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Call for Papers: Restaging the Song

Posted By Shaun Franklin-Sewell, Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The release of Cameron Mackintosh’s screen production of Les Misérables into cinemas in December 2012 reopened an age-old debate: how do you adapt Broadway musicals for the big screen? The urge to capitalise on the commercial triumph of material that was written for the stage has often brought uncomfortable results, with no clear strategy for success. Sometimes, a new team of writers is brought in to write a different score under the same title, as with On the Town(1949), many of whose Bernstein songs were replaced. Similarly,The Band Wagon(1953) features its Broadway star (Fred Astaire), title and a few songs, but is otherwise quite distinct from its source as a revue. For the screen version of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever(1970), Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane reconceived their script and score around a specific new performer, Barbra Streisand, making numerous changes to their Broadway show along the way. Other films are much more faithful to their Broadway counterparts, such asMy Fair Lady(1964) andWest Side Story(1961), but sometimes this approach is criticised as failing to acknowledge the change of medium, with "stagey” results.

Changes of text, star, technology and audience can unsettle the apparent stability of a Broadway hit and this conference aims to deal head on with this discomfort/instability. Film scholars, musicologists, practitioners, historians and sociologists are equally encouraged to participate in this truly interdisciplinary conference. The keynote speech will be given by Professor Geoffrey Block (author of "Enchanted Evenings"), and the conference respondent will be Professor Stephen Banfield (author of "Sondheim's Broadway Musicals").

Innovative presentation formats are strongly favoured. In particular, we would like to encourage panels in which scholars and practitioners from a variety of backgrounds will have the opportunity to discuss ideas including (but not limited to) the following:

  • The impact of changing star performers between stage and screen
  • Problems of condensing or retaining material for the screen
  • Ideas of authenticity and faithfulness in reproducing stage shows on the screen
  • Archival evidence illustrating the adaptation process
  • Analytical comparisons of parts of the stage and screen versions of a musical
  • Sociological discussions regarding changes of audience resulting in screen adaptation (e.g. from New York to a global audience)

Proposals for twenty-minute papers, panels or other presentation formats should besubmitted electronically byTuesday 10 September 2013, 11:59 p.m.Students wishing to present developmental work are warmly encouraged to apply to speak for 5-10 minutes if they prefer.

Abstracts should be around 250 words and may be accompanied by a CV. Please send files in .doc or .pdf formats.

Send all proposals to

It is expected that some of the presenters will be invited to develop their papers into chapters for a subsequent book publication.

For queries, please contact conference convenor Dominic McHugh at

The Restaging the Song conference is part of The University of Sheffield’s Stagestruck! Broadway Meets Hollywood Festival,14-18 May 2014. It includes screenings of seven film adaptations of Broadway musicals to complement the conference, including Roberta (14 May), Funny Girl (1968, 15 May), Show Boat (1936, 16 May), The Band Wagon (1953, 17 May), Les Miserables(2012, 17 May), On the Town(1949, 18 May) and Dreamgirls (2006, 18 May). Each film will be introduced by a guest speaker, and there will be an exhibition of posters and memorabilia in the Workstation, adjacent to the conference room. Book launches and other events will be announced in due course

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