Musical Monday: Pop Culture Edition

Sometimes pop culture and the world of theatre converge, for the good and for the bad. Since it’s been awhile that I’ve talked theatre (and I know not every reader is interested in the topic), I thought I’d mix things up and list current and upcoming theatrical projects that delve into that pop culture world that I love so much: shows based on books, movies, characters, etc. Some of these projects are surprising, confusing, laughable, brilliant – some are new even to me! Just like comics, theatre has a tendency to venture into… unusual places. Maybe something here might spark some interest (the music from the following shows most likely can be found on YouTube). Plus, I’m sure I’ve missed many many more. Read on.

 

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Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel (and judging from photos, perhaps the film as well), AMERICAN PSYCHO THE MUSICAL features music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik and a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Singer/Songwriter Sheik may sound familiar. He wrote the popular song “Barely Breathing” and also wrote the music to the popular Spring Awakening musical as well as others. And Aguirre-Sacasa may sound familiar since he has many comic book writing credits to his name including Fantastic Four Season One, the 2010 Loki mini-series, the Marvel adaptations of The Stand and the current popular Afterlife with Archie series. And then there’s the actor in the leading man role of Patrick Bateman: Mr. Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor Who. That’s a ton of geek cred. I believe the musical is no longer running, but an American transfer is possibly in the works. The novel certainly used music as one of its themes – is it enough to translate to the stage? I probably should’ve listened to a bunch of these before I started this. Ah well.

 

021014bWhat’s your damage?! Can you believe this? HEATHERS THE MUSICAL is opening off-Broadway in March. Based on the 1988 movie, this musical has book, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy. O’Keefe wrote the music and lyrics for Batboy and co-wrote another movie to musical adaptation, Legally Blonde. Murphy was one of the masterminds behind Reefer Madness. I find most movie to musical projects lose a bit of the original bite and sincerity. Considering the quirky nature of the original film, perhaps a musical doesn’t seem far off for this one.

 

021014cCurrently in previews, and surprisingly getting decent reviews, ROCKY has come to the stage. The end fight has a fun element to it in that it takes the first few rows of the audience and brings them up on the stage as a way to give the final fight a more realistic feel around the boxing ring. Music and lyrics are by the team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, with a book by Thomas Meehan. Flaherty and Ahrens wrote Once On This Island, My Favorite Year, Ragtime, Seussical and the music for the Anastasia animated film. Meehan wrote the book for Annie, the Producers, Young Frankenstein and co-wrote the book for two other movie to musicals projects, Hairspray and Elf (yes, they made Elf into a musical). This has been in the works for almost a decade with Sylvester Stallone as a producer. I have a friend that is making her Broadway debut in this show. And it’s about Philly. We’ll see how audiences take to it.

 

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Returning in April in London for a small run, COOL RIDER is the stage version of the movie Grease 2. I love the original Grease movie. Grease 2? Not so much. But they are correct: it’s a cult musical loved by many. And a transfer to the stage makes sense. I’m surprised it took this long actually. It’s crazy to think that Grease 2 was Michelle Pfeiffer’s first major movie role and that she would next appear in Scarface. Talk about a disconnect between the two on that one. I also just learned that after the success of the first Grease movie, there were plans for three sequels all taking place in different eras. But since Grease 2 bombed, so did that idea. Perhaps it was for the best.

 

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Opening in Australia and coming to Broadway later in 2014, I present to you the eighth wonder of the world, KING KONG THE MUSICAL! And I too thought “What the?!?”. I watched video of the animatronics and while the musical itself is completely over the top, Kong himself is pretty damn cool. It’s a complete arena event meaning spectacle, spectacle, spectacle, very much in the style and flavor of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. Which sure, isn’t saying much. But even Broadway needs that popcorn musical for the masses. And this just might be it.

Along with those, if you’re a Breaking Bad fan check out Bryan Cranston live on stage in the Lyndon B. Johnson play All the Way (allthewaybroadway.com); Superman is appearing on the London stage for the first time in a revival production of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman! (www.allstarproductions.co.uk/#/superman/4518283488); and believe it or not, they’re working on a Back to the Future musical. This is heavy.