Theatre can prove to be a huge influence on Hollywood and the films they produce – here’s a five of the must-see ones to watch.
Arsenic and Old Lace: written in 1939 by Joseph Kesselring, this hilarious black comedy opened on Broadway in 1941 and played 1.444 performances. It was then transformed for cinema in 1944, starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.
What makes it wonderful to watch is its over the top style as the plot unfolds and the characters getting more and more confused about what is going on. The humour is delightfully dark but silly and the performances from all the cast are fabulous – but particularly Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as Mortimer’s aunts whose secret hobby forms the basis for the film are particularly delightful.
Chicago: this really is a double whammy of a musical that is not only based on the original 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins but was also based on two real life cases involving Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner – covered by Watkins when she worked for the Chicago Tribune.
The musical originally opened on Broadway back in 1975 and has had quite a few revivals since then. This possibly the one of the few musicals that I prefer seeing on screen than on stage – as the simplicity of the staging for theatre doesn’t fully allow for the drama of the story to come through in the same way it does on screen. Thanks to the two sharp and sassy performances from Renee Zellweger and great direction by Rob Marshall it is a sexy, dramatic and enjoyable stage to screen adaptation.
10 Things I Hate About You: this 1999 romantic comedy is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and is one of those great films that shows how accessible Shakespeare can be made for audiences (with Baz Luhrmann’s modern take on Romeo & Juliet being another). By making it contemporary in this way, audiences can really appreciate just how relevant the themes covered in the original play can be still relevant today.
The Importance of Being Earnest: first performed in London in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy has been adapted for the stage and screen on plenty of occasions. But it really is this 2002 film adaptation that really sparkles and makes the most of the comedy with great charm that makes it delightful to watch time and time again. The cast show great depth and understanding to their characters, with Reese Witherspoon’s performance as Cecily proving to particularly playful and enjoyable, while Colin Firth and Rupert Everett as John/Earnest and Algernon work well together in highlighting the pair’s friendship and on occasion rivalry.
Judy: based on the Olivier- and Tony-nominated West End and Broadway play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, this heartbreaking but fascinating film focusing on Judy Garland’s career during the last year of her life is another stunning example of how a play can take on new life when brought to the big screen. It is filled with warmth, empathy and drama that it is hard not to be drawn in and throughly engaged by it.