Read the book before you see the…play

Read the book before you see the…play

When an author writes a book, one possible source of future income is an adaptation.

Most people think of movies, or TV shows, and certainly, there can be significant money there.

When we look at the top ten US all-time box office champs, it turns out that not that many of them are based on books (if we don’t include comic books/graphic novels).

  1. Avatar (original)
  2. Titanic (original: based on a real event)
  3. Jurassic World (ultimately based on a book)
  4. Marvel’s The Avengers (based on comic books)
  5. The Dark Knight (based on comic books)
  6. Star Wars – The Phantom Menace (original)
  7. Star Wars (original)
  8. Avengers Age of Ultron (based on comic books)
  9. The Dark Knight Rises (based on comic books)
  10. Shrek 2 (ultimately based on a book)

It occurred to me, though: many of the longest-running Broadway shows (and other plays) are based on books.

Let’s take a look at those longest-running Broadway shows:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera (based on a book)
  2. Chicago (based on another play based on a reporter’s writings)
  3. Cats (based on a book)
  4. The Lion King (based on a movie)
  5. Les Misérables (based on a book)
  6. A Chorus Line (original)
  7. Oh! Calcutta (original)
  8. Mamma Mia! (based on songs)
  9. Beauty and the Beast (ultimately based on a book)
  10. Rent (based on an opera)

As you can see, a lot more plays are based on books…if I kept going, I’d run into more. 🙂

Why is this?

I think attending a play is more like reading a book than when you go to a movie.

Reading is largely imagination (even though they do cheat with things like italics and bold). 😉

So are plays.

They are inherently pretty unreal…you can see a lot of things when you are in a theatre (all the time), that requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

Now, movies also are unreal…the way that time tends to jump around, for instance.

I suppose one could also argue that movies are two dimensional, and plays are real people…so plays are closer to reality.

I think that you are almost always aware that the stage actor is not actually the character…I think you are more actively engaged watching a play.

That’s just an idea, though. 🙂

I do like the idea of it being reality based. Plays can be very representational, unrealistic. They can compress time, and audiences accept that.

If a movie has a significant time jump (forward or backward) they usually explicitly explain what happened.

What do you think? Is watching a play more like reading a book than watching a movie is? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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2 Responses to “Read the book before you see the…play”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I think most, if not all of the plays you list are also musicals. Of those you listed, the only one I saw presented on stage was “Phantom of the Opera.” I had also read the book. I liked them both, but for different reasons. I saw the movie version of “Mama Mia,” and though I liked the music, the movie was a major disappointment.

    Print and e-ink books are devoid of music, so that makes a musical very unlike a book. I have enough of a musical background that if I’m reading a book and music is mentioned in the book, I can hear the music in my imagination. Musicals require us to accept the concept that it’s quite normal even expected that people suddenly will burst into song and start dancing around, so perhaps in that sense they engage our imaginations in a different way.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      For me, the parallel with a musical and a book is the mental and emotional ability to process something symbolic. The book has literal symbols (letters) and the musicals use a lot of symbolism. Movies tend to be more literal, as opposed to symbolic.

      While books and musical engage our imaginations in different ways, they still engage our imaginations. 🙂

      By the way, for me, the best American musical is The Fantasticks. I think it is rarely played the way it is intended (people often cut or change a really significant song, for example), but when it is, it is truly meaningful…and still has good music. 😉

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