Category Archives: Broadway

From the Big Screen to Broadway: Musical Adaptations are here to stay! (Part 1)

Some of the most popular films of the 1990’s came to life this year on Broadway. Almost half of the new musicals that opened during the 2016-2017 Broadway season were musical adaptations of blockbuster films; and this trend will continue into the 2017-2018 season. At least 4 more musical adaptations of popular films will be presented this season.

With iconic names like Groundhog Day and Willy Wonka and with built-in audiences (such as loyal fans of Chazz Palminteri /A Bronx Tale and Anastasia), you can see why producers are encouraged to present more musical adaptations and why the Broadway community is banking on these shows attracting a wider audience. For good reasons: popular films (like these) enjoy a great name identification, a loyal following, and perhaps even, a sense of nostalgia.

Last season, five (5) new musical adaptations were produced: A Bronx Tale Musical, Groundhog Day Musical, Amelie, Anastasia, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Four out of these five shows are still running on Broadway- with success. Consider, for example: Groundhog Day Musical received 7 Tony nominations including one for Best Musical; Anastasia and Charlie have each grossed more than $1 million per week since opening; and A Bronx Tale routinely plays to a full house. (Only the quirky Amelie failed at the Box office due to mixed reviews.)

Fortunately for stage and screen fans, the original screenwriters are often integral members of the musical’s creative team. Chazz Palminteri, for instance, wrote the book for the musical adaptation of his own film and Robert De Niro (his friend and co-star in A Bronx Tale) made his debut as the show’s co-Director. Both men worked side by side on the show to ensure that the musical  remained true to the film.

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The same is true for Groundhog Day Musical. Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis wrote the screenplay for the film; and more than 20 years later, Danny Rubin wrote the book for Groundhog Day Musical– working side by side with composer Tim Minchin (Matilda.)

These collaborations helped create Broadway productions that gave audiences the best of both worlds: a compelling story that stayed true to the film coupled with great music and choreography. Literally, these films came alive on the big stage.

Groundhog Day Movie Meets Musical

Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray was released in 1993 to solid reviews and strong Box office sales. But the film did not gain its resonance until many years later. By that time, the term “Groundhog Day” was commonly used to describe an experience, job or tedious task that seemed to be recurring in the exact same way.

We know, of course, that TV weatherman “Phil Connors” is stuck in a time loop reliving the same day (Groundhog Day) every day in Punxsutawney. But while stuck there, Phil begins romancing his segment producer, Rita Hanson. As his romance continues (day after same day), Phil finally confronts Rita with the “big” question: What do you want out of life?

Here’s Phil asking Rita the “big” question.

More than 20 years after the film’s release, Danny Rubin’s classic was put to music by Tim Minchin. Minchin was looking for another project after Matilda when he first asked Rubin (in 2012) to write the book for the show. Originally reluctant, Rubin eventually agreed and worked for the next 2 years to bring the film to the big stage. After an enormously successful run in London last summer, Groundhog Day Musical opened on Broadway in April, 2017.

Like A Bronx Tale, Groundhog Day Musical remains true to the film, but with some wrinkles. In the Broadway version, Minchin adds layers not only to the main characters but surprisingly to some minor characters who we only see coming and going in the film. Through two beautiful Act 2 ballads, Nancy (“Playing Nancy”) and Ned Ryerson (“Night Will Come”) share their innermost feelings.

Ah, but the main story line remains the romance between Phil and Rita. Here, Rita (played by Barrett Doss), answers Phil’s “big” question about what she wants, if only “One Day” it would happen.

Life Lessons Learned on Belmont Avenue: From A Bronx Tale to A Bronx Tale Musical

Another 1993 release, A Bronx Tale was also a smash hit. Based on Chazz Palminteri’s one man show about his life growing up in the Bronx in the early 1960’s, the film became a cult hit adored by fans of all generations. In the film, Palminteri played “Sonny” the “boss” of his neighborhood; and De Niro starred as “C’s” father, Lorenzo: an honest, hard-working, NY Yankee-loving, bus driver.

Here’s the Opening scene from the film, A Bronx Tale:

Palminteri always believed that the film would someday make a great musical—and so did De Niro. But the timing was never quite right. Ultimately, Palminteri and DeNiro teamed up with legendary Broadway Director Jerry Zaks (Hello Dolly!) and the composing team of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (“The Little Mermaid”, “Sister Act”) to produce a wonderful retelling of the film.

Here’s clips from A Bronx Tale Musical including an excerpt from the opening number, “Belmont Avenue.”

To Palminteri, and to “Calogero”, the most important life lessons were learned on Belmont Avenue.

