NPR logo What Albums, If Any, Should Be Turned Into Broadway Musicals?

What Albums, If Any, Should Be Turned Into Broadway Musicals?

If you know the album to which this story's title refers, then you know that there isn't really a Broadway musical based on it. But there could be! (Though I'm not sure there should be). Recently, The New York Times ran an article detailing the process of how Green Day's Grammy-winning, platinum-selling album American Idiot was turned into a musical.

I purchased American Idiot back in 2004. Despite being a casual and somewhat ambivalent Green Day fan, I was craving any sort of mainstream critique of the Bush Administration and its policies. I found it in the band's self-proclaimed punk-rock opera, and the songs were good to boot: catchy, snotty and far better than any of Green Day's mid-period post-Kerplunk! fare. Twelve million copies later, American Idiot might be one of the last albums by a contemporary rock band to capture the collective imagination and interest of so many people. (Seriously, in the age of niche interests and singles ruling over albums, it might never happen again.)

It makes sense that American Idiot could be translated into a Broadway production. The album tells a story and has compelling and troubled characters, all couched in music that propels the tale far better and more pointedly than straight theater or literature could.

Yet musical theater and music are two different beasts. If you bring an album to life on the stage, you make choices that distill moments while obfuscating others. The drama is highlighted and amplified. IT'S ALL CAPS. It's a lot of sheen. Which, of course, can be splendid and awesome or campy and corny, depending on one's taste and on the production itself. I'm curious to see Broadway's version of American Idiot, but I hope there's not an act wherein a guy sits in the corner of a dimly lit stage with an acoustic guitar.

So, what other albums — rock operas, concept albums or not — would make great Broadway musicals? Personally, I'd like to see In The City or All Mod Cons by The Jam. And The Kinks' Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), which never made it to air as originally intended. Patti Smith's Radio Ethopia would be amazing, too.

Please share what albums you'd watch on Broadway — or what albums would be the most bizarre to see in that context.