Are TV shows too sacred to make good musicals?

As you may have heard, the Australian production of The Addams Family has decided to close only two months into its run. There are also many rumours that the cast have been told the production will not tour to Melbourne. So we had better dig out the black box and have a look at what went wrong?

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The Addams Family opened to rather damning reviews on Broadway and underwent several re-writes during the run, after the run and before the Australian rehearsal process to try and salvage the show. However, despite these attempts, the Sydney production has decided to close due to declining ticket sales and a lack of general interest in the production.

I saw this production when I was over in New York with the original cast that featured heavyweights Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane. I have to say that, personally, it was one of the best musicals I have seen. It featured hilarious writing, some very well written songs and was true to the original cartoons and television show. So why didn’t it catch on with the mainstream audience?

I can only think of one reason why it wouldn’t be a great success – The Addams Family is just too sacred.

Having not grown up with the black and white television sitcom, I had very little prior exposure to The Addams Family brand. As a result, I was not holding the production up to my childhood memories and past experiences with the franchise. While many would consider this nostalgia an attractive feature for encouraging consumers to engage with the show, nostalgia can apparently also work against the show if it doesn’t hold justice to the original memories.

Let’s have a quick look at the background of The Addams Family.

The Addams Family began as a series of daily comic strips in the New York Times by creator Charles Addams before the brand came into prominence and gained its enormous following as the reimagined television show. From the television show, two movies were made in the early 1990s. The first movie had highly mixed reviews despite being a commercial success and the second movie was met with only a slightly more positive response. The reception of the movies suggests that even this slight reimagining was too far from the original television series to garner the support of the fans and as a result, adapting the story into a musical appears to have been more than one step too far!

Could it be that the nostalgia of 60s and 70s television shows is just too powerful to allow for any reinventions? Happy Days attempted to do the same thing as The Addams Family by playing on the support in the community through the construction of a musical, but that show only made it to an out of town try-out and never reached New York.

Are there brands that are better left untouched? Or are television shows bad choices for musicals? I don’t imagine a FRIENDS: the musical going down very well with my generation! Or was it simply that Cousin Itt didn’t have a big enough role?

Let me know your thoughts on the issue. Do you think that cult television shows can be successfully ‘musicalized’? Or are we better to leave the nostalgia untouched?

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