Ryan Murphy seems to be on a Broadway-to-screen bender with The Prom and A Chorus Line both set to premiere on Netflix as part of his contract with the streaming platform. As for The Prom, the movie musical is all but available for streaming, as the trailer has already surfaced with shots of Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, and Andrew Rannells leading the way.
A Chorus Line is still quite far off, as a cast and narrative plan for the 10-part limited series remains unknown. The primary question looming over the production: how will Murphy transform a Broadway musical that runs for a little under two hours into a multi-episode tale? The original Broadway production features 11 songs — most of which provide a little bit of insight and expose the inner lives of a few of the 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line.
Will Murphy take a one episode per song approach?
With 11 songs in the Broadway original, Murphy may choose to highlight each pivotal character with a singular episode. He could employ the few full-ensemble numbers to introduce the first episode and/or close out the last one, as opposed to providing an episode each for the starter song “I Hope I Get It” and the finale “One.”
When looking at the songs from A Chorus Line, a few memorable numbers come to mind: “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” which an aspiring dancer belts to the audience, as she explains that a little cosmetic surgery — on her “tits” and “ass” — opened doorways to success. Then There’s “I Can Do That,” which a young male sings, recounting when he discovered his love for dance — watching his sister. One day, he grabbed his sister’s “tights and all” and “stuffed her shoes with extra socks” to run to her class when she couldn’t make it.
It’s easy to see how each character could receive an individual episode. The show also features numbers with 2-3 characters, which, following this vein of logic, would presumably warrant singular episodes as well — diving into the 2-3 characters in-tandem. Yet, most of these musical numbers are only 2-3 minutes long, implying that much of the show would be amusical.
Murphy is entering risky waters whether he adds new songs or not
It’s logical to presume that a show — with 2-3 minute songs in 1-hour episodes — would feel drawn out. How will Murphy transform such numbers into full-on episodic narratives that keep viewers intrigued — especially viewers who expect musicals to be “musical,” virtually from start to finish?
While adding songs seems like the logical next step, the men behind the show’s music and lyrics — Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban — died in 2012 and 1987 respectively. Without the original composer and lyricist, the show’s new tunes could feel incongruous with the original melodies and harmonies.
Not to mention, it would be impossible to gain the seal of approval (for new songs) from the original creators, which is why this option seems quite far-fetched. It’s likely that Murphy plans to add narrative depth and character complexity to create the 10-part miniseries, but maintaining interest will be a challenge, especially concerning those who come to the series hoping for a full-on musical experience.