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Monday, March 10, 2014

Nothing New Under The Sun

A few days ago I saw an internet headline about a new Broadway show. I don't want to either scare or excite anyone, depending on your point of view, but I think you need to know. Rocky has hit Broadway. And yes, the pun was intended. Not just a play based on the Sylvester Stallone movie, but a musical. When I mentioned it to Trent, we talked about how it seems that Broadway has turned a lot of movies into plays or musicals. You may be thinking, "That isn't really true, is it?" I'll start with two words: Lion King. Yes, that's just one story. Well, hang on, here come some more.

Dirty Dancing
Fame
Flashdance
Footloose
High School Musical
Mary Poppins
The Producers
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Singin' in the Rain
Victor/Victoria
Xanadu
Big
Young Frankenstein
Saturday Night Fever
Ghost: The Musical
The Full Monty
Sister Act
Barbarella
Reefer Madness
Shrek
Legally Blonde
Love Story
The Color Purple
Tarzan (Disney)
The Little Mermaid (Disney)
Elf the Musical
Rain Man
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Edward Scissorhands

That is just a sampling of the movie-to-stage productions that I found while searching on Google. This is a switch from what most of us are accustomed to seeing. We experienced many Broadway plays or musicals that were adapted to the silver screen. I am guessing that many of these movies end up on stage because of business decisions. A story is familiar and loved, so let's turn it into live theater. The audience has already been created by the movie, so if it is done well, it will likely make good money. 

On the other hand, it is possible that the trend of film to stage shows a lack of new ideas. I was thinking about that earlier today. Are there no new ideas these days? Has imagination deserted us? Is there nothing new under the sun? And then I realized that reusing or recycling of stories is really nothing new. Do you remember the movie West Side Story? Well, some people may not realize that it was a modern version of the William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. Or that the story of Romeo and Juliet dates back to at least the first century AD. Yes, it was inspired by the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in Ovid's Metamorphoses

I'll try to make a long story a bit shorter. Pyramus and Thisbe lived next door to one another and fell in love, but their parents refused to allow them to marry. They spoke to one another through a crack in the wall, and finally decided to leave their families so that they could be together. When Thisbe went to wait for her beloved Pyramus under a mulberry tree loaded with white fruit, she saw a lioness covered with blood from a recent kill. She ran to hide, losing her veil. After the lioness drank from some nearby water and started to leave, it spotted Thisbe's veil and picked it up, tearing it and covering it with blood. When Pyramus saw the bloody veil, he assumed Thisbe had been killed waiting to meet him. He stabbed himself with his sword, his blood splashing the mulberries and soaking into the roots of the tree. When Thisbe came out of hiding and saw her dying love, she expressed her wish to be buried with him, and that the gods would forever turn the mulberries red in their memory. She then used his sword to kill herself, unwilling to live without her true love. A good star-crossed lover story definitely has lasting power.

Here's another one I was thinking about: My Fair Lady. It is a musical about a professor who transforms a Cockney flower seller into someone who can pass as a lady of breeding, maybe even royalty. He does this by improving the way she speaks, teaching her how to sound very upper class. This movie is based on a movie called Pygmalion. And that movie was based on a play called Pygmalion, which was written by George Bernard Shaw, and first appeared on stage in 1912. But it goes back to Ovid, too! It is the story of a sculptor named Pygmalion who made an incredibly beautiful and life-like statue of a woman. She was so lovely that he prayed to the gods to make her real, which they did. His creation, Galatea, became his wife. (Hey, I just realized that the being real part sounds a bit like Pinocchio...hmm.)

Yes, there are times when it seems that there is nothing new under the sun. But maybe there are a few core stories or situations that just have a great universal appeal. The search for a "perfect" mate, star-crossed lovers, overcoming our situation and station in life and rising to the top, saving the world, true and enduring love are just a few. Maybe retooling and retelling some stories isn't a bad thing. But I'm still not buying a ticket to see Rocky.