Broadway shows hit the big screen


Photo from MCT Campus.

Meghan Caprez

The release of “Rock of Ages” and the upcoming release of “Les Miserables” in 2012 perpetuates the Hollywood trend of translating Broadway musicals into feature films.

“There’s a long, long tradition of Hollywood making Broadway shows into movies,” said Rohn Thomas, instructor of the Acting for the Camera class at Kent State. “There are some significant ones right now. Entertainment is always shuffling those cards.”

“Rock of Ages,” a glam metal musical that hit Broadway in 2009, was released as a feature film June 15. The movie — starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand — made $15.1 million in its first weekend, according to box office charts.

“I don’t find movie musicals always so successful,” Thomas said. “I think ‘Rock of Ages’ will have a limited appeal. The reviews are mixed. A lot of people are going to see it because they remember the metal music from the ‘80s. I don’t think it will be a classic film. I think it’ll probably come and go.”

A more classic musical about the French Revolution, “Les Miserables,” based on the novel by Victor Hugo, will be released as a film December 14. Thomas said this movie will most likely have a broader audience because the musical itself has been extremely popular since the 1980s.

“Almost every tourist who’s been to New York has seen ‘Les Mis,’” Thomas said. “They’ve probably seen it on tours, too. That’s a completely different audience than people who were into hard rock in the ‘80s. It’s a much broader audience — a vanilla audience.”

Josh Kondik, senior anthropology major, said he’s never seen a Broadway show, but he’s definitely going to see “Les Miserables” when it is released as a film. The musical has maintained so much reverence that he’s willing to see it, even though he isn’t a “theater person.”

“I do want to go see ‘Les Mis,’” Kondik said. “My girlfriend wants to see it too, so that’s a good one. ‘Rock of Ages’ just isn’t my style, so that’s the only reason why I wouldn’t see it.”

Not all people feel the same about movie musicals, though. Kayla Hendry, sophomore theatre studies major, said she was disappointed when one of her favorite Broadway shows, “Hairspray,” was released as a feature film in 2007.

“I think that sometimes when musicals are made into movies, you lose some of that magic that the musical initially has,” Hendry said. “Especially now that I’m studying it more, staging is so important. You really have to be careful how you do it. I think sometimes you lose that energy.”

Kent State students are being coached in Thomas’ Acting for the Camera class to transform their stage-acting skills to screen-acting skills. The course is not a requirement for theatre studies majors but is an optional elective course.

“What a play does and what a movie does are two very different things,” Thomas said. “All of a sudden, instead of seeing Tom Cruise’s character, Stacee Jaxx, at a distance … we can take Tom Cruise, and we can go right in his face and move all around. By doing that, we’re [altering] the basic format of how we’re receiving that entertainment. It’s a very different animal.”

Contact Meghan Caprez at [email protected].