The 1988 Broadway adaptation of Carrie — based on Stephen King’s book and Brian DePalma’s subsequent film — was such a notorious turkey that it became shorthand for ill-advised stage productions; a compendium book of them even bears the title Not Since “Carrie”. But somehow, the show still has its supporters, and it seems that a few of them have convinced investors that it deserves a second shot. Thus, Carrie will return to the New York stage early next year, albeit this time in an off-Broadway setting.
Carrie’s return may have as much to do with the current cautious atmosphere in the New York theatrical world as it does with the quality of the much-maligned production — with costs (and ticket prices) ballooning, Broadway producers seem only interested in sure things: revivals, big stars, so-called “jukebox musicals.” The theory is that the tourists who keep the New York stage solvent will only part with Broadway dollars if they’re spending them on a brand they’re familiar with; hence the Spider-Man musical, say, or The Million Dollar Quartet. And then, of course, there is the movie-to-stage adaptation — why not come see a live production of something you’ve already seen on film? Movie-to-musical shows have popped up sporadically for decades, but after the smash success of The Producers a decade ago, we’ve seen an onslaught; this season saw the debuts of Catch Me If You Can, Sister Act, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in addition to long-running hits like The Lion King and Billy Elliot. But successfully staging a beloved movie is harder than it looks; it’s important to remember that for every Hairspray or Little Shop of Horrors, there’s an Urban Cowboy or High Fidelity. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten popular movies that tanked on the boards.
(First, a quick side note: Yes, yes, some of these films were based on books, which technically makes them adaptations of the books, not the films. But in those cases, we’ve selected examples where the film was generally more beloved and well-known, and thus presumably the impetus for the Broadway production; other cases where the book was as esteemed — Frankenstein or The Vampire Lestat, for example — were left out.)
BROADWAY OPENING: May 12, 1998
BROADWAY CLOSING: May 15, 1998
TOTAL PREVIEWS: 16
TOTAL PERFORMANCES: 5
TOTAL LOSS: $7 million
It took over seven years and over seven million dollars to get this much-maligned production to the New York stage, and less than a week of performances for it to go down in flames. Originated at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where it had a four-week run before moving to Broadway in April of 1998, the production was plagued by casting troubles, technical difficulties (Carrie’s dousing in blood, the film’s most iconographic image, had to be reduced to a splatter to prevent her microphone from shorting out), internal struggles at the RSC, and script overhauls. And then the reviews came in. “Those who have the time and money to waste on only one Anglo-American musical wreck on Broadway this year might well choose Carrie,” wrote The New York Times’ Frank Rich, in a notorious pan. “If Chess slides to its final scene as solemnly and pompously as the Titanic, then Carrie expires with fireworks like the Hindenburg.”