Film to Musical. Still rewriting “9 to 5” after 32 years
You’d think after thirty years, three workshops, an L.A. tryout, A Broadway run and a National Tour I’d have perfected the book for “9 to 5”, wouldn’t you? And yet as we head into a UK tour, I realize there is always more to be done. First of all, our friends across the sea have no reference point for Sanka, pet rocks or casual Friday, all mentioned in the book, so suitable British references must be found. But more than that, musicals are just so danged hard to get right…or write. Let me try to explain a few of the reasons why writing for the stage is so incredibly different than writing for the screen.
Here are a bunch of examples of the types of things we had to consider for the show that never came up when we did the movie. If Violet is in the end of the fantasy sequence how can she make the costume change in time to start the next scene in the coffee area? If she can’t how do we credibly get her off the stage. Remember, there is no “cut to” in theater. If each lead doesn’t get a solo then we aren’t being equal handed with our characters. And their solo will very much sum up who they are so we better make sure it’s exactly the right song. Are we alternating music enough to keep the pace going? Ballad followed by livelier number and vice versa?
In a musical, we have the luxury of going inside the mind of the character to hear in song what they are thinking. In each instance, do we want to do that or are we better served if they sing the song to or with another character or characters? How can we be economical about our sets so we aren’t going back and forth very quickly from one set to another which is no problem in movies but a big problem on stage. Another major consideration…In theater we must work within the framework of what the human body can actually do. If we swing Hart from the ceiling or toss him out a window there is no stunt double or editing room magic to help us. Whoever plays Hart is going to have to actually do these things. We don’t have close-ups to help us read nuances of what the characters are thinking or feeling. How do we make sure we get this across to everyone in the audience including those up in the second balcony?
I could go on and on but you’re probably getting my message. When they say death is easy,comedy is hard, they should amend that to death is easy, comedy is hard and musicals are nearly impossible! But when they work, there is nothing more thrilling. In my humble opinion.
“9 to 5” The Musical begins touring the U.K. in October 2012.