According to a recent report in Deadline Hollywood, “Magic Mike,” the 2012 Steven Soderbergh film about male strippers, is on a fast track to Broadway. No surprise there. New York musical theater has been combing the film catalogue for decades now. And on first glance the movie, which starred Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, would seem tailor-made for musical treatment set as it is in a club where stripping is a gateway to sex, drugs, and bills stuffed in g-strings. What might not have been expected is the creative team for the show: songwriters Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, the same duo responsible for “Next to Normal,” the 2010 Pulitzer-Prize-winning hit about a bi-polar mother who conjures up her dead son.
The major challenge in this movie-to-musical transfer is one that has afflicted many others of its genre, including “Dirty Dancing,” “Flashdance,” and “The Wedding Singer.” There’s simply not much of a story there. Male strippers as a gimmick — surely a first for Broadway — may have to suffice in “Magic Mike, the Musical,” unless the creative team can find more muscle in the material. The film was inspired by Tatum’s pre-stardom stint as a male stripper and follows the adventures of a young construction worker facing up to the various temptations his new vocation offers him. That’s about it. Sure, there’s also the vaulting ambitions of the club owner and a drug deal gone bad, but nothing rises above the cliché level. Certainly there’s nothing remotely resembling the complexity of character and situation to be found in the domestic drama of “Next to Normal.”
That’s not to say that the show won’t succeed. There have been flimsier excuses for a musical. Add one or two marquee names to the ensemble and investors will be opening their checkbooks faster than a break-away pair of pants. But there have been many examples of well-branded source material which have remained surprisingly lifeless, despite the prodding and poking of experienced theater folk. “Ghost,” directed by the estimable Matthew Warchus (“Matilda”), is just one. Meanwhile the musical’s producers — which include Tatum, Soderbergh, and Reid Carolin, who wrote the movie — showed real savvy in one crucial area: not going with Carolin to adapt his own screenplay. That almost always raises a red flag since the demands of the stage are far different from those of a movie, and writers are often too in love with what has worked before to adjust to the new medium. Instead Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was brought in to doctor the then-ailing “Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark,” will write the book for “Magic Mike.” Aguirre-Sacasa is no coward when it comes to challenging material. He’s also adapting Brett Ellis’s “American Psycho” for the musical stage, with Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”). It bows this winter at London’s Almeida Theatre.
Photo by Claudette Barlus © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.