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  • Alexa Muchnick

Movie Musicals Need to Stop.

Either stick to an original movie and don’t do a remake, or record the Broadway production of the musical and stream it in theaters or on other platforms. But no more remakes of movies that already have a Broadway musical version. 

Let’s explore my frustration by examining the Broadway musicals that recently had film adaptations, Matilda and Mean Girls. Both of these musicals did not translate well to the screen, and instead were epic fails. Having seen Matilda on Broadway/professional touring companies numerous times as well as performing in the full-length production at my previous high school, I would consider myself an “expert” on this musical (I can recite almost every line!). The stage performance had true magic embedded throughout, amazing choreography with large-scale group numbers, a scary villain (Ms. Trunchbull) with intricate costuming and makeup, a team of talented ensemble students, and of course, an insanely talented triple-threat young girl who plays Matilda. The inventive set design, clever musical numbers, and comedic characters (Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s brother, Michael, Rodolfo, Ms. Trunchbull), coupled with the sincerity of Ms. Honey, combine to create a hero that the audience wants to root for. 

If one watches the show on Broadway, they will experience an innovative version of “The School Song,” where students on the stage sing an alphabet of lyrics that are cleverly highlighted by alphabetized building blocks. Alternatively, the film labels classrooms with alphabet letters and uses crazy camera angles to make the viewer feel trapped in a prison-like school. Unfortunately, the awe of the Broadway performance of that song was completely lost in translation from the stage to the screen.

Additionally, the most iconic song in Matilda, “When I Grow Up,” was ruined in its reimagined film interpretation. On Broadway, the touching song brings together the full cast of older and younger students onto a stage filled with actual playground swings and slides. The actors create a joyful image that has audience members reminiscing about their childhood memories. Alternatively, in the film, various children are seen leaving the school riding bikes but imagining themselves as astronauts and motorcycle riders, which comes across as cheesy since it is so unrealistic. The filmmakers tried to reinvent the wheel and ended up being fake and too imaginative, when they could have just stuck with the iconic playground setting.

The over-imaginative "When I Grow Up" in the movie musical

The gripping and fun "When I Grow Up" in the musical

The new Mean Girls remake was not heavily advertised as a movie musical so many audience members were frustrated and confused why Regina George would suddenly break into song. Alternatively, audience members who love theater were disappointed that their favorite songs from the Broadway musical were either cut from the movie or completely auto-tuned. Auto-tuning is bad for musical performances because the vocals sound computerized, and Broadway emphasizes pure talent. The auto-tuning makes the viewer of the movie feel less connected, since the emotion portrayed in a song gets lost when auto-tuned

For example, the song “Stupid with Love” is an uptempo, catchy, light, and comedic song in the Broadway musical. Instead, the movie slows the song down, makes Cady sound robotic and monotone, and changes some of the lyrics from the Broadway version. This frustrates viewers who are fans of the Broadway musical, and confuses viewers who are there to watch a movie, but instead are now watching Cady break into a weird song. Furthermore, there is frustration regarding the song's cut: “Where do you Belong” is an iconic song with great choreography where Damian shows Cady the different cliques in the cafeteria during lunch time, but in the movie, they cut the number, but still quoted a lot of the lyrics by having Damian recite them as lines. I found that beyond frustrating. If the filmmakers found the Broadway song not worthy of making the cut for the movie, why would they still put the same scene of them in the cafeteria, and go one step further to say some of the same lines that he would have sung? Additionally, the song “Stop” was cut from the movie. On Broadway, “Stop” is a huge tap number that embraces musical theater style song and dance. But that would have been “too theatrical” for the movie. Instead, filmmakers turned the iconic movie into a musical, but eliminated the most iconic moments from the Broadway musical in an effort to make the movie feel less like a Broadway musical. But that pleases no one. Again, people who like movies and thought that the remake was exactly that are appalled when characters break into song, and for the people who are seeing the film because they are fans of the Broadway musical, they feel appalled when songs are replaced, changed, or even cut from the movie. This middle ground approach did not work, and the filmmakers either needed to stick to a straight, classic movie, or fully embrace the musical components. 

"Anything Goes" limited release in theaters, which was properly advertised as a recording of the musical.

When filmmakers want to revive a movie that has since become a Broadway musical, instead of creating cinematic “movie musicals,” they should film the Broadway production and have a limited release in movie theaters or put it on streaming platforms. Hamilton, Come From Away, Newsies, Waitress, Anything Goes: what do these all have in common? All five of these Broadway shows were professionally filmed and released. They were all advertised as musicals, and people had proper expectations since they knew what they were going to watch. Additionally, releasing Broadway musicals creates theater more accessible for those who otherwise would not be able to go see a show live on Broadway. On top of that, it gives exposure and the proper credit to the Broadway actor who portrayed the role. Reneé Rapp, the actress who played Regina George in the Mean Girls’ movie, has received a lot of talk about her portrayal for the role, and yet most have never heard the name Taylor Louderman, the actress who originated the role on Broadway. Credit will be given where it deserves to go, expectations will be set properly, and everyone watching the film of a Broadway production will be happy. No more movie musicals; film the Broadway version.


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