Hit plays might be bombing on screen this year, but in recent years, hit movies have been fodder for some of Broadway’s biggest successes. This year was a banner year for screen-to-stage adaptations, with “Once” and “Newsies” among the most-nominated shows for this year’s Tony Awards, and “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Ghost,” and the beleaguered “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” capturing a few nods, too.
Five shows based on films captured nominations this year, with two nominated for best musical, which makes it an exceptionally good year for Hollywood on Broadway. It’s partnership that has proven to be beneficial ever since 1966’s “Sweet Charity,” among the first movie-to-stage adaptations, with a book by Neil Simon based on Federico Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria.” In 2011, “Catch Me If You Can” and “Sister Act” were nominated for best musical, but lost to “The Book of Mormon” (though the former picked up an acting award for Norbert Leo Butz). “The Addams Family,” was nominated for its score in 2010, but lost to “Memphis.” “Billy Elliott” won best musical in 2009, beating ”Shrek: The Musical” (an adaptation of Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” was nominated for smaller awards that year). “Xanadu” and “Young Frankenstein” didn’t fare as well in 2008, but 2007’s adaptation of “Grey Gardens” took home a Tony for actress Christine Ebersole, who beat Laura Bell Bundy of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”
Critics have said that 2012 was a wide-open year for musicals, and ”Once” — a romance set in the modern Dublin music scene, which earned “Falling Slowly” the 2007 Academy Award for best song — swept this year’s nominations with 11. It’s up against “Newsies,” adapted from the 1992 Disney film about the newsboy strike of 1899 that, along with “Ghost,” captured some nostalgia for the early ’90s. As for “Spider-Man” — it’s a miracle the show made it to the Tony Awards without another accident, after its spate of bad luck last year.
Missing from this year’s Tony list: Jukebox musicals. Could the trend of taking an an artist’s hit songs and writing a musical around them be on its last breath? In 2010, “Million Dollar Quartet” did Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, and “American Idiot” covered Green Day, but there hasn’t been a new jukebox musical since then. Don’t worry, that will change later this year: “Viva Forever,” a musical based on the work of the Spice Girls, will open in London later this year. As for its Tony prospects: Let’s wait and see, shall we?