5 TV Shows That Should Become Broadway Musicals…and Who Should Write Them
We're used to seeing Hollywood movies adapted for Broadway, but what about television?
We recognize that television doesn't naturally lend itself to stage adaptation. With big casts, varied locations, and multiseason plots, TV shows offer unique challenges for the musical theater, perhaps explaining why so few composers have taken the plunge. Still, one writing team, Bob and Tobly McSmith, have made a name for themselves with TV-to-stage concoctions like Bayside! The Musical and Full House! The Musical! While both of these are unauthorized parodies, they somehow manage to capture the essence of their subjects. If these two intrepid young composers can do it, we're sure some of the big fish can as well.
With that in mind, here are five television shows we would like to see turned into Broadway musicals, as well as our suggestions for who should compose.
1. Downton Abbey
Broadway loves England! With the success of The Audience, Wolf Hall, and King Charles III, it is clear that there is a serious contingent of Anglophiles in this town. We know they would turn up for a musical version of Downton Abbey, a deliciously toffee-nosed drama about a Yorkshire manor and people who live and work there. Since he is a peer himself, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber would make the ideal composer for this musical about the British upper crust. He recently collaborated with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes on School of Rock, so the transition to Downton! The Musical ought to be seamless.
2. The Real Housewives
America can't get enough of the Real Housewives, an ever-expanding franchise of reality shows about women behaving badly in glamorous locations. Operatic moments like Teresa's dinner table explosion in New Jersey or Aviva's prosthetic leg throw down in New York seem tailor made for the theater. Bringing reality TV to the musical stage would be a daring experiment, which is why we think Jason Robert Brown is the right man for the job, perhaps in collaboration with documentary theater company, the Civilians. We think the composer of 13 and The Bridges of Madison County would bring the right mix of lyrical dexterity and emotional earnestness to the teary confessionals, boozy parties, and knock-down-drag-out fights required for a true Housewives musical experience.
3. The Walking Dead
While Rialto elitists would like to relegate zombie musicals to the fringe, they might want to reconsider for The Walking Dead, the highest-rated show presently on cable. This story of a sheriff's deputy who wakes from a coma to discover a zombie apocalypse is rife with life-or-death stakes and ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances — the very essence of great theater. We would love to see a collaboration between Lauren Pritchard (who impressed us with her country score in Songbird) and playwright Danai Gurira (Eclipsed), who plays Michonne on the television series. We expect the result would be simultaneously terrifying and soulful.
Concerning a Lear-like hip-hop mogul and the children vying for control of his kingdom, Empire feels ripe for a stage musical. The drama, backstabbing, and intrigue are begging to be put to song. Numbers wouldn't even necessarily have to correspond to plot points if they're presented in the recording studio. In fact, we think this would be the perfect vehicle for visionary recording artist Timbaland (who has already contributed music to the television show) to make his Broadway debut as a composer. Think Motown: The Musical, but with a harder edge.
5. Game of Thrones
Based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy novels, Game of Thrones is currently the most popular series in HBO history. With a cast of thousands, a worldwide scope, and major plot points hinging on the supernatural, Game of Thrones seems insurmountable as a stage adaptation. Still, juicy dramatic moments like the Red Wedding and the Battle of the Blackwater cry out for a musical setting, not to mention original folkloric ballads like "The Rains of Castamere," the lyrics to which Martin has already written. It's a lot for a composer to capture in two and a half hours, which is why we nominate Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has already proved his chops by valiantly condensing Ron Chernow's 800-page biography into this season's hottest new musical, Hamilton.