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When Hollywood Met Broadway: Screen Stars Hit the Stage as Stage-to-Screen Musicals (and Vice-Versa) Move Through the Pipeline

by Jacob Combs
February 28, 2013 12:35 PM
  • | The Broadhurst Theatre, home of the Tom Hanks vehicle "Lucky Guy."

Let's face it--sometimes Broadway and Hollywood don't mix.  Take movie musicals.  Don't get me wrong, nobody should love them more than me: I'm a movie nerd and a musical nerd, so a movie musical should be exactly what the doctor ordered.  But sometimes the whole ends up being a lot less than the sum of its parts.  Think pickles plus peanut butter: Just.  Don't.  Do it.  (Or think "Rock of Ages."  Exactly.)

But every now and again something like "Les Miserables" happens and we remember that movie musicals can be awesome.  Sure, they're bombastic and unrealistic.  Yes, it's weird that people start singing on the street and orchestral music seeps out of the very air.  But the combination of stage and screen talent can sometimes exhibit that strange alchemy that makes truly great art possible.  Not surprisingly, Broadway and Hollywood love working together--and perhaps nobody loves it more than the stars, who take advantage of this time of year to trek to New York and mount the stage, no doubt hoping for a Tony nom, to boot.

This spring, as usual, there will be plenty of Hollywood royalty to watch in the flesh in New York.  And we can only hope that some of the many stage-to-screen adaptations currently in the pipeline--and screen-to-stage ones too--turn out right.

Movie Stars to Watch on Broadway

Tom Hanks: The veteran film actor will take his first Broadway bow in "Lucky Guy," a play by the late comic genius Nora Ephron, in which he plays Pulitzer Prize-winning tabloid muckraker Mike McAlary.  Ephron originally sent Hanks the script as a screenplay back when she was considering making "Lucky Guy" a movie; the play version later had a New York reading with Hugh Jackman as McAlary.  Tony winner George C. Wolfe (of "Angels in America") is directing, although tickets haven't exactly been flying out the door.

Alec Baldwin: Baldwin was originally set to star opposite Shia LaBeouf in a new revival of Lyle Kessler's 1983 drama about two brothers (one of them LaBeouf) who kidnap a mobster (Baldwin).  After a somewhat murky kerfuffle involving tweets and emails between LaBeouf, Baldwin and the show's director (Daniel Sullivan) and producers, the young "Transformers" star bowed out of the production on February 20.  Ben Foster (of "The Messenger" and "3:10 to Yuma") will take his place, although opening night has been pushed back a few weeks later in April than originally planned.

Jane Lynch: From "Glee" to Broadway: get ready for Lynch to shed her tracksuit and don a caftan as Mrs. Hannigan, the evil orphanage directrix who terrorizes America's most-emblematic red-head in "Annie."  The well-known musical's revival will be Lynch's first time on Broadway; she'll step into actress Katie Finneran's shoes for eight weeks in July.

Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams: These three stars will be appearing in "The Trip to Bountiful," a Horton Foote play about an elderly woman who yearns to visit her hometown one last time.  "Bountiful" was born as a teleplay in 1953 and had a strong theatrical run on Broadway that same year; Geraldine Page won an Oscar for her turn in the same role as Tyson in a 1985 film adaptation of the play.  Tyson hasn't been on Broadway for 30 years, and the play will mark Gooding, Jr.'s stage debut.  Williams was nominated for a Tony in the 2002 revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods."

Jesse Eisenberg and Vanessa Redgrave: Eisenberg will star off-Broadway as the young novelist at the heart of "The Revisionist," which he penned himself, with Redgrave playing his 75-year-old second cousin Maria, a survivor of the Holocaust.  Redgrave, of course, is a titan of the stage and a Tony winner.  Eisenberg has acted on stage since he was a teenager.


  • rgm | February 28, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    As someone was bound to point out; It all depends upon choosing the right pickle. I refer you to NYT, Oct.22, 2013, Dining section. However, this is a fascinating look at the current, "reverse," trend of Hollywood hoping to "make it" on Broadway. Considering the former, older process , Broadway "adapting" for the movies, I agree, many works , especially new musicals, just don't make the transfer. But then, in the great 50s-60s era of the Hollywood movie musical, most Americans had never actually seen a live professional production of anything. We needed Hollywood. Now, nearly every medium size US city has hosted "Phantom." I must admit, that Broadway, now aping Hollywood, turning Disney into theater, and burning "Manderlay" onstage, really makes me wince. In my "dated" heart, it is just the wrong direction.

