October 3, 2014

Don’t call it a rock-opera: Crime and Punishment is being adapted as a musical


Fyodor Dostoevsky: writer of musicals

Fyodor Dostoevsky: writer of musicals

Adapting books into other mediums can be a very delicate, often tricky process. What do you choose to include? What do you choose to omit? These decisions can make or break the production. For example, when filmmaker Peter Jackson adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s mammoth The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he made the unfortunate choice of not including the joyful Tom Bombadil in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), which outraged at least one fan (me).

There are numerous ways you can go about adapting the written word. In 1995 a novel by Gregory Maguire called Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West hit stands, wowing readers for its unusual take on L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz series. Maguire’s novel was later adapted for the stage as Wicked, which has had a long, wildly successful run. Australian director Baz Luhrmann made a cultural splash in 1996, when his lurid, self-consciously hip film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (titled Romeo + Juliet) saw release. The flick was noteworthy for keeping Shakespeare’s language, but updating the aesthetics: cigarettes, convertibles, guns, and youthful ennui are the backdrop for many of its colorful scenes. Critics were divided on whether it was brilliantly revisionist, or sacrilegious garbage.

Next up on the list of beloved works being curiously adapted is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The famous novel, which you might have lied about reading at some point in your high school or college career (maybe tucked neatly between Infinite Jest and Ulysses) is being turned into a musical for the Moscow Musical Theater. Although many details have yet to be revealed, the play is roughly slotted to go up sometime in 2015.

At the helm of the project is filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky, perhaps most well-known for 1989’s now cult Tango & Cash (the tagline is “Two of L.A.’s top rival cops are going to have to work together… Even if it kills them.”). Konchalovsky hasn’t revealed too much about the project, or what his specific involvement is, but he has been vocal about one aspect of the adaptation: don’t call it a rock-opera.

“I wouldn’t call it a rock-opera as such,” Konchalovsky recently noted, continuing, “it’s more of a stylised musical creation using song, folklore and elements of opera.”

According to Konchalovsky, the idea for a Crime and Punishment musical has been in the works for several decades, but is only now coming to fruition.

For those of you who did lie about reading what is often considered Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, it’s uh, pretty bleak, so our interests are piqued as to how Konchalovsky and crew will handle the dark subject matter. A viola perhaps? Tasteful use of Gregorian chant? A Kurt Russell/Sylvester Stallone cameo/duet? I’m quite certain a dulcimer will make at least one musical appearance.