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Top 10 Proposed Geeky Musical Adaptations

August 3, 2010

I will cheerfully admit to loving musicals. For my birthday, my sister got me a pack of tickets to see a bunch of them at Cleveland Playhouse. All of them were original Broadway productions, but adaptations are all the rage.

In fact, one of the shows that I missed at the local theater company was a musical adaptation of Evil Dead. I did visit that theater, though, and the seats in the first few rows were stained red. Really sad I missed that one. It’s a comedic take on the original film and from what I hear it’s a lot of fun.

While Evil Dead (and Spamalot) is an example of nerdy material adapted into a musical the right way, there’s examples of it done the wrong way, too. Superman, Batman, and Spidey have all had their turn at the stage.

But we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about what WOULD make a great musical. Here’s our list of 10 nerdy adaptations that Broadway should look into instead of another Disney cartoon.

#10 – Weird Science

There’s already a very successful musical about a woman with magical powers in Wicked. Weird Science would be a fun, silly musical with lots of humor. Two nerdy boys, sick of being bullied and never having success with women, decide to make their own woman, a la Son of Frankenstein. The setting would need to stay in the 80’s, of course, with lots of big hair and legwarmers. And an electric guitar in the orchestra pit, naturally.

#9 – Serenity

Joss Whedon, as well all know, has already made a few musicals in his day. A Serenity musical, like Dr. Horrible, could be hella awesome. It would have to be adapted a bit to include a few major events of Firefly, and a number of chases and special effects would have to be trimmed out. But it’s one of the few sci-fi movies that could be adapted to stage. The music would have a Western twang, naturally. Death, love, drama, humor, battles. Broadway needs more of that.

#8 – Revenge of the Nerds

I’m seeing something like Grease here. The show follows an ensemble cast of quirky nerds, trying to find their place on their new campus. Like the movie, the stage adaptation would include the climactic triumph at the Greek Games with a big, nerdy, electronic musical number. Like modern productions of Grease, the raunchiness would have to be dialed down a bit and it would definitely need to be made more PC. Oh, the 80’s. In the end it would be a feel good romp about being yourself.

#7 – Monkey Island

Spamalot is an example of a successful musical that is straight up comedy, not taking a single moment seriously. Monkey Island could be another. Adventure games can transfer well to stage, and Monkey Island is one of the best. Imagine the insult sword fight duels in song! You’d have your traditional sea diddies, but also Caribbean rhythms in the music. And monkeys.

#6 – Polly and the Pirates

Yes, more Pirates. Polly and the Pirates is a comic miniseries by personal favorite Ted Naifeh. It could take a musical tone cue from the Pirates of Penzance to tell the story of reluctant pirate heiress Polly. Kidnapped from her boarding school by a rag tag band of pirates in search of treasure, she transforms from a prim and proper young lady to a proper pirate queen. It could be the modern Annie with a young girl taking the title role, and would a fun adventure parents could take their kids to, what with Broadway being all family friendly these days.

#5 – Grim Fandango

The title already sounds like a musical, and the costumes could be out of this world. Grim Fandango is a PC game that’s even divided into acts: perfect for a stage production. We follow Manny through his epic journey across the Land of the Dead, a story of romance and betrayal. Picture Le Miserables in Mexico with a lot more humor. The music would have a Mexican flair, of course, with plenty of flamenco dancing, along with a few Big Band numbers in line with the noir groove the show would have going for it.

#4 – Anansi Boys

The characters in the book, who are the sons of the spider god Anasi, already spend a lot of time singing. It’s a central part of Charlie’s power and character, in fact. And it would be great to bring more color to the Great White Way. Fill the show with African music and dancing and you’d have something sort of like Lion King but still completely different from anything else on Broadway. There’s magic and murder, romance and happy endings.

#3 – Back to the Future

This adaptation is so obvious, I’m amazed it hasn’t been done yet. As far as adapting 80’s films, they’ve done Big and Footloose, they should do Back to the Future. Pull some inspiration from the Producers to make it a buddy comedy musical. Most of the music could be 50’s inspired, of course, and while we’re still in Marty’s time, 80’s inspired music. This is yet another 80’s film with a big musical number that could easily be translated to stage. I’m sure some stage effects manager could get creative with lights and fog when it comes to time traveling, too.

#2 – Mort

Based on the Discworld novel, this has all the makings of a great musical. We follow Mort’s life, from his youth where he doesn’t fit in, to his first meeting with Death, and through his various jobs for death. It has humor, a love triangle, and a battle with Death at the end. Think Pippin. It would even suit Stephen Schwartz after his success on Wicked(Ed Note: Upon completing this entry, I noticed there was a small stage production in the UK. Mort still deserves a big budget production on Broadway/West End.)

#1 – The Princess Bride

Like Hairspray, this is a film that already feels like a musical. It could play a bit like Into the Woods, with Grandpa and Grandson off to the side while the action takes place center stage. Like classic Broadway, we have a Princess, a dread pirate, and sword fights. In fact, composer Adam Guettel was working on an adaptation that never saw fruition because of a rights kerfuffle. Get back on this, Broadway! I want to hear Buttercup sing her lament!

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