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But before the musical could reach New York   let alone be ready for this weekend's cartier love charity bracelet Pasadena Playhouse premiere   its five creators needed to plug a persistent narrative hole, and "A Great Big Buncha Happy!" was hardly doing the trick.

That was but one of many challenges. There also was the last minute debate over recasting one of the musical's stars, objections from a skeptical Roman Catholic priest, and a big first act dance number that wasn't landing. Those creative tests might have seemed unique to "Sister Act," but the architects of countless other movie musicals wrestle with similar issues in rehearsal rooms across the nation.

As the movies become nothing but sequels and television a lineup of various versions of "CSI," the theater is overflowing with film inspired musicals. Following the critical and commercial windfall of "The Lion King" and "The Producers," any number of movies are being reworked into shows   a slate as diverse as "The Color Purple," "The Full Monty" and "The Wedding Singer."

For studios and outside investors alike, the show tune attraction is irresistible. With movie admissions flat and DVD sales slowing, movie musicals can deliver acclaim ("The Producers" won 12 Tonys) and a geyser of profits (with a worldwide gross of $2.6 billion, "The Lion King" has generated an estimated $1 billion in Disney profits). MGM has licensed no fewer than three dozen movies   including the improbable "Get Shorty" and "The Thomas Crown Affair"   for song and dance adaptations.

But as with any high stakes creative endeavor, movie musical blockbusters don't grow on trees. For every "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" hit, there's an "Urban Cowboy" fiasco. And just as in the movies, crafting a successful musical involves a constant battle between commerce and art   musical theater may be a populist medium, but its execution relies on esoteric concepts such as changing keys and 16 bar dance breaks.

Even a notion as obvious as "Sister Act"   the movie, written by Joseph Howard, already had music with its singing nuns   still had its share of false starts, dead ends and about faces. Over the course of its gestation, however, the show ultimately took shape, and as opening night approached, it grew sharper, funnier, more moving. The only question was whether it would be ready in time.

The heart of the matter

AT the center of almost every successful musical rests a big idea. Audiences may be moved by a certain song, swept away by a particular performer or bowled over by a specific production number. But if those elements aren't united by a strong theme, the musical will have little poignancy.

At the very first meeting of the "Sister Act" creators, cheap cartier love bracelet an April 2005 breakfast in Toluca Lake, the search began to discover the soul of the show. The outlines from the movie would remain the same: A lounge singer about to testify against her gangster boyfriend is hidden by the police in a convent. Thus ensconced, she turns its tuneless choir into a raise the rafters musical group. That's the plot, but what's its big idea?

"It's 'Beauty and the Beast,' " said Peter Schneider, the musical's wiry director, at that first meeting. But at every step of the way, almost every conversation drifted back to the big idea   how to define it and how to execute it. Solutions to both questions weren't fully formed until just days before the show's opening.

By the time the creative team and producer Michael Reno reassembled in Schneider's Ventura beach house a few weeks after that first meeting, the musical's bracelet cartier love occasion themes started emerging: This was going to be a musical about faith.

  • Created: Apr 20 '17
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