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Surprisingly Upbeat ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Musical Being Staged in London

Jul 21, 2011

One expert compared the songs to “West Side Story.”

clockwork orange Surprisingly Upbeat A Clockwork Orange Musical Being Staged in London

Of all the novels out there begging for snappy musical numbers, Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” is probably not the first to come to mind. But next year, in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary, a musical penned by its author will hit the stage for a limited engagement.

Burgess wrote a musical adaptation of his 1962 novel a decade after Stanley Kubrick released his 1971 film adaptation — it was an effort to assert his ownership of the story.

The script was staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1990, but the author’s musical numbers were rejected in favor of songs written by Bono and The Edge.

The original songs have a “West Side Story” feel to them, according to Dr. Andrew Biswell, the director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. A scene in the prison where another inmate is beaten to death is “jolly” in comparison to the grim treatment it received in the film, he told BBC News. IABF is hosting the 50th anniversary event, which will include an academic conference and an exhibit about the film in addition to the musical performance.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there are any plans for the musical to play outside the conference. However, a different stage adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange,” written by Ed DuRante and Fred Carl, will run in September and October at Theatre Royal Stratford East in London. The new version is making some changes from the novel — the setting will be modern, Alex will be played by a black actor, and Burgess’ famous Nadsat language will be updated to “transatlantic hybrid” slang.

Here’s hoping at least one of these musicals makes its way to the U.S. If they aren’t truly fantastic adaptations, it sounds like they will at least be so bad they’re good. Just make sure Bono and The Edge stay away from it this time.

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