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Betty to Ugly Up the Great White Way?

by Angel Cohn May 28, 2008 3:12 pm
<I>Betty</I> to Ugly Up the Great White Way?

There's been buzz about a musical episode of Ugly Betty for ages now, and the show even centered a whole episode around the Broadway production of Wicked but now there's talk right from the gossipy queens mouth. Michael Urie (aka Wilhelmina's bitchtastically gay assistant Marc) has been spreading the word that there could be an actual staged production of Ugly Betty heading towards Broadway, with singing and dancing and transvestites and fashion and magic and puppies or whatever. Urie even delightfully naively expressed hope that the cast -- who have a mixed amount of theater experience (Vanessa Williams rocked in Into the Woods and America Ferrara in Dog Sees God, an off-Broadway stage production of a twisted Peanuts cartoon) -- would star in the staged version. This is the most insanely awesome thing I've heard since they announced they were making a live-action Tetris game show.

The plot and details on when this blessed event will happen have yet to be hammered out, but I've got some ideas for the producers on how they can make this musical the next mega-hit. Trust me... I see enough Broadway crap to know what constitutes a good transition from screen to stage.

Larger Than Life Plot:
This musical can be no ordinary day in the life of Mode magazine's spunky assistant, this has to be bigger and more memorable. This needs to be epic. There needs to be romance, a villain, convoluted twists, a perfect resolution and comeuppance... all of which the series has, but they somehow need to ramp it up to the next level and find a way to condense two seasons of plot into two succinct hour and 15 minute acts.

Infectious Tunage:
A musical can have the best plot ever, and sucky music can just bring the whole thing crumbling down. See Jane Eyre, Cry Baby or the recent Saved as examples. Good in concept. Bland in execution. The songs need to be as infectious and bubbly as the show. I'd suggest the writing duo of Marx and Lopez (who penned the amusingly offensive Avenue Q) to turn the telenovela into catchy rhyming tunes that will get stuck in your head for days on end until you find yourself inexplicably humming "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" at the most inopportune moments.

Talk If You Must, But Don't Sing It:
One of my pet peeves is musicals that have don't have songs... they just have words set to music. Nothing would be more painful, than say having Betty, Hilda, Ignacio and Justin all sitting around "sing-talking" (or as those classy opera folks would call it recitativo) about what is going on in their lives or what they had for breakfast. I want to leave the theater singing the uplifting anthem about loving yourself no matter what you look like. Or, if you are going to give me a breakfast song, it better be a fully-formed song, with a bridge and chorus and verses.

Juicy B-stories:
Hairspray is a prime example of how this is done right. Not only do you have the lovely romance and power to the fat girl main plot, you've also got a sweet endearing romance between the parents, a sexy interracial love affair between the best pals and a delicious role for the villainess. So aside from Betty and Daniel's quest to keep Mode out of wicked Wili's hands, Wilhelmina needs a dastardly tune that will steal act one, then Marc and Mandy can just be around for some comic relief, and somewhere in the middle of act two a supporting character who hasn't made a huge splash before this point needs a big belting song that will tie everything together and make the audience stand up and cheer. Perhaps Jennifer Hudson's available?

The Brighter The Better:
Betty: The TV Series, already has those vivid sets from Mode that threaten to blow out pixels on my TV on a weekly basis because they color is so overly saturated. So having eye-catching scenery should be a snap. Just make everything a little bigger and have the rooms spin, and all should be good to go.

Fierce choreography:
So the thing about Broadway, is that by in large (unless you are in say Contact) the leads don't have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to dancing. This will bode well if Michael Urie gets his wish. But there should be a slew of sexy chorus boys and girls dressed to the nines as random Mode staffers or Queens natives ready to do splits and flips at the drop of a hat.

Crazy Costumes
This is another that should be a no-brainer for the adaptation. I mean, it is set at a fashion magazine where over-the-top reigns supreme. Just let the wardrobe department of the show run wild on this one.

Big names:
Nowadays it is hard to walk down the streets in midtown Manhattan without seeing a marquis lauding the newest "celebrity" heading up a show, from Mario Lopez to Ashley Parker Angel to any number of former Idol contestants. So if the original Betty cast doesn't work out, they'd better start finding some "names" to fill up the roles. Just please, for the love of god, don't put Clay Aiken in the Marc role... or any other role for that matter. That will make me cry.

So that's my two cents, not that I think there is really a snowballs chance in hell of this actually making it to Broadway within the next five years (though I've been wrong before). I'm not even entirely convinced it is a good idea as I lament the lack of new and original plots especially crafted for the stage. However, if there are any shows currently running on TV that would make a decent Broadway musical, this one or Pushing Daisies would be the two that I'd back... if I had several million dollars laying around. Which I don't, because if I did, a Grease 2 musical would already have tickets available.

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