If you're anything like me, you have most theatre-related news sent straight to your phone to ensure that you are always up to date on the latest news. This news usually includes the newest shows opening on Broadway. By newest, I mean the newest movie adaption.
Let's take a look at this past season, for instance. With shows like "Mean Girls," "Frozen," and "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," it almost seems as if the theatre is lost without the ability to use a film as the starting point for a live work of art. Even "SpongeBob" got his own music his own music on the Great White Way.
The trouble is, none of these movies used for inspiration would exist without the theatre in the first place. It was the creativity of performing a live, original scene and recording it that made creating a movie possible. In the age of instant streaming, are playwrights and other artists of the theatre becoming lazy? What type of significance does a movie need to have in order to be adapted to the stage rather than creating something based on an original idea?
The lack of unoriginality in such a creative field doesn't end at movies. "The Cher Show," a musical about the singer's life that will include her own music, is about to open on Broadway this fall. Not to put down the work that has gone into this production, but a biopic about an artist's life that includes their own music (known as a jukebox musical) isn't exactly a groundbreaking development in the theatre as displayed in the past by "Jersey Boys," "Mamma Mia," "Beautiful," "The Carole King Musical," and many more.
Then again, one could argue that some of the best musicals of all time were adapted from another work. Written in the '50s and '60s though, the following works were not written at a time that was as adaptation heavy as today. "My Fair Lady," a show in which is currently being revived on Broadway, is based off the play "Pygmalion" of a similar plot. The recently closed revival of "Hello Dolly" is an adaption of the play "The Matchmaker."
This raises the question, is such thing as an original musical? Some shows, such as "Hamilton," draw from past events to retell history onstage. Even the plot of the musical "Chicago" is strongly influenced by historical murders committed by the women of the city in the 1920s. Other works, however, are inspired by contemporary issues and events. One of these shows is "Dear Evan Hansen," a musical about a boy with a social anxiety disorder is. Inspired by true events and mental health experiences, could one argue that even this does not count as an original idea? Where is the line between inspiration and unoriginality?
Perhaps there is a fear that original theatre is not good enough on its own to sell tickets, so some familiarity needs to be instilled. While the arts should not be about making money, I acknowledge that ticket sales do contribute to the harsh reality of the entertainment industry. With all said, many movie adaptions of musicals or jukebox musicals are extremely successful and incredibly entertaining. While it's great to celebrate other art by building a musical around it with hopes of large audiences, let's not forget to honor our original ideas for the sake of creating a moving piece of art as a means to express ourselves.