Over a half century and change, people have gotten different things out of the James Bond franchise. As we head in to the 21st Century, once-acceptable vicarious thrills like xenophobic imperialism and consequence-free sex and hedonism have become frowned upon. But casting aside the dated sexual politics and troublesome racist subtext running through the series, you can still find many pleasures in the franchise’s aesthetics: exotic, attractive locations, lingering close-ups of beautiful people, and a privileged look at the fine food, clothing and libations you most likely cannot afford.
That all probably goes away with James Bond: The Musical, a new project in development from the daughter of original 007 movie producer Harry Saltzman. According to Playbill, Merry Saltzman aims to bring James Bond to the stage - either Broadway or Vegas - in the next two-three years. With a book by Dave Clarke and music and lyrics by country composer Jay Henry Weisz, don’t expect too many familiar Bond themes to work their way into the story. Saltzman promises an original tale with new characters.
That's all well and good, but to me, a stagebound Bond seems the antithesis of what makes the franchise exciting or even interesting. 007's world is bigger than ours, better looking than ours, and it’s never viewed from the cheap seats. Translating what works, or even what's popular/expected, seems a real challenge. The smart move would be to go camp - play with the conventions and make something period, fun and irreverent (the London stage adaptation of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps comes to mind). Anything aiming for big-scale spectacle and thrills just isn’t going to measure up, and the last time someone tried to make a play out of James Bond, we got this.
UPDATE: According to Broadway.com, Merry Saltzman has no legal right to mount a stage production of James Bond, as both film and stage rights to the character reside at Danjaq and MGM. Sayeth the Broccolis: "Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc confirm they have not licensed any rights to Merry Saltzman or her production company to create a James Bond musical...Danjaq and MGM jointly control all live stage rights in the Bond franchise, and therefore no James Bond stage show may be produced without their permission." Ouch. That's a slap so hard Merry's dad Harry probably felt it.