Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Never mess with a classic!

A story in the Citizen earlier this week focused on the musical West Side Story and how its themes still resonate today. To illustrate, apparently a revival which played in Los Angeles last year had many in the audience in an uproar and left the director wondering what had gone wrong. He’d had no idea the updated libretto, with many of the songs now sung in Spanish, would cause so much distress to those attending.

But it didn’t and the lesson learned is never mess with a classic. Those attending wanted the same old, good old, wonderful old Broadway musical that had entertained audiences for decades.

I’d be of one mind with that audience. We can take comfort in what we’ve come to rely on be it music or books. Think about an update of Poe’s Murders on the Rue Morgue, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier , or Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Not going to happen.

That doesn’t mean that Sherlock Holmes won’t be spun out in many more pastiches. Or that there won’t be a succession of actors in the role of Miss Marple, each giving a slightly or largely different interpretation which then impacts the story.

And there is no copyright on themes or plots, so what’s new might not be totally so.

However, works by Poe are not going to be rewritten, nor are works by Christie, du Maurier or Hammett. And it’s a good thing. These authors have inspired successive new generations of mystery writers simply by remaining what they are. The classics.

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime

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