Anastasia- From animated hit to “Broadway royalty”

Anastasia was released in 1997 by 20th Century Fox and became one of the most successful animated films (almost $140 million in sales) of all time. It’s a film (and story) that captured the imagination of a generation. The music was composed by the team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime”, “Seussical” and “Once on This Island“.) One break-out hit, “Journey to the Past”, received an Academy Award nomination for Best New Song and has been covered by recording artists throughout the world.

Another hit song was “Once Upon A December”- one of the first songs Ahrens and Flaherty wrote for the film. Listen and watch here.

Anastasia deviates from the film by emphasizing the oppressive Soviet regime and by setting all of Act 2 in Paris. But much of the story remains as does the beautiful score. The six songs from the film are in the show, as well as 12 new songs written by Ahrens and Flaherty for the show.

Watch here as one of Broadway’s brightest stars, Christy Altomare, sings “Once Upon A December” and compare it to the film version (above.)

With a loyal following (more than 17,000 Twitter followers) and a dynamic young cast,  expect Anastasia to enjoy a long (and profitable) run on Broadway.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Candy Man Can!

Charlie and Chocolate Factory  is not a film from the 1990’s, but is the latest adaptation of Roald Dahl’s timeless tale of Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket.

The show opened to mixed reviews, but that hasn’t hurt ticket sales. Charlie has grossed more than $1 million per week since opening in April- and word is that advanced ticket sales are strong.

Two–time Tony Award winner Christian Borle stars as the reclusive, mercurial Willy Wonka. The story line is basically the same as the film and the brand new score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray“) includes three songs from the film versions:  “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket.” But this is not your Gene Wilder-era production. Instead, this is a high tech, visual effect-laden Warner Brothers production.

In the end, it may not matter what the critics think about this production. Whether it’s the name identification, or the love of anything Willy Wonka related, or the sense of nostalgia, expect Charlie to be just as profitable (and chocolaty) as the previous  film versions.

Here’s some clips from Charlie, including an excerpt of Christian Borle singing “Candy Man.”

TONY AWARDS 2017- TAKE–AWAYS: The Good, Bad & Ugly

The 71st Tony Awards ceremonies were held on June 11 and the big winners that night were (as predicted) Dear Evan Hansen and Hello Dolly.  But weeks after the curtain closed on the Tony Awards broadcast, several WINNERS and LOSERS have emerged.

The Tonys was a time to celebrate the record-breaking 2016-207 Broadway season- a season that saw ticket sales hit a record high of $1.45 billion with attendance at 13.27 million (the second-highest ever.)  It was also a season where multi-platinum recording artist JOSH GROBAN made his Tony nominated Broadway debut and BETTE MIDLER made her triumphant Tony winning Broadway return.


Despite this good news, CBS’s ratings of the 71st Awards ceremonies broadcast drew near record low number of viewers (approximately 6 million viewers) and almost 31% less viewers than last year’s (Hamilton featured) broadcast.


As the WINNERS and LOSERS emerge, here’s the TONY AWARDS 2017- TAKE–AWAYS: The Good, Bad & Ugly.



GOOD (Really Good): Come from Away (CFA) was the clear winner of the night. Presented with the coveted first Best Musical performance slot, CFA’s rousing opening number “Welcome to the Rock” was extremely well received; and presented the viewing audience with a glimpse of this wonderful show.  This good feeling then extended to the Box Office as CFA scored its best Box Office week with $1.2 million in sales and Standing Room Only crowds for all 8 performances.

GOOD (Very Good): Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 was also a big winner with its rousing medley.  How can you beat Josh Groban’s masterful voice coupled with The Great Comet’s high energy multi-talented ensemble? This performance also presented viewers with a nice glimpse of this highly entertaining show (and a good reason to see the show before Groban exits on July 2.) Similarly, the good vibe then extended to the Box Office as The Great Comet scored one of its best Box Office weeks ever with $1.3 million in sales and Standing Room Only crowds for all 8 performances.

GOOD (and very badly needed): Although not nominated as one of the top new musicals, Bandstand was given a coveted  performance slot- and the cast made the most of this opportunity.  Introduced by former 2nd Lady Jill Biden, Bandstand’s  “Nobody”  piqued the interest of many viewers and probably rescued the show from life support.  Following the Tonys broadcast, Bandstand’s sales increased dramatically- giving the show a new life.



BAD: (Shame on you, Tony Awards producers!):  One of the worst decisions by the Tony Awards producers was omitting Anastasia from the Tony Awards broadcast. It was a head scratching decision because Anastasia is one of the top grossing shows this season, has an intensely loyal “young” fan base (a much needed demographic) and is led by one of Broadway’s most popular young stars, Christy Altomare.


