Broadway to big screen seems to be a trend in show business. In the last ten years, we have seen Hollywood adaptations of “Sweeney Todd” starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, “Les Miserábles” starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, “Into the Woods” starring Meryl Streep and “The Last Five Years” starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.
These adaptations have introduced many people to musical theater and also satisfied skeptical die-hard fans of the genre. But there are many other musicals worthy of the cinematic touch. Here are three of my top choices.
After the success of “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods,” it’s clear that Stephen Sondheim’s shows do well on the screen and there are many other Sondheim shows that deserve that treatment. “A Little Night Music” was made into a movie in 1977 with Elizabeth Taylor, but could use a remake.
Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” however, stands out as a particularly good choice. About Georges Seurat, the famous pointillist painter, this is about getting so lost in one’s work that ruined relationships and isolation follows. It is heartbreaking and poignant, but in true Sondheim fashion, still hilarious.
A musical full of art, nature, color and light like “Sunday” is ideal for beautiful cinematography. There’s also an opportunity for the two main actors to play two different characters as the second act travels forward in time to show the parallels between George and Dot, his long-suffering love interest, and their daughter Marie and great-grandson, also called George and also a struggling artist.
It would be difficult to top the brilliance of Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, the stars of the original Broadway production, but if cast right and not too Hollywood-ized, “Sunday in the Park with George” could be a visually and musically vibrant cinematic masterpiece.
Fans of “South Park” know that anything its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone come up with will be witty, candid and rip-roaringly funny. Their Tony-winning 2011 musical with Robert Lopez, “The Book of Mormon,” is all of those things and more.
About two mismatched missionaries who go to Uganda and are met with some surprises and changes of heart, the musical has been one of the biggest hits of the decade. The music is catchy and the story is perfect buddy-comedy material.
Andrew Rannells from “Girls” and Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf in “Frozen,” played the leads in the original Broadway cast and would be ideal for the movie. It could also be the first really successful movie-musical comedy in many years.
If you love hip-hop and rap, chances are you haven’t found many musicals in those styles. But “In the Heights” could be just the ticket. Another Tony winner, Grammy-winner and Pulitzer Prize Drama nominee, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 musical about the lives of several Latino men and women in Washington Heights NYC, is raw, touching and full of fire and heart.
The main character and narrator Usnavi raps all his lines. Everyone else sings, but their music is just as current; mixing hip-hop and Latin rhythms to produce a unique and powerful sound.
It’s relevant, current and a brilliant look at poverty, starting over and how we all muddle through. Different people can relate to each character’s story for different reasons and it is an obvious choice for a movie adaptation.
Hollywood, are you listening?