From Pretty Woman to Mean Girls: Should Broadway Keep Making Screen to Stage Productions?

Over the years, we’ve become used to welcoming the popular Broadway musicals to the big screen, whether that be Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors or Mamma Mia. We even get network television airing staged productions such as Grease, Hairspray, and The Wiz

Recently however, we have seen the reverse; several blockbuster films made into Broadway musicals. In 1997 we got Titanic and The Lion King, 2007 brought us Legally Blonde, and in 2014 the dark comedy Heathers was brought to the stage. This past season, we also received Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants. These are only a few of the long lists of movies turned into musicals.

A few months ago, Pretty Woman made its debut on the Great White Way. It is announced to have its cast album release in September. This is not the only movie to musical rendition we will be receiving this Broadway season. King Kong will open in November and Beetlejuice will open at the National Theatre in October and receive a Broadway transfer early next year.  

The question is, is this a good thing? Does making well known musicals into movies serve as a way of integrating others into the theatre or is it a simple tourist trick? Are these musicals any good?   

To answer this, we need to bring into question the definitions of "high culture" and "pop culture." For years, arts such as theatre were something for the wealthy and elite while movies and television were more mainstream and accessible. We still have this problem today, with Broadway tickets being between $100-500 a person.

Despite the cost, more young people have been enjoying musical theatre, whether through YouTube or Spotify. Even as a broke college student, I can’t help myself! High culture and pop culture have become more blurred. Especially because of the use of technology, nearly everything is accessible. 

Because of the increasing interests of youth and society in general, it seems that Broadway has more of a demand for the mainstream. What are audiences going to pay to see? Something familiar! In comes Pretty Woman, King Kong, and Beetlejuice.

While this can bring a larger audience to Broadway, there is debate within the theatre community. Many old fans classify this new musical theatre as basic, not being up to “sophisticated” standards and tastes. The newer fans, however, tend to celebrate the familiar.

In the end, theatre is what you make of it. Yes, with these new mainstream musicals there will inevitably be flops, but there will also be treasures. Creative minds still lie behind these performances. The distinction between good and bad lies in the consumer.