With an instantly recognizable musical score by John Williams, it is somewhat surprising that it took three decades to bring Steven Spielberg's 1975 film Jaws, the classic summer blockbuster, to the stage as a musical.
Granted, Williams score, while hummable, doesn't quite have the bright hooks and melodic phrasing of, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and this is as it should be, since Spielberg wanted his adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel to scare the pants of the audience, not send them into the aisles dancing.
However, three decades later, with the Fringe Festival season underway in the summer of 2006, no less than three adapations of the movie graced the stages of North America.
Jaws: the Melodrama Musical was created by Tom Frye for the Mosley Street Melodrama in Wichita, Kansas opened in April of 2006, and delighted its dinner theatre audience with its synchronized swimmers chorus line.
Up in Toronto, the buzz around the Fringe is good for Giant Killer Shark: the Musical, which, despite an obvious homage to the Spielberg film, is set on a copyright-protected island and thus does not reference said film by name. Also, at no time does a shark appear on stage. However, some of its ten original musical numbers, written by Sam Sutherland, are available online.
Finally, the Indianapolis Fringe Festival will play host to Jaws: the Musical!, the first musical adaptation of the 1975 film.
A Top Ten hit of the Minneapolis Fringe Festival in 2004, the show by Mime Rifle productions was updated in 2005 and re-appeared in Minneapolis as Jaws: the Musical! the Director's Cut. Written by Andy Brynildson and John Bungert, both alumni of the Twin Cities' Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre, this show isn't merely a line-for-line parody of the movie, but actually centers on the plot of a community theatre group in Amity, Kansas, attempting to organize their own Fringe Festival, including a musical version of the Jaws movie. The main obstacle is that the actors in town are being killed one by one by a ninja.
That's right, a ninja.
Everyone in the cast and audiences agrees it's not Eugene O'Neill. It's also not anything that will make it to Broadway, a la Monty Python's Spamalot. But audiences at Fringe Festivals come to expect a certainly degree of off-the-wall zany comedy, so what better than to have the harried police captain, nerdy shark scientist, and grizzled shark hunter, and a great white shark break into song?
What better than a ninja, of course? Apparently the plot gets pretty meta as the town folk hire a grizzled ninja hunter to capture/kill the ninja that's terrorizing the town.
Jacqueline Boudreau. "‘Scary’ Jaws: The Musical Comes To Mosley Street" Old Town Witchita. <http://www.oldtownwichita.com/content.cfm?id=1503> (July 11, 2006)
Bob Curtwright. "Mosley opens 'Jaws: The Musical Melodrama' "The Witchita Eagle. April 6, 2006. <http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/entertainment/14272081.htm> (July 10, 2006)
Michael Metzger. "The Fringe Festival: a Southwest Peek." Southwest Journal.August 1, 2005. < http://www.swjournal.com/articles/2005/08/01/swjlife/life03.txt> (July 10, 2006)
Dominic P. Papatola, "Fringe Festival Reviews." St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 8, 2004
"Musicals I Would Like to See Made." BCPhil Blog. March 3, 2005. <http://bcphil.blogspot.com/2005/03/musicals-i-would-like-to-see-made.html> (July 10, 2006)
Giant Killer Shark: The Musical contributors, Giant Killer Shark: The Musical Blog
<http://giantkillershark.blogspot.com/> (July 11, 2006)
Jaws: the Musical! contributors, Jaws the Musical! Myspace page. <http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=90294683> (July 11, 2006)
Wikipedia contributors, "Jaws (film)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jaws_%28film%29&oldid=62967093> (July 10, 2006).