Broadway producers are always on the hunt for the next musical hit. They've looked to novels (Wicked) and rock albums (American Idiot), but the biggest Broadway influence of late has got to be the movie industry.
There have been some fantastic film-to-Broadway adaptations in the recent years. Billy Elliott and its brilliant young dancers collected 10 Tony Awards in 2009. More recently, the cult following of Newsies has sold out show after show and almost guaranteed a box office hit. But what about when the film-to-show recipe doesn't mix so well? This is by no means a complete list, as there have been some total bombs out there, but let's take a look at five of the worst movies turned musicals ever to hit Broadway.
The Wedding Singer (2006)
Based on the 1998 movie starring funnyman Adam Sandler and sweet as pie Drew Barrymore, this musical tried to recapture a rare moment when Sandler used more understated comedy and churned out a surprisingly rich performance. This production, on the other hand, starred musical comedian Stephen Lynch. Lynch is a fantastic showman with hysterical bits, but his brand of comedy was too different from Sandler's more minimalist act. Lesson learned: Don't overdo it. Some things just aren't big enough for Broadway. When small ideas and characters are forced upon a large stage, disaster may occur.
The Little Mermaid (2008-2009)
Disney has produced some pretty great Broadway musicals, most notably The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. But when they tried turning their other Renaissance opus The Little Mermaid into a show, they forgot a key element: water. Trying to realistically portray swimming merfolks and fish lead to the unremarkable use of Heely's, those wheel-soled sneakers, to try and give the impression of the characters floating under water. Add those to the vague yet bizarre costume and set design, and it all looked like we were watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Lesson learned: Not all Disney animation is stage worthy. But hey, the kids loved it, right?
The Addams Family (2010-2011)
Yes, this oddball family of Halloween rejects began as a comedy TV series, but the films spoke to a certain youth culture of the '90s. Now that those kids are all grown up, this musical doesn't meet their demanding standards. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley compared the show to an uncomfortable Halloween costume that makes for a flashy surprise in the first five minutes, but then you're uncomfortably stuck wearing it for the rest of the night. Lesson learned: The Addams Family producers should have taken a hint from other dreary bombs like Dance of the Vampires and Lestat that the horror genre, even with a comical twist, just doesn't work on stage.
Sister Act (2011-Present)
This 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy has been adapted into a 1970s romp set in the heyday of Philadelphia soul music. Yet critics have branded it dull and noted that it drags, lacking the fun of the original film. Lesson learned: Much of what made Sister Act the film so great was Golderg's portrayal of Delores Van Cartier, so as talented as any star of this show can be, she'll never live up to Whoopi. Though Goldberg is a producer, she clearly couldn't foresee that all the audience really wanted was her.
Spiderman: Turn off the Dark (2010-Present)
Where do I even begin with this one? The combination of U2 and The Lion King director Julie Taymor sounded like Broadway magic on paper. And then actors started falling. Plagued with conflicts between the creative team, an incomprehensible plot, and the accidents -- oh, the accidents -- Spiderman: Turn of the Dark seemed destined to bomb. Its opening night was pushed back six times and Taymor was eventually fired, leading to numerous lawsuits. Lessons learned: Make sure you have a solid story before working on the spectacle. Also, make sure the spectacle is functional and doesn't, ya know, kill anyone. Despite all of the issues, this web slinging show is still hanging on. Let's see how they do when the Tony Nominations come out on May 1st.