BAD: (Missed opportunity): The big loser of the evening was Groundhog Day Musical (GHD.) One of my favorite shows this season, GHD is a fun and irreverent musical with a great (Tony nominated) Tim Minchin score and a stellar performance by Tony nominated lead actor Andy Karl.  But broadcast viewers didn’t really see the essence of the show.  Instead, viewers saw a solid (albeit vanilla) performance of “Seeing You”- a beautiful Minchin ballad that closes the show but doesn’t fully present GHD’s fun and irreverence. As the closing number, “Seeing You” was dramatic- but that was, of course, after the theater audience witnessed two (2) hours of  “Phil Connors” transformation. To get a true taste of the brilliance of GHD, I would have preferred a truncated version of “Day One” or  even “Stuck” or perhaps, “One Day.”  It was a missed opportunity- and will ultimately (and unfortunately) cost GHD mightily at the Box Office.


UGLY: CBS broadcast of the Tony Awards.  There’s no sugar-coating this: The ratings for CBS’ broadcast of The Tony Awards ceremonies were ugly.  This year’s broadcast drew only a 0.9 in the coveted 18-49 category.  Total viewership dipped to approximately 6.01 million– similar to the 2015 pre-Hamilton viewership (which is very close to the  2012 all-time low viewership level.) By contrast,  The Oscars draw a viewing audience of almost 33 million. Perhaps the low viewership is due to the timing of the awards ceremonies.  For example, the ceremonies are always scheduled when both the NBA Finals and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are played: The 2015 Tony Awards ceremonies went up against the 2015 NBA Finals, and the 2017 Tony Awards ceremonies went up against the deciding Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals.

For a visual look at  CBS’ dilemma with broadcasting future Tony Awards ceremonies, check out the chart below that compares the viewership of the various Award shows.




















The Kerfuffle over #covfefe- or the Russian “influence” on Broadway? The Great Comet of 1812 and Anastasia

What else might the Russians have “influenced” besides the US Elections?  Broadway—in a sense. Lost in the kerfuffle over #covfefe, is the impact of Russian themed shows on Broadway.

Two of the hottest new musicals this Broadway season are set in Russia (not contemporary Russia, of course): Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and Anastasia.

The Great Comet of 1812 stars multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban and earned 12 Tony Award Nominations (including Best Musical and Best Actor nomination for Groban.) The musical is based on a 70 page excerpt of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and is set in 1812 just prior to Napolean’s invasion of Russia. Everyone in Moscow is on edge- especially Groban’s lonely, aristocratic Pierre. Here’s two (2) songs from this exciting and inventive musical: “Prologue” (the opening number) and “Pierre.”

Anastasia is the stage adaptation of the epic 1997 animated film. Here, a young Russian woman “Anya” (played by Christy Altomare) tries to reconnect with her past as she travels from post-Revolution oppressive Russia to lively, liberated Paris. Might Anya really be Anastasia- the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II who is rumored to be the sole surviving member of the Romanov family?

The Great Comet of 1812 and Anastasia are among the top grossing Broadway shows this season—averaging more than $1 million in Box Office sales each week and selling-out night after night. So in this case, Russian “influence” might not be so bad.

Looking forward– keep an eye on The Government Inspector (starring Michael Urie and Michael McGrath) opening on June 1 at The Duke on 42nd Street. This is a wonderful production of Nikolai Gogol’s famous farce, The Inspector General. If this production transfers to Broadway next season, it might well be another Russian-themed hit. Set in 1836 in a “typical” Russian village, The Government Inspector is a classic tale of political corruption (in 19th century Russia) and the great lengths government officials will go to hide the truth. The themes here, however, are timeless—and seem to ring true in new ways, and, in new places.

Great Opening numbers

It’s catchy. Grabs your attention immediately. Makes the proper introductions and welcomes you. What is it?  It’s the Opening number.

Here’s two (2) great Opening numbers from current productions–on Broadway and in the UK:

The first: “Welcome to the Rock” from the Tony nominated COME FROM AWAY. How did a small Canadian (Newfoundland) town respond when 7,900 scared, disoriented, travelers were literally dropped into their town after 9/11?  Without hesitation, the entire Town of Gander, NL pitched in to treat the strangers with kindness and compassion.


The second: “When You’re An Addams” from the current ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL production- Addams Family UK National Tour.  This is a slicker updated version of the 2010 Broadway production of Addams Family Musical.  Here, Cameron Blakely plays the perfect “Gomez”- charming, gregarious, and eccentric.

Predictor of this year’s Tony Awards?

Last year, the winners of  the Drama League Awards also won the the Tony Awards for Best Musical (New & Revival) and Best Play (New & Revival.)  This week (May 19), the Drama League Awards went to DEAR EVAN HANSEN (Best Musical), HELLO DOLLY (Best Musical-Revival), OSLO (Best New Play) and JITNEY (Best Play-Revival.)  Might this trend continue at this year’s Tony Awards? If so, it could mean a big night for DEAR EVAN HANSEN and HELLO DOLLY.