FLASH FRIDAY: Baz Luhrmann's STRICTLY BALLROOM Waltzes & Rhumbas To The Stage!
Today we are turning our attention to the recently announced stage adaptation of visionary theatre and film director Baz Luhrmann's blazing 1992 "Red Curtain Trilogy" entry STRICTLY BALLROOM, for which he has aligned a particularly impressive assortment of creative team members, with rehearsals currently underway for an opening set at the end of next month in Australia.
Time After Time
No matter how many stage adaptations of film properties fall far short of their cinematic predecessors - artistically, critically, financially and otherwise - it seems as though producers are more than merely willing to try their hand at something that was once, however distantly, tried-and-true versus something totally new and original. Time and time again. While we could analyze the many aspects of each and every movie-to-musical to grace the Great White Way and beyond in the last decade or two, hits and flops and also-rans among them, it is undeniable that some properties do indeed scream out to be sung more than others - and, without a doubt, one such property is STRICTLY BALLROOM. To say that Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy of films is the filmatic equivalent of theatre itself is an understatement - they pretty much are theatre, just without that pesky actual live entertainment aspect. Although STRICTLY BALLROOM commandingly depicts the romance and drama of the high stakes professional dance world - in this case, the ballroom genre - the ensuing entries in Luhrmann's canon were even more elaborate and dazzling still in their ingenuity and flair: ROMEO + JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE! Surely, the man who re-invented the modern movie musical for a 21st century audience has his hand on the pulse of what an audience will accept - and, even, potentially adore - and, if for only that reason, Luhrmann's new STRICTLY BALLROOM onstage is something worth studying from even this early stage of the creative process.
Believe it or not, STRICTLY BALLROOM is actually returning to its roots by going back to the stage. What first began as a largely student-led stage project in 1984 eventually became an independent Australian feature in 1992 which went on to become one of the most successful films in the country's history, eventually making a mark on an international audience, as well, and racking up copious awards and critical hosannas in the process - but its beginnings reside in theatrical tropes and that fact cannot be denied. And, although the CINDERELLA-esque story at the center is instantly relatable, the stylish and frenzied manner in which the story was told on film - without even making mention of the spectacular dance sequences and performance showcases within it, too - made it a movie experience sure to stick out head and shoulders above the rest in any crowd, not unlike a choreographed lift does in actual dance movement itself, as it were. Truly, Luhrmann is one of a kind and his special brand of equal parts emotional, zany, opulent and rich entertainment in whatever he chooses to do - theatre, opera, film, TV ads and beyond - makes for a delectable dish to enjoy no matter what he is serving up for many film and theatre enthusiasts. But, an actual Broadway musical?
Lest we forget, Luhrmann has already re-invented what can be done on Broadway once before byway of his highly respected and unforgettable mounting of LA BOHEME on Broadway in 2002 - with a rotating cast, natch - to go along with re-conceiving and re-working the modern movie musical for a new age via MOULIN ROUGE! and the works of William Shakespeare for millennial teenagers via ROMEO + JULIET for film audiences. He is a daring iconoclast with few equals, if any, and if Baz intends to bring STRICTLY BALLROOM to the stage, we can be damn sure he will do so in the most convincingly compelling, thematically contemporary and, well, theatrical of manners - and, furthermore, that it will be all Baz, all the time. Case in point: the recent announcement of the complete creative team he has assembled for the Australian tryout production, currently in rehearsals and set to open March 25.
Lurhmann will direct and work from the original script for the film penned by himself and longtime collaborator Craig Pearce (along with Andrew Bovell), while he has secured the services of no less than three major songwriters to supply the new tunes - award-winners, all. Diane Warren, David Foster and Sia lead the corps of score contributors, with a few of the film's most fondly-remembered musical moments set to be integrated into the action, as well - Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" plus Doris Day's "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" among them, reportedly. As for the rest of the team, Luhrmann will once again utilize his associate on- and offstage, Catherine Martin, to conjure up her special brand of magical sets and costumes, while John "Cha Cha" O'Connell provides the choreography. Yet, the question remains: is 2014 Broadway really ready for a Baz Luhrmann dance extravaganza? Time will tell, but first let's see how things go down under and if what leapt onscreen still leaps into our hearts from the stage, lo, more than 20 years later.
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
So, now, let's take a look at one of Baz Luhrmann's finest achievements thus far as well as the theatricality that STRICTLY BALLROOM undoubtedly has to offer a new audience onstage.
First up, view the trailer for the original 1992 STRICTLY BALLROOM film.
Now, witness one of the most beloved moments in the film, "Time After Time".
For some fun, check out the "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" sequence.
Go behind the scenes to witness the search for an actress to fill the daunting shoes of Fran for the stage version.
After that, see who was finally selected to play Fran.
Fran herself, Phoebe Panaretos, details her history and looks forward to the new production.
Thomas Lacey, the actor cast in the lead role of Scott Hastings, discusses his performance.
Glean a sneak peek at the kids' auditions for the show, as well.
Baz Luhrmann outlines the stage adaptation in this extensive press launch featurette.
Lastly, view the trailer for STRICTLY BALLROOM: THE MUSICAL.
As a special bonus, check out this Aussie TV clip about the new stage version including an interview with the new leads.
So, what exactly is it about the weird and wonderful world of Baz Luhrmann that you enjoy most? Furthermore, what element of STRICTLY BALLROOM do you think makes it an ideal idea for the stage, here and now? Additionally, what other Luhrmann properties would you like to see take the stage next if STRICTLY BALLROOM proves to be a hit? An all-new ROMEO + JULIET? MOULIN ROUGE!, perhaps, perhaps, perhap?! One thing is for sure, if anyone can make a theatrically viable enterprise for a 21st century audience it is Baz Luhrmann - he really can can-can.