Beatles Film To Be Adapted Into The Latest Rock And Roll Musical

By Zachary Swickey

The 1994 film “Backbeat” – a British drama depicting the early days of The Beatles – is getting the musical treatment at London’s Duke of York Theatre this coming October.

The film starred Stephen Dorff and included several rebellious musicians (Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Thurston Moore) playing other “punk acts” since that’s how the Beatles were perceived at the time. It traced the bands formative years and focused on the relationship between John Lennon and original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. Classic vintage rock songs to appear in the musical include “Twist & Shout,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Money” and “Rock & Roll Music.”

The Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre premiered the stage version, which was co-written by the film’s director Iain Softley, last year, and five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux will direct the West End production, which will open October 10.

How does “Backbeat” compare to the many other rock and roll musicals that have recently swept through London and New York? Read on to find out.

“Rock of Ages”
A Broadway musical doesn’t get more rock and roll than Rock of Ages. The hit production has featured “American Idol” castoff Constantine Maroulis and is built around the hair metal sounds of the ‘80s. The music of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and plenty of other memorable acts are all featured in the production. Along with the end of the world, 2012 will bring the film adaptation with a bevy of stars, including Russell Brand, “Dancing With The Stars” beauty Julianne Hough, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti, “Breaking Bad” Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and Tom Cruise (who looks … interesting in his role to say the least).

“American Idiot”
There are few things less punk rock than making a musical, but isn’t it inherently punk to do something you shouldn’t do in the first place? Green Day adapted their career-reviving concept album American Idiot for the Broadway stage, where it went on for 422 performances, closing earlier this year. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong sporadically appeared in the role of “St. Jimmy” throughout the musical’s run. Unlike most musicals, the show even featured an onstage band. “American Idiot” picked up a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical (it won Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting) and scored a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. Just like “Rock of Ages,” “Idiot” is also getting the film treatment. Armstrong will be reprising the role of St. Jimmy for the film, which will be produced by Tom Hanks’ production company Playtone, with an expected 2013 release.

Adapting a musical from an album that is described as a “rock opera” is a no-brainer, and The Who’s “Tommy” made its Broadway debut in April of ’93 at the St. James Theatre. The production went on for nearly 1,000 performances, and picked up five Tony Awards. “Tommy” was the first album specifically billed as a “rock opera” and it’s certainly the only one about a prodigious pinball player traumatized into catatonia.

“Million Dollar Quartet”
If you’re up to snuff on rock music history, then you’re aware that “Million Dollar Quartet” is a reference to the “supergroup” consisting of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, who recorded an impromptu jam session together in 1956 at Sun Record Studios in Tennessee. The Broadway adaptation premiered last year and received three Tony Award nominations: Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor, and Best Book of a Musical. The production officially ended its run last month after nearly 500 performances.

“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”
Obviously based on the life and career of iconic early rocker Buddy Holly, “Buddy” is filled with his classic tunes. It was notably one the first “jukebox musicals,” paving the way for productions like “American Idiot” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” The musical made its Broadway debut way back in November of 1990, and went on to run for 225 performances. The production is still touring all over the world.

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