HOST INTRO: The most recent show to grace Broadway is Tootsie, based on the 1982 film of the same name. It’s just one in a series of film to stage adaptations attracting people longing for that warm familiar feeling. Stephanie Horton reports on the commercial value of nostalgia on Broadway today.
HORTON 1: Chrissie Burraire is so excited she doesn’t even notice the long line forming outside the Nederlander Theater on Broadway. She reaches for the brass doors before being ushered out to wait in line. The show she can’t wait to see? Pretty Woman.
BURRAIRE: Sadly it’s a staple of my childhood it’s one of those movies I grew up watching. I think if anything it’s something that signifies my childhood and growing up.
HORTON 2: The line is stretching halfway down the block. Helen Drumm is standing at the front. She’s from Ireland. Drumm can hardly contain her smile while speaking about star of the film and superhunk Richard Gere.
DRUMM 1: I think Richard Gere is in a class of his own. I think every woman has an idol and Richard Gere happens to be one of mine.
HORTON 3: Just to be clear Richard Gere isn’t in the Broadway production so Drumm plans on getting inventive.
DRUMM 2: I’ll just use me imagination.
HORTON 4: Imagination fueled by nostalgia. Pretty Woman, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, Frozen, and Mean Girls are all film to stage adaptations playing on nostalgia to draw crowds who remember these movies and love them. Jimmy McNicholas is with SpotCo. The marketing company handling Pretty Woman: The Musical.
McNICHOLAS: Nostalgia for something you love is a precious and personal thing for a consumer and so we want to respect that and engage that but at the same time we need to be clear about what the show is and what the show’s going to deliver. It’s not the movie right? It’s the musical.
((music: Anywhere But Here from Pretty Woman: The Musical))
HORTON 5: The film Pretty Woman was made almost thirty years ago. It told the story of a prostitute named Vivian picked up one night in LA by a lonely, wealthy businessman. They fell in love and lived happily ever after. Big musical numbers set to well-known movie scenes play on people’s fond memories. Bjørn Schiermer is a professor and nostalgia scholar at the University of Oslo. He says setting these memories to music helps awaken happy feelings.
SCHIERMER: There’s no doubt the medium as emotional as the musical is probably one of the most nostalgic enhancing medias that we have. That’s what musicals do basically.
HORTON 6: That’s certainly what the producers of Pretty Woman:The Musical are hoping. Just listen to the music and lyrics they added to the movie’s iconic scene when Vivian goes on a shopping spree and finally starts to feel beautiful.
((music: You’re Beautiful from Pretty Woman: The Musical))
HORTON 7: Shiermer says we can’t go back in time but nostalgic musicals sell tickets because they let us imagine we can.
SCHIERMER: That’s in fact what enhances or informs the very nostalgic feeling. That is that you know. At the same time that you enjoy this past universe you know that it doesn’t exist anymore.
HORTON 7: Pretty Woman: The Musical has received overwhelmingly negative reviews. Deadline called the stage adaptation “a cloying, regressive Broadway musical” and the New York Times called it “shopworn”. Despite those reviews it has run for over a year. Jack Viertel is with Jujamcyn theaters currently running Mean Girls, Frozen, and The Book of Mormon. He says shows with familiar names have serious selling power.
VIERTEL: If you have something that has a famous title you have a way to sell some tickets. Broadways a business. It’s an art form that’s a business. Sometimes it’s just a business and sometimes it’s just an art form that’s not a very good business.
HORTON 8: Viertel says adapting pre-existing material like books or movies comes with other advantages.
VIERTEL: Finding someone who can write a completely original musical and make it work is not so easy to do. Finding something that already works and figuring out how to adapt it is somewhat easier to do.
HORTON 9: Viertel says even the legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted. Giving us Oklahoma, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. The next nostalgic production to hit Broadway? Moulin Rouge. It starts previews in June.
SOC: Stephanie Horton Columbia Radio News