  • Brian | February 28, 2013 12:55 PMReply

    I prefer ORIGINAL movie musicals to Broadway adaptations. Y'know, like the Astaire and Rogers musicals, plus: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE BANDWAGON, MARY POPPINS, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, ROBIN AND THE SEVEN HOODS, and all those great 1940s musicals with Donald O'Connor and Peggy Ryan. Why can't we see an original hiphop movie musical? Or something from Hong Kong with Cantopop stars? (Why didn't the Twins ever star in a movie musical?) Or a K-pop movie musical from Korea with Psy, Girls' Generation, KARA and a million other acts? Or a Morning Musume musical from Japan? If I was a billionaire, I'd finance a few of these things.

  • Josh R | February 2, 2013 6:26 PMReply

    I'm glad the movie musical has experienced a recent resurgence, although as Edward points out, the majority of stage-to-film adaptations have been disappointing. In addition to those he mentioned, I would say that neither Dreamgirls nor Phantom managed the transition all that smoothly.

  • Edward Copeland | February 2, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    I'm a huge stage musical fan and a movie musical fan. Unfortunately, it has been a long time since Hollywood has managed to adapt a Broadway musical without screwing it up either slightly or monumentally (sorry fans -- I include Les Miz in that group). Book of Mormon might come off if Parker and Stone handle it since the South Park movie probably was the most recent example of a good movie musical. Chicago came closest, but they still miscast Richard Gere. Hairspray could have been spectacular if not for the grotesque distraction of John Travolta. Tim Burton brought some great ideas to Sweeney Todd and almost pulled it off except he tied an albatross around its neck by casting his wife as Mrs. Lovett. Mamma Mia! made me long to listen to real ABBA. That's how bad that was one. The Producers even had almost the entire Broadway cast and crew and somehow failed to bring that off. They should have known before they ever got the greenlight that Nine was a bad idea for a movie. I worship Sondheim and Into the Woods, but somehow making it real on film sounds like a bad idea. An animated or motion capture film I might be able to see working. You're fortunate that you don't know about the Jekyll & Hyde musical -- because that will be making a movie out of a terrible musical from composer Frank Wildhorn, a man I suspect Andrew Lloyd Webber created in a lab to increase his own prestige.

  • Sam O. | January 28, 2013 10:41 PMReply

    Two exciting notes:

    1.) The German musical production of Disney's " The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is slated to come to America after its successful European run (though to appeal to those more 'cultured' audiences, Esmeralda meets a fate more similar to the novel than the animated movie).

    2.) The animated musical "Anastasia" is currently holding workshops where the likes of Angela Lansbury and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras from the 2012 Les Miz movie) play the Dowager Empress and Dmitri, respectively.

  • Rory | January 28, 2013 6:37 PMReply

    How can you say that Jekyll & Hyde is not that good!? What version did you see, the one with David Hasselhoff? Because the Original Broadway Cast recording with Robert Cuccioli and Linda Eder is beautiful, and the National Tour that I saw twice was awesome!

  • Zane | January 28, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    I agree with you 100%!!! I have though for years that Hercules would make an incredible broadway show. It has fantastic music!

  • Jamie | January 28, 2013 4:35 PMReply

    Of the musicals you listed I only see Book of Mormon, Wicked and Into The Woods as the only ones likely to be major box office simply because thye are so potentially visual as well as musical plus already having well established following. Book of Mormon has the "South Park" built in audience. Into the Woods could be problematical because of the length ... lots of judicious snipping to be done. Wicked coming on the heels of Oz The Great and Powerful might be overkill. I really would tend to go with the movie within a movie of City of Angels or the Brigadoon remake. The first because Hollywood loves Hollywood and the film noir content from the mystery novel has great cinematic possibilities. Brigadoon because most people know the Gene Kelly original but don't know that half of the songs are missing from the Minnelli film. Then there is always another Guys and Dolls to be done, this time with stars as Skye and Sarah who can actually sing.

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