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Since as we enter the second half of the course there are far more movie musicals that are adaptations of stage musicals than there were in the '30s and '40s. I just thought it would be interesting to see which film adaptations of stage musicals the people in this class think surpass their source material and which fall a bit flat in comparison, as well as for movies that got turned into stage musicals.

For movie musicals that are better than the original stage productions, the only one that really stands out to me is West Side Story. There are others that I really like but still wouldn't consider superior to the stage shows, namely Into the Woods, The King and I, Hello Dolly, Little Shop of Horrors, My Fair Lady. Into the Woods' film version loses out for me mainly because of a few poor casting choices and structural problems that come from having to take what is effectively 2 different 3-act stories separated by a passage of time in the form of an intermission and mash them together into one 3 act screenplay. The King and I loses out a bit because of how the climactic scene was toned down, and Little Shop of Horrors for making Seymour too sympathetic. Hello Dolly and My Fair Lady I would say are about equivalent depending on who is playing the roles in whatever stage version you're comparing them to.

I was very disapponted in the film versions of Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Les Miserables, and Cabaret. Sweeney Todd for the lackluster performances (both in singing and acting) and the drastic tone shift without changing the material to fit the new tone; A Little Night Music for its bad vocals, incomplete themes (that were complete in the stage version), and alienating cinematography; Les Mis for its rushed pacing, lazy restructuring, and poor vocal performances; and Cabaret for casting a good singer for Sally Bowles which undermines the entire purpose of her character in relation to the themes of the piece and for cutting out all the subplots from the stage version and replacing them with worse subplots.

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I agree with you that West Side Story is better as a movie. I never saw the stage production, but have read it and it seems the scenes where songs are placed are better in the movie. For example, the female vs. male during "America" is much more fun than just the women singing it. I also think The Sound of Music movie is better than the stage version. The added songs are equivalent or works better than some of the originals that were replaced. I think Grease! is a better movie than the stage version as well, but I wish "It's Raining On Prom Night" and "Those Magic Changes"were more prominent in the movie. 

I think the stage version of On the Town is better than the movie version just because the original songs were better. The only songs they kept in the movie are "I Feel Like I'm not Out of Bed Yet", "New York, New York", "Come Up to My Place" and some instrumental dance music. I saw the movie version first, but when I heard the original songs, I thought they were so much better than the songs they were replaced by. "Some Other Time" and "Lonely Town" being the best ones that were cut. 

Guys and Dolls needs to have the original songs back too. I once heard or read that some of the best songs, like "I've Never Been in Love Before" were changed to fit Marlon Brando's voice. There are probably so much more that I think the stage was better than the movie, but these are the most notable that when I watch them, I get so angry about the changes because the best songs were cut.

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Great topic! I'll have to look for the original songs from On The Town. (I think the moral is: if Leonard Bernstein is good enough to write you some music, please keep it in the show!) On The Sound of Music: I adore the film, but I wish they'd kept the song "No Way to Stop It." It shows the divide between the Captain's response to Nazism (resist) and his rich, cynical friends' (appeasement). Plus it gives Max and Elsa a chance to show their stuff. It's upbeat and catchy, which shows that just because something is aesthetically pleasing, that does not make it ethical or desirable (something that Cabaret demonstrates much more dramatically).

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My first exposure to most musicals is through the movie adaptation so I tend, at least initially, to be disappointed when I see it on stage. Mostly due to the fact that oftentimes songs are cut or altered for the movie and dialogue is changed in many cases.

The only musical I saw onstage before the movie came out was Phantom of the Opera and I was disappointed with the movie. Although it stayed pretty close to the stage production I wasn't thrilled with Gerard Butler or Minnie Driver. 

By the time I saw Oklahoma! on stage I was completely enamored of the movie so that, too, was a disappointment. Having never heard Judd Fry's songs, because they were cut from the movie, I didn't care for them at all. Likewise, I didn't like the stage version's lyrics in "I Cain't Say No." But it has since grown on me and I love both stage and screen versions equally. Well not totally equally, since Gene Nelson is only in the film version. ;)

I have never seen the King and I onstage, but your mention of a more dramatic ending has me intrigued. It's touring in Florida in November so maybe I can talk my husband into it (he's not a musicals fan by any stretch of the imagination, so that will be no small feat!)

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2 hours ago, Joshua Goodstein said:

I just thought it would be interesting to see which film adaptations of stage musicals the people in this class think surpass their source material and which fall a bit flat in comparison, as well as for movies that got turned into stage musicals.

This is a good question--and a tough one. I tend to approach movie musicals and stage musicals as entirely different things, but I appreciate it when a movie gives me the opportunity to see a musical that I'm not otherwise able to see. (I got to see the movie Rent long before I got to see the stage version, and I think that movie works well as a movie.) But if I were going to pick a movie musical that I think is better than the stage version, I think I'd pick South Pacific. The location shooting is an improvement over what you usually get on a stage and the cast is wonderful. I don't know the stage version well enough to comment about differences in songs (for which my father will come back and haunt me--he taught a course in American musical theatre), but I don't notice any obvious gaps when I watch the movie.

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11 hours ago, Joshua Goodstein said:

I was very disapponted in the film versions of Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Les Miserables, and Cabaret. Sweeney Todd for the lackluster performances (both in singing and acting) and the drastic tone shift without changing the material to fit the new tone; A Little Night Music for its bad vocals, incomplete themes (that were complete in the stage version), and alienating cinematography; Les Mis for its rushed pacing, lazy restructuring, and poor vocal performances; and Cabaret for casting a good singer for Sally Bowles which undermines the entire purpose of her character in relation to the themes of the piece and for cutting out all the subplots from the stage version and replacing them with worse subplots.

I look at stage and screen versions of musicals as separate beasts, for they each bring something to the presentation that the other cannot. I will cop to the fact that much like I often think the book is better than the movie, I usually think the stage version is superior to the film version. But that is just me.

I agree completely about Sweeney Todd and ALNM. I think Sondheim might be inherently tough to translate to screen without proper casting, as his material is vocally challenging and the themes are such as not to work as well on screen as they do on stage. It's been years since I've seen A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, so i can't speak to that. Yet. *off to find*

Personally not a fan of Les Mis, so I've not even seen the movie. And I'm also not fond of the film version of Hello Dolly as I think Streisand, wonderful as she is in general, was miscast in the title role -- too young. 

However -- I love the film version of Grease -- it came out when I was a tweenager and I think I saw it in the theater at least half-a-dozen times. Because of that personal connection, the stage version doesn't hold a candle to it for me. 

And totally co-sign on West Side Story being a better film than stage production. It's glorious.

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22 hours ago, BlueMoods said:

I have never seen the King and I onstage, but your mention of a more dramatic ending has me intrigued. It's touring in Florida in November so maybe I can talk my husband into it (he's not a musicals fan by any stretch of the imagination, so that will be no small feat!)

I haven't been able to catch the tour in person but the production it's based on is wonderful and Elena Shaddow is about to take on the role of Anna. She's a really great singer and actress as is Laura Michelle Kelly who's doing it now.

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11 hours ago, janey said:

I agree completely about Sweeney Todd and ALNM. I think Sondheim might be inherently tough to translate to screen without proper casting, as his material is vocally challenging and the themes are such as not to work as well on screen as they do on stage.

I think Into the Woods did a really good job of translating the stage show into a film, albeit one with some significant structural problems. Granted, it did have a much stronger cast than Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music.

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