Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Friday, August 30, 2002

batman! the musical?

NYPOST.COM Entertainment: BAT-SONG! By MICHAEL RIEDEL: HOLY Broadway!"Batman: The Musical" has finally landed a director - Tim Burton.Warner Brothers, which is producing the multimillion-dollar musical, has been courting Burton, who directed the 1989 "Batman" movie as well as the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns," for over a year.      The studio sealed the deal last week, theater sources say, after Burton had several long and productive meetings with bookwriter David Ives and composer Jim Steinman.      Reached yesterday, Steinman said: "We're thrilled he's going to do it. David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it." [.....] According to one theater source, he wants to direct "Batman: The Musical" because he is not pleased with the goofy, campy turn the franchise took with "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin," both of which were directed by Joel Schumacher. Burton's movies were haunting and much darker than the theme-park rides Schumacher cranked out. "He wants to re-establish his original vision," said the source. "His major impulse is to redeem the soul of the 'Batman' series."

You know ... Many words come to mind when I see Tim Burton's original "Batman" movie. Dark. Moody. Basically well-written. Interesting.

"Musical" is just not one of those terms that I associate with it, somehow. I just can't see looking at that movie and thinking, "Now here's where the Joker ought to break into a little softshoe number." I mean, I do understand how he could be upset with the way the series veered under Schumacher. Nipples on the batsuit were probably not quite what Burton had in mind when he helped Warner Brothers resurrect the franchise. Still ... musical?

To be sure, I do think that the set could be truly magnificent, as long as you had a stage large enough to accommodate it. All that straight-line deco-ish stuff could look nicely dark and looming -- although switching sets would be a nightmare of the first water. And you could certainly get some magnificently gloomy music out of Batman -- think "Phantom of the Opera", but without the cheery bits.

What interests me, though, is the selection of Jim Steinman as the lyricist. He's the person who wrote most of the lyrics on Meat Loaf's most successful releases, Bat out of Hell, and Back into Hell. Steinman's does what I like to think of as "big rock." Heavy, bombastic, complicated and complex, but great to listen to.

And ... long.

The uncut version of Meat Loaf's "I would do anything for love" single clocks in at something over 13 minutes long (The lyric sheet goes on and on and ON....) One of Celine Dion's biggest hits, "It's all coming back to me", was originally written for Back into Hell, but they decided that it had enough extremely long big ballads; "It's all coming back to me" clocks in somewhere near 7 minutes long. Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" lasts about the same length of time. [note 1]. I just envision rehearsals with actors going to Burton, grabbing him by the lapels, and screaming, "Make him STOP! I can't swing across the stage on the batrope, rescue a falling maiden, thwart the Joker over on one side, then thwart the Catwoman on the other side, all while singing a 15 minute power ballad at the top of my lungs! It just can't be done! I need to breathe somewhere!"

And then there's this nugget: Steinman, whose "Dance of the Vampires" opens this fall on Broadway, described his "Batman" score as a mixture of "Brecht, Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein and rock 'n' roll." The overall design concept, as of right now, he said, is "Gotham City as Berlin in the 1930s."

Weimar Gotham. Well. Yes. Quite. (And if the political situation in the US is roughly the same by then as it is now, that will add some fascinating and probably unintended political overtones to the whole setting.)

And that combination of influences is ... unique, to say the least.

It will be interesting to see if this actually makes it through. Technically, there's no reason why it shouldn't. If Warner Brothers is right about what it would cost, it will be considerably less than, for example, filming a new Batman movie. They note that they'd like to open it out of town, and then take it to Broadway, but it sounds like the sort of musical that won't travel well physically; that may be quite the undertaking.

Complete Digression: The "Total Eclipse of the Heart" video was this wonderfully over the top thing, featuring demonically possessed choirboys in love with Bonnie, who was dressed in diaphanous white stuff as she ran through an abandoned mansion that was, I suppose, meant to be their boys school.
   ... And the video for "I would do anything for love" featured a woman floating into the scene of an apparently abandoned yet thoroughly overdecorated mantion, wearing diaphanous gauzy stuff.
   ... And the video for "It's all coming back to me" featured Celine Dion running through the mansion she once shared with her now-dead lover, dressed in diaphanous gauzy stuff.
   Anyone want to bet that somewhere in "Batman The Musical", we'll see Vicki Vale running through stately Wayne Manor, dressed in diaphanous gauzy stuff, as she tries to belt out a 10-minute power ballad? [UP]

Posted by iain at 12:16 PM in category



You've got it all wrong. Don't you know that Steinman hails from musical theatre? Well - here's some advice. Pursue his early musicals: "The Dream Engine" (1969 - the live recording's SUPERB!), "More Than You Deserve"
(1973 - the meeting place of Meat and Jim), "Neverland" (1977 - a constant work-in-progress) and "The Confidence Man" (1986; recently released on Original Cast Records).
I KNOW (for fact) you wouldn't make those assumptions about 15 minute ballads, if you'd heard Jim's TANZ DER VAMPIRE recording. It flows better than water! Also - "Batman" will be a great endeavour from Jim, and much better than ego-splattered "Dance of the Vampires," which was originally intended to be as dark as BATMAN - until fat rooster came along...

Thank you and good day!

Posted by Ryan at September 21, 2003 10:42 PM

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