5. Speech & Debate by Stephen Karam
I have a great, great love for this play. My heroine of life Susan Blackwell was in it, and the kids actually felt like kids I might know. I mean, really. Diwata (played by Sarah Steele) was like… 85% me. The play was set in my town, they attended a high school I did summer theatre camps and choir recitals in, they used real copies of the local newspaper on stage, they even put on the same play (Once Upon a Mattress) that I did my junior year of high school. Karam unconsciously stalked my life. It’s a brilliant play, I saw it during its run in New York (front row, baby, and eternally grateful) and I’m still in love. But could it be a movie? Well, it’s a four person cast. It’d have to be a weird independent film. (Besides, Hollywood would be suffering from Glee syndrome and try to make it more mass-marketable.) But if it was a weird independent film, maybe with Karam consulting, it could be done well, perhaps.
4. Spring Awakening by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, adapted from the play by Frank Wedekind
Spring is without a doubt, no questions asked, my favorite musical. It maybe didn’t change my life, but it was a huge part of it, and to some extent it’s responsible for many of the great things in my life, including some of my greatest friendships. But honestly? I feel like it would be near impossible to translate to film. Said friends of mine and I once tried to contrive of a way to do this; it was much too difficult. Voiceovers were utilized in excess and a lot of the songs would just have to take place in a subreality. Not unlike how they did Sucker Punch, actually, though that was obviously not in our minds at the time. While this works for a story like Sucker Punch, where the subrealities are all ass-kickery and dancing in leotards, I think it would just feel slavish doing Spring as a film that way. I mean, Sucker Punch had, what, four subreality scenes? Spring would have to have one for all nineteen songs (or however many of them stuck around – and most of them would have to, I think; when I try to think of which are expendable, the only things I can think of are “There Once Was a Pirate” and Phoebe’s “Mama Who Bore Me/Touch Me (reprise),” and both of those were cut from the stage production). It would be very hard to do in a way that would feel still genuine and not just like someone filmed the stage play. And really, casting would be impossible: on stage, you can get away with twenty-six year old Phoebe Strole playing a fourteen year old, but in film? It would be like… well, most high school movies and TV shows, where the high schoolers are very obviously at least twenty-four. And that wouldn’t feel right. But you couldn’t have actual fourteen year olds in it, either, as per the sex and everything. Just… how about no.
3. How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel
One of my friends and I once had to theoretically adapt this into a musical for a class (well, we had to make a musical; we chose it as our source material, because we were paired off due to our mutual morbidity and dark artistic inclinations, and we intended for the score, were it real, to have been written or at least styled as if it was written by Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, oh yeah). As a stage musical? Yes, it would have been awesome. As a movie? Hell no. It’s much, much too non-linear and dissociated. I looked it up, and apparently there was a TV movie in 2001, but as imdb doesn’t even have cast or crew details listed on the page, it can’t have been very good. I just… don’t see it working. At all.
2. Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt
We all know I love this one, too. (It’s probably favsies after Spring and Rent, and yes, I know I’m an outrageous musical theatre modernist.) But… well, the theme of tonight seems to be it just wouldn’t translate. For one, the story just isn’t something that would go over. It’d have to be another of those indie films, and even then, it could be problematic: those ambiguous endings don’t sit well with people, especially somewhat unhappy ambiguous endings. There are too many songs. I mean, Rent did okay translating, but they had to change a lot of the songs to dialogue, and it worked for them somewhat, but I just can’t see the Next to Normal songs adapting into straight talking well. It’s too small of a cast for a musical film. They’d try to glam up the electroshock sequence (again, I’m just seeing Sucker Punch, and while it’s perfect for what it is, it’s not perfect for Next to Normal). They’d probably cast people who were all wrong just to make it more accessible. It just… no.
1. August: Osage County (in development?) by Tracy Letts
I honestly don’t know. Plays set only in one location that can’t be set in another location worry me for film adaptations. But it’s got a huge-ass cast, and that helps. They’ve apparently slated it for a movie in 2013, and that’s something to look forward to; I’ve never actually seen it staged, just read it, but I’m still wary. I hope for the best, though.
–your fangirl heroine.