Monday, April 17, 2017
FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL -- Really???
The competition is fierce. A theater group might put on a season of five productions a year and one of them will be Christmas-related and one will be a revival of PAJAMA GAME. So that leaves only two or maybe three slots for original material. And they receive thousands of submissions.
There are producers that fund projects so you can imagine the number of submissions they get. It must be like THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE but with scripts instead of buckets of water.
Submitting plays is also frustrating because you can go a year before hearing back. You get a faster response if you put a note in a bottle and drop it in the Atlantic Ocean.
Theater companies also put restrictions on the kinds of material they’ll accept. They must be plays about diversity, or plays by women, or agriculture-themed. They must be no longer than 70 minutes or have no more than three characters or not require more than one set or must have the word “Strudel” in the title.
And then there are the layers. Theater companies will offer a staged reading, which could lead to a workshop, which could ultimately lead to a full production. But there is competition at each level of that process.
You can also self-produce and fund the play or musical yourself. But that’s expensive. You almost never break even. And in Los Angeles, with the new Equity rules in place it’s so expensive that fewer shows are being put up.
And yet, like I said, there are thousands of plays and musicals being written on spec. Why? Because we love the theater. Because it’s intimate. Because it’s experimental. Because there’s a genuine camaraderie. Because we can write about things that matter to us even if there are no superheroes. Because Michael Bay can never ruin our work.
So we put up with the competition, and budget restrictions, and theaters that are in urban war zones.
It’s bad enough that Disney is mounting stage versions of everything they’ve ever done. I fully expect to see “The Making of Disneyland: The Musical.” And other movies are getting stage treatments. But musicals based on sitcoms? Other than a money grab, what could possibly be the point? You’re watching other actors imitate iconic characters, singing for reasons that will need to be explained, acting out either scenes you’ve already seen done better or new scenes probably not written by legitimate FRIENDS writers.
And here’s the ultimate irony – when TV writers write for the theater they are usually buried by critics. Why? What is their biggest sin? “This play felt like a sitcom.” “The writing was merely sitcom.”
Well excuse us for not writing Chekov or having songs.