Day 2: Most wanted adaptations

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Marie Antoinette
Photo source: film still

I know I make quite a big deal about wanting to see absolutely brand new writing, and have the most exaggerated eye roll ready for the announcement of yet another adaptation of a film into a musical. But as this idea doesn’t seem to be running out of steam just yet, I thought I should have a think about what sort of things I’d like to be adapted for the stage – basically anything with a bit more originality to it than the endless parade of teen movie adaptations…

So I’ve considered a range of sources, from films to books to music, and come up with my top 10 ideas for stage adaptations. And I’d like some sort of creative credit & royalties if any of these ever get made!

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Queen
Photo credit: Mick Rock

10. Across The Universe
OK, so I’m beginning with a slightly less original idea, just to get things warmed up. Undoubtedly this would need to be a big budget production to get anywhere near the ridiculous scale of the film, but with the continual advancement of technology it’s now more doable than ever. Whether it went down the route of creating various intricate sets, or followed the lead of An American in Paris and used projections on backdrop panels, this psychedelic Beatlemania world is now within our grasp. And the music simply speaks for itself.

9. The Greatest Showman
Yes, sorry, another predictable one – but hear me out. What I think would work brilliantly, and keep it true to the film’s creative spirit, is some kind of site-specific & possibly immersive production. It could be in a spiegeltent throughout the summer months, and in an historic or other relevant building during the colder months. With multi-skilled actors on board, and potentially some new arrangements of the music depending on the feel of the production, this could be an experience as much as a show.

8. Worzel Gummidge
Now we’re talking! I don’t know how many of you will be aware of this as either a TV show or the original books – it’s just about there in the periphery of my mind from when I was very young… Basically, it’s about a walking, talking scarecrow. With a recent resurgence in interest in folk music, and great opportunities for some innovative puppetry, this has all the makings of a musical (or a play with music) for all the family.

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Worzel Gummidge
Photo source: YouTube still

7. Bohemian Rhapsody
Whether this song was indeed Freddie Mercury’s own unique way of coming out, or a ridiculous work of genius that wasn’t supposed to mean anything, Bohemian Rhapsody’s innate theatricality and linguistic flair surely lends itself to being explored further. It could be a mess (I’m always wary of jukebox musicals that pull names from songs to create characters, for starters), but it’s so dramatic that it’s worth a try… (Alternatively, you could take this title to actually mean the new Queen biopic, which I’d also love to see on the stage!)

6. Marie Antoinette
Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film wasn’t exactly a smash hit, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. Marie Antoinette is a much-maligned and oft misquoted (“Let them eat cake!”) figure in history, and while the film took a fair amount of artistic liberties with the facts, it was a refreshing and eye-opening portrayal of a character I didn’t know much about – and subsequently it inspired me to find out more. The costumes are incredible, and the range of anachronisms (ranging from subtle to in-your-face) really worked for me; the new wave soundtrack is one of my favourite things about it, and I think it could really bring it to life onstage.

5. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
I’d specifically like to pitch this one to Wise Children, as I picture it as a playful night at the circus. Given that John Lennon wrote the song from an actual 19th century poster (for the Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal appearance in Rochdale), it would almost be like bringing it home. You can imagine Emma Rice having a whale of a time creating Henry the Horse, as well as the dancing & singing Hendersons – plus the flying Mr Kite is so obvious a match to Rice’s style that I almost can’t believe it hasn’t been done already. There’s such a scope for original music, inventive choreography, and definitely puppets, that I’d commission it myself if I could!

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4. The White Queen
A few years ago Hilary Mantel’s epic novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies were adapted for the stage by the RSC and proved a big hit; they first played at their Stratford-upon-Avon base, before transferring to the Aldwych (accumulating five Olivier nominations & winning two), and then headed to Broadway for a limited run (where it garnered several Tony Award nominations). Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series of books has already been seen on the small screen, but I definitely think there’s potential for at least part of it to be made into a lavish theatrical spectacle. The politics of that time – known more widely as the Wars of the Roses – are fascinating, and the fact that Gregory’s books tell the story from the female perspective adds an extra twist to the history you’re familiar with.

3. Word Gets Around
Indie band The Enemy have recently had a musical inspired by their debut album grace the stage at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre (We’ll Live and Die in These Towns), and I reckon Stereophonics’ first record could easily get the same treatment. Kelly Jones’ early songwriting was very much story-driven, with tales of working class Wales (inspired by local stories and what he saw around him), which could really speak to today’s audiences. Plus it’s just a cracking album, and I’d love the chance to hear those classic songs performed over & over again in this way!

2. Flash Gordon
We’re obviously not talking high art here, but this could easily be a cult stage hit. With shows such as Eugenius! and The Toxic Avenger capturing the public’s imagination recently, I’m sure there’s a way of bringing this 80s film to the stage – after all, the film enjoyed its greatest success in the UK. The theme song Flash is extremely well known, and you may or may not know that Queen wrote the whole soundtrack (with Howard Blake providing the orchestral parts). With their biopic increasing interest in the group again, this could be the ideal time to start getting something together. As long as it’s as camp as can be (and ideally gets Brian Blessed’s iconic “Gordon’s alive!” in there somewhere) there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work, in its own crazy way…

1. Cemetery Junction
My favourite film, and potentially the best thing Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant have ever produced together. Whilst I would be loathe to try and change something that I consider to be perfect, the soundtrack they put together would be amazing to hear performed live as part of a play with music – because you obviously couldn’t change that element of Cemetery Junction. Snork’s surprisingly brilliant rendition of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize is a definite crowdpleaser, and if The Rain Song by Led Zeppelin could stay too… It’s also a great coming-of-age story, set in a time that seems ever more familiar to our own (thanks to the Tories taking us back to the 70s in every way they possibly can) – though with a ‘happy ever after’ that feels more natural & realistic than in many stories. Perhaps my love for the film has blinded me somewhat, but I’m convinced it could definitely work.

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Cemetery Junction
Photo source: Amazon

What would you like to be made into a stage show?

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