"Weird Romance": Adaptation Error and the Science Fiction Musical, Violet Gautreau UG '22 (2312495)
This paper analyzes how James Tiptree, Jr’s science fiction novella “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1974) was adapted for the musical theatre stage. Reviewers unanimously attacked the musicalization when it premiered Off-Broadway in 1992, although a team of accomplished Broadway professionals was behind the show. This paper seeks to unpack exactly how the adaptation erred through a thorough analysis of the novella and the musical script. I found that the adaptation process removed the central capitalist critique from the narrative, causing the story to both switch genres (from true science fiction, which relies on social critique by way of estrangement, to fairy tale) and present a message that diametrically opposes its own source material. Specifically, the concept of love is distorted from novella to stage—the novella cynically depicts love as a tool of capitalistic greed, whereas the musical depicts love as a redemptive force that is divorced from capitalism (and therefore can be used to fight against it). By analyzing this one example of adaptation error, I hope to encourage more faithful SF adaptations on the musical stage, which has a real dearth of works of true SF. Musical theatre has unique attributes as an art form that have the potential to elevate and enhance the genre, but that will only be possible when SF is understood and respected during the adaptation process.