By now we’ve all heard about Hollywood’s aggressive move towards spinning decades-old movies into Broadway shows. But why stop at “Animal House,” “Back to the Future,” “The Sting,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Tootsie” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”?
Yes, those films are all classics of a kind. But then there are real classics; the kind seen on Turner Classic Movies. When black-and-white was a character in and of itself. When stars had faces. Faces like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Dick Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta, (if Sandy can do it, why not Asta?) Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell and so on. You get the picture.
Who wouldn’t want to see Broadway tackle some intellectually challenging yet wonderfully classic films including,” Now, Voyager,” “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “On the Waterfront,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Birds,” “The Front Page,” “Night of the Iguana,” “Vertigo,” “The Best Days of Our Lives,” “Key Largo,” and why not “Casablanca” or “Citizen Kane”?
Granted this is a tall order, and most likely there are publishers’ rights to be ironed out. But if film executives are willing to give “Rocky” a moment in the Broadway sun, why not go further back than the last 25 years? It’s one thing to be able to watch Bluto demonstrate popping a zit in “Animal House,” it would be another thing to see “Citizen Kane” give away that childhood secret in front of a live audience. Eight times a week.
The current crop of Broadway musicals that are still luring in tourists are the ones that have never gone away. I’m talking “Mama Mia,” “Phantom,” “Chicago” — and each new Disney fare is likely to have legs, with each new generation discovering all over again for the first time, how adorable Sandy is in the latest “Annie” incarnation or “The Lion King” (a musical essentially about procreation and protecting the species), a show that has not aged one bit since opening night. Not to mention “Newsies,” whose movie years back then starred a very young Christian Bale. That show is still reeling them in.
I vote for bringing another Disney classic in: “Dumbo,” a wonderful story for the entire family — it has pathos and sadness, and I’m sure the racist bits will get expunged without fanfare. It’s a wonderful story with heart.
And what about dance successes like “Billy Elliott”? Why not bring in a hoofer doppelganger for James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”? It’s inspirational, funny, pro-American (nothing wrong with that) and has sentiment without being sentimental.
There are plenty of unknown actors out there just waiting for their chance to shine, even if it means shining light on a story that was told many, many years ago. But some of those stories deserve to be shared with your kids and their kids and so on and so forth.
It they can bring “Big Fish” to the stage, then why not “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It would be wonderful for everyone involved, from producers to families in the seats.
Come on Hollywood, I dare you.