The idea of turning films into plays may seem like a new concept, but it is not as new as we think. Legally Blonde was a movie in 2001 before it was turned into a musical in 2007. Lion King and Dirty Dancing were also movies turned into plays, just to name a few. While 39 Steps was an amazing comedic rendition of a 1930's thriller, its not the first of its kind. Legally Blonde The Musical used the same scenes as the film and almost identical dialogue. Although the film and play were both considered comedies, the play focused more on humor while the movie focused on the love story. The only true difference between the two renditions was the limitation of the stage compared to a limitless film studio; 39 Steps followed a very simular pattern.
When looking at the filmed medium of 39 Steps in comparison to the live medium of 39 Steps the plot lines are almost identical. One of the unavoidable differences between the film and play was what the actors could do on stage. In the movie, the police chase Robert over rocky terrain and across a river as airplanes fly overhead. Theater actors do not have enough space on stage to perform a task such as this one so the writers creatively improvised by recreating the scene with shadow puppets. Stage space in a theater is limited, a movie camera is not. Even though the stage was lacking a large performance area, it did not deter the creators from cutting any scenes. They kept the play almost identical to the film and even used the same dialogue as the original making the experience truly authentic. The only notable differences between these two stories were small details, who played what character and of course genre, mimicking exactly what Legally Blonde did in 2007.
Although the plot line was not altered in 39 Steps, the theatrical performance was able to greatly exaggerate small details of the original film for comedic purpose. For example, in the film Robert had a small map of Scotland he obtained from Miss Smith, while in the play he had a map bigger than his body making it extremely difficult to maneuver and read. By changing the size of a prop the theatrical version of this story was able to change genres. There were also little details like the wind "blowing" every time a door opened making all the actor's coats flap. Even though these details are minor, they played a key role in changing the genre from thriller to comedy with out compromising the story line. Another major aspect of this play that makes it a comedy is the fact four characters play 130 characters. Seeing two men change hats rapidly in order to attempt playing two characters is purely entertaining. These small aspects completely changed the story genre when it moved from film to stage.
When books turn into movies, a lot had to be modified in order to make it fit into an hour and a half production. When a film turns into a play it does not have to compromise nearly as much making it a much smoother transaction.