Monday, September 15, 2008

When Stage Classics Tread Broadway Boards Again

When Stage Classics Tread Broadway Boards Again

To see, or not to see?

That is my question for you dear readers, particularly as so many stage classics are once again treading across the boards of the Great White Way this year. I'm curious to know whether you rent a film version DVD of plays to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the show in advance or do you prefer being completely surprised?

Among the revivals that will treading the boards this season:
All My Sons - the original 1947 production was the basis for the 1948 film.
A Man For All Seasons - the original 1961 production was the basis for the Academy Award-winning Best Film of 1966.
American Buffalo - the original production was the basis for the 1996 film.
Pal Joey - the 1951 revival was the basis for the 1957 film.
West Side Story - the original 1957 production was the basis for the Academy Award-winning Best Film of 1961.

One revival that will be trotting across is Equus, starring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe. By the time the original 1974 production closed in 1977, the film version was just opening in cinemas.

While I've long been familiar with the general, disturbing themes of Equus, I have never seen it. Nor had ever seen the silver screen incarnation -- that is, until this past weekend.

I decided I wanted to see the movie for a couple reasons. First, since the play is set in England, I wanted to be sure I could thoroughly understand the dialogue in the event that heavy accents might be employed during its Broadway run. Second, since I didn't want to be shocked by the content when I finally see the show later this month, I decided viewing the flick would be the surest way to avoid that. But in the process, I've sacrificed letting a plot naturally unfold before my eyes for the very first time.

So I ask you, dear readers, if you've never seen either the stage or film versions of a show you intend to see performed live, do you rent the movie first? And why or why not?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 15 September, 2008, Blogger Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

It depends with me. A lot of the revivals I've see, I've almost always seen in their film adaptations.

Chicago, Noises Off!, Old Acquaintance, The Ritz and Boeing Boeing are all revivals I've gone in cold turkey. Knowing very little about the shows and their plots, etc.

All the rest I've seen in some format or other.

Of this season's tentative revivals, I will be witnessing All My Sons, American Buffalo and Equus for the first time as they unfold onstage. A friend of mine strongly recommended to me that I should avoid the play or film of Equus before seeing it, so I'm following suit and we shall see what happens.

At 15 September, 2008, Blogger SarahB said...

Nope - I do not rent the movie first. I do not wish to be swayed. Unless it's based on a true story, I don't think there's any preparation necessary - especially if it's a revival of a hit play. The sign of a hit is that the material is so well presented there's no need to prepare and is probably a reason it got the film to begin with.

At 15 September, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Ideally, I'd want to go in knowing less. But I have to admit, I'm a hopeless information junkie. Plus, I can see some instances where a little familiarity would be worthwhile. Before I saw Hamlet, I read a copy of the play that had the modern English "translation" on one page and the original on the facing page. It definitely helped!

At 16 September, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Oh, I went back and read your post again and realized that I didn't exactly answer the question!

I don't make a point of seeing the movie beforehand, but it usually works out that I've seen it anyway. I watch a lot of movies! Cry-Baby is one example where I'd never seen the movie and I waited until after the musical to watch it. It just didn't seem necessary to watch it beforehand. I'd rather wait until afterward to compare the two.

In the case of Equus, though, I can understand why you wanted to see the movie first.

At 16 September, 2008, Blogger Alicia said...

If there was a revival for which a film version existed, and the story was brand new to me, I would probably go in with fresh eyes. If it is a complex piece or if language/accents could be a potential barrier to enjoying the live performance, it is nice to have a film version that you can just sit back and watch, to kind of lay the foundation a bit. Usually, though, I wait until AFTER I've seen it before I watch the film version to compare performances, directorial choices, etc.

If a play/musical was successful enough to have had a film incarnation, it is more readily accessible and most likely what the majority, myself included, sees before the opportunity for a Broadway revival exists (e.g. WEST SIDE STORY or HAIR). I definitely enjoy the rare occasion I haven't seen the film and its stage version is returning to the boards - it just doesn't happen that often.

As for EQUUS, I've never seen the film. But this was a popular play in our dysfunctional little household. My father played Dysart twice as I was growing up, so I've definitely done my homework. ;)

At 16 September, 2008, Blogger Joseph Gomez said...

For me, depends on the show and how I feel at the moment. I catch a movie a lot mainly because I live so far away. But if I can, I try to read the play first. For being in a small town in Texas with very little selection, I have collected a great amount of reading material to familiarize myself with.

I've read EQUUS. I caught the movie after I read the play. And I have yet to see a production of it.


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