Friday, March 25, 2011

Musical Mayhem

Wow. Talk about wildly disparate topics. Yesterday I'm extolling the virtues of a gross-out Horror short and tonight I'm talking about movie musicals. Does anyone else think I might be just a little bit insane? Good. Glad it's not just me.

So, let's talk about movie musicals, shall we? The last big movie musical hit was Chicago, Rob Marshall's 2002 adaptation of the Kander and Ebb musical about celebrity murderesses. It was the first musical in a very long time to win "Best Picture," and (along with and thanks to Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge) paved the way for the return of the movie musical. Of course, Joel Schumaker's rather boring version of The Phantom of the Opera did little to help the cause...

Now comes word that not one, but two major Broadway musicals may well be making their way to the big screen.

First up, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy is at the top of the short list of directors being considered for a 3D (damnit!) adaptation of the Stephen Schwartz musical Wicked, based on Gregory Maguire's novel, a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz." Wicked is still one of the hottest tickets on Broadway and features some of Schwartz's best lyrics, ever. The original Broadway cast featured Idina Menzel as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and Kristin Chenowith (my much beloved and sorely missed "Pushing Daisies") as Glinda. The latest news has Murphy casting "Glee" star Leah Michelle as Elphaba (very fitting, considering that Menzel played Michelle's birth mother on "Glee" last season). And while the show takes many liberties with Maguire's novel, eschewing much of its political satire for Steampunk aesthetics, I think Murphy is the perfect choice to direct an adaptation of the most successful Broadway musical of the last 10 years.

And now that he's won an Academy Award, director Tom Hooper is being considered to direct the film adaptation of the biggest musical of the late 80's, Les Miserables. I must admit to a certain bias for Les Miz, as it is not just the only musical that can make Uncle P cry every fifteen minutes or so, but my high school theatre director was chosen to help create the amateur version of the show, which premiered at my HS Alma Mater. Of course, casting rumors abound. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean? Leah Michelle (again) as Eponine? Michelle Pfeiffer as Fantine? Jonathan Price as Thenardier? All excellent choices, if you ask me. While mega-producer Cameron Makintosh may be touting the film version as a go, I still have my doubts.

Still, it is my fervent hope that film adaptations of Broadway Musicals will continue to be a trend in the future, if only so that the shows from which they have been adapted can reach audiences which might otherwise not have a chance to experience this uniquely American form of entertainment.

More, anon.

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