a hard, though not impossible, feat to make a musical raw and dirty with the rehearsed, precise dance numbers and exaggerated acting. Spring Awakening managed to come of age with an edgy, praised production. Unfortunately, the musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing couldn't make the story of a girl growing up and losing her innocence look convincing. Instead, the story is campy — literally. Of course, it takes place at a camp-style summer resort and the story gets so weighed down by unnecessary camp activities that you lose sight of the plot. Even with stunning dancing from some characters and decent acting, like you would've found in the Los Angeles production, the musical deserves to be put in a corner.
- A lot of musicals try to cash in on the success and nostalgia factor a certain movie had with audiences. When that movie (and the book it was based on) relied heavily on characters that walked a fine line between being unbearably annoying and enchantingly relatable, it's virtually impossible to recreate that charm on the musical stage, a place that is slightly annoying to begin with. High Fidelity's story focuses on extreme music snobs, another problem for creators of the musical who have to match the exacting taste level of the show's main characters. With so-so music and under-developed characters, the musical adaptation becomes totally forgettable, which is probably good since it might tarnish your fondness for the movie.
- Maybe this musical would've performed better without the high expectations set by Mel Brooks' other Broadway musical, The Producers, a classic, hilarious take on producing a theatrical failure. Brooks seems to have gotten a personal taste of a Broadway flop with Young Frankenstein, modeled after his well-loved movie about Dr. Frankenstein's grandson. While the movie found success in parodying the early, black-and-white horror movies, the stage couldn't produce such an effect and with seats as expensive as $450 a head, the play just wasn't good enough. Musical numbers were unvaried and loud, and jokes were delivered with the ease of a hippo doing the tango. The play closed in 2009, just over a year after it opened.