Welcome to the very first post of the Filmed Live Musicals blog! I’m your host Luisa Lyons and I am so excited to be sharing my passion project with you.
The idea for this website started back in 2011 when I was studying for an MA in Music Theatre at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. A group of my friends went to the cinema to see the filmed live version of Company, which featured Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, and Stephen Colbert amongst its starry cast. In a taped interview prior to the main feature, producer Ellen M. Krass claimed she had had trouble getting funding to film Company because investors had not heard of filming a live show for public distribution.
Huh?! Maybe all the investors had pockets overflowing with cash and lived in close proximity to Broadway... But as a musical theatre nerd growing up in Sydney, I cherished my DVD copy of the original Broadway production of Into the Woods, and thrilled at being able to see Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria. Not to mention the delight of being able to see Hugh Jackman in Oklahoma!
Ellen M. Krass’ comment inspired me to write my thesis on filmed live musicals. I learnt that stage musicals have been filmed for distribution since the advent of sound on film, and, as technology has improved, so has the demand for filmed live theatre content. I compiled a list of nearly 80 stage musicals that had been legally filmed live and made available for public distribution, and tried to figure out what to call a filmed live musical — is it film? Is it theatre?
As excited as I was to learn about filmed live musicals, I discovered there is a lot of resistance to the idea of filming stage musicals for the screen. Fears around the impact on ticket sales, contract negotiations, and what should be filmed and when, all play into what is made available to the general public. The biggest fear is of course that theatre on screen will replace the experience of live theatre.
Nothing will ever replace the magic of live theatre, but in my research I found that filmed live musicals inspire audiences to seek out real-life theatre experiences. Filmed live musicals provide access to shows to people who for a myriad of reasons, such as geography and finances, would not otherwise be able to see a fully realized stage musical. Filmed live musicals not only give further reach to Broadway and West End shows, but provide wider audiences for regional and smaller-scale productions. Filmed live musicals create a historical record of an impermanent performance, and provide students with a fantastic educational tool.
Fast forward a few years, and my love for filmed live musicals has not gone away. More and more musicals are being legally filmed for public consumption, and in the age of Digital and the Interwebz, it is easier than ever to access them.
In the many conversations I’ve had with performers, writers, directors, and especially audience members, people want to know where they can watch filmed live stage musicals. And so, Filmed Live Musicals was born. My thesis list formed the basis for the database, which now has over 100 musicals, and counting. The database is currently searchable by year, where to watch, and Broadway/West End shows. You can learn about each musical's history, how it was filmed, and, where possible, where to watch them.
Every Monday (New York time), I will be sharing research, interviews, articles, and news about upcoming filmed live musicals. Tune in next week for a preview of some of the exciting additions coming to Filmed Live Musicals!
Until next week, happy watching!