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Pass the remote control - Birds of a Feather is on the stage

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Turning movies in to musicals is not a new thing, this has been going on for decades, some have worked incredibly well (Billy Elliot, Legally Blonde, La Cage etc.) and some not so well (High Fidelity, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Cry Baby).  Many a time the names of the movies provide a recognisable brand that producers hope will have audiences flocking to the theatre.
However recently classic TV shows seem to be also making the transition to the stage, whilst this is not an entirely new thing as a few comedy TV series in the 70’s and 80’s had stage shows running at the same time as the series to try and cash in, it was a fad that vanished quicker than Eldorado.

However the fad appears to be making a comeback, this time to not promote the TV series but to cash in on nostalgia. The TV stage shows are not back as musicals however but in the format of an extended episode, sometimes even using the exact same storylines as some of the episodes that were broadcast. Dinnerladies, ‘Allo ‘Allo, Hi -De- Hi, Yes Prime Minister and even Columbo have already done the rounds on UK tours. Now joining that list comes Birds of a Feather.
Having sat through a few of these productions (including reviewing one of them) I can’t help but ask myself why?  The shows often offer nothing new at all. They will grab one cast member from the original series to reprise a role whilst hiring a bunch of other actors to do carbon copy performances of what we have already seen and fallen in love with. We will get a rush of nostalgia for a few moments when we see the set that brings back memories and hearing a few famous lines from said TV show may make us smile briefly, but leaving the theatre each time I can’t help but think I’ve just been cheated.
There is nothing wrong with producing a show for financial purposes, I mean it is a business and it needs to make money, but with such little thought going in to any of these it would appear that the shows WHOLE reason for existing is to take the customers money.
Take Dinnerladies, the classic Victoria Wood sitcom, the recent tours of the stage version took a couple of episodes and stuck them together, the jokes were all heard before and the outcome was known before the curtain went up.  Don’t get me wrong it was pleasant enough and the cast worked very hard but it all just seemed to be incredibly pointless.
At least with movies turned musicals they are writing in a new score, changing the foundations of the piece and if doing it well are offering a fresh original take on something pre existing (Legally Blonde is a great example of this).  No matter how great or bad one of these movies turned musicals are, at least work and more often than not a lot of passion has gone in to the project, these recent TV touring plays simply seem to exist and it all seems very hollow.
When doing a play this way I also find it frustrating handing over £25+ to see the show, why not just buy the DVD boxset of the whole series for the same price?  You get more hours of entertainment, watching the original cast and even special features (and we all love some special features, you can’t beat a good blooper reel). With the exception of maybe one; none of these tours have been particularly box office breaking, playing to half empty touring venues and some having to cancel many dates of the tour (I’m looking at you Hi-de-Hi) so why producers seem to be in such a rush to turn any TV series in to a stage show is beyond me.
So what about Birds of a Feather? I happen to love this sitcom and the three fantastic ladies that made it such a pleasure to watch. At first glance this show looks like it may have more going for it than previously mentioned adaptations to the stage. The big draw will be that all 3 leads are taking to the stage (Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph) and we have been promised a whole new story so it would appear that much more thought is going in to this one and that the show is serving as an original follow up to the TV series. So could Birds of a Feather buck the trend and turn out to be a fun night at the theatre? Only time will tell.

- Craig Hepworth

Will you be checking out Birds of a Feather a the Lowry from 28 May and what do you think about TV to stage adaptations?



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