Five Movies That Should’ve Gotten Musicals Before Ghost
Office Space, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and others that actually need more songs.
By James Brady Ryan
Broadway's lust for movie adaptations seems to be insatiable. Although that hasn't always been the case, it's been a noticeable trend since The Lion King. After that, Broadway surfed along on other Disney features for a bit, hit a low point with Legally Blonde, and now is back, this week, with the stage debut of Ghost. And frankly, there are films that seem like better fodder for the stage. Here are five that deserve a chance to sing out:
1. The Devil Wears Prada
One important thing this movie has going for it is that it’s re-watchable. If you don't want to bother putting a DVD on for a second time, you will probably not shell out the money for a ticket. But beyond that, The Devil Wears Prada features a classic musical protagonist: a wide-eyed go-getter who seeks her fortune in the big city. It has an even stronger and wittier antagonist, and of course, the opportunity to use some amazing costumes. Just imagine, for a moment, some of the veteran Broadway ladies who could play the biting, cold-as-ice Miranda.
2. War of the Roses
Think of it as a darker, more violent Kiss Me Kate without the happy ending. Danny DeVito's 1989 comedy has the perfect plot for the kind of witty, bitchy back-and-forth a good male and female lead would tear into. A reprisal of Danny DeVito's role as the husband's lawyer would not only create a nice bookend for the show, but also has a “Best Featured Actor” nomination written all over it. And if you think the film is too dark — though I would counter that Sweeney Todd seems to do just fine — it could always take a cue from Hairspray and sand off some of the rough edges, trading some of the more physical confrontations for psychological ones.
3. Office Space
The Book of Mormon is going to spawn a whole batch of imitators — shows that confuse actual satire with lots of swear words. But maybe, if someone started with good source material — like, say, Office Space — they could actually make a worthwhile, funny, and hilariously inappropriate musical. The movie is filled with the kind of outsized characters that stage actors are so good at, and despite the cynicism of the story, there's even a romance plot to ground the office shenanigans. And I would love to see the infamous printer-smashing scene recreated as a song-and-dance routine.
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
This is perhaps a bit of a cheat, since this movie technically has a musical number built into it already. That being said, Ferris Bueller has a deep well of Broadway-ready assets, including a great teen romance, a bunch of lively comic setpieces, and a mustache-twirling villain. More than all of that, though, the film moves us from one place to the next in a way that would be very exciting on stage if handled correctly. It's episodic in a way that would translate naturally to a series of songs. One caveat: if you actually try to make this into a musical, please don't use the music of the '80s — or even the style of the music of the '80s — for your songs. Go the straightforward route and avoid the hassle of finding a way to shoehorn “Hungry Like the Wolf” in there.
5. Gosford Park
Not all musicals have to be laugh riots, of course – many contain actual pathos and no cross-dressing at all. (Shocking, I know.) Gosford Park would need some rejiggering before it could hit the stage; Robert Altman's cast is sprawling and the dialogue is meandering and conversational. But, the 1930s manor setting would give costume and set designers a nice break from the day-glo and sequins that seem to be everywhere these days. And beyond that, by emphasizing the central characters, a musical adaptation could keep the story clear and emotional, while still fitting in some moments of levity. (Probably nothing as funny as the printer-smashing scene from Office Space, but you can't have everything.)