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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

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood February 28, 2013 at 12:35PM

Let's face it, movie musicals are usually bad. 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 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.
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Stage to Screen

The Book of Mormon: It will shock exactly zero people that this irreverent Broadway smash will be ringing multiplexes' doorbells following its nine Tony wins and record-breaking ticket sales.  "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who co-wrote the show with Robert Lopez (of "Avenue Q" fame), first mentioned a desire to make "Mormon" a movie a few months after the show opened in New York.  Just this month, Parker and Stone formed a new production company called Important Studios, and the New York Times says that "Mormon" is likely at the top of the new company's wish list.  Parker's dream casting for the lead role of Elder Price?  Justin Bieber.

Jekyll and Hyde: Yes, there's a stage musical of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 horror novella.  No, you shouldn't be embarrassed you haven't seen it.  (It's not that good.)  But Phoenix Pictures CEO Mike Medavoy and ex-agent Rick Nicita think it could be the next "Les Miz."  The trick: it's had huge appeal overseas with more than 600 productions and the show's soundtrack has been recorded in 28 languages.  In fact, it's the longest-running American show in South Korean history.  International box office was a big boon for "Les Miz," so "Jekyll" could find a way to success with a similar formula.

In The Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Tony winner about life in the Dominican-American New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights was a surprise hit when it debuted on Broadway and had been out for less than a year when Universal announced it was going to release a filmed version in 2011 helmed by "High School Musical" director Kenny Ortega.  Universal dropped the project in March 2011, although Miranda told the New York Times in an early 2012 interview that talks for the movie had begun again.

Jersey Boys: This 2005 jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is a crowd favorite and has toured all over the world, making stops in Australia and Singapore just last year.  Graham King's GK Films acquired the rights to a film version in 2010 in a major seven-figure deal, with Rick Elice and "Annie Hall" screenwriter Marshall Brickman on board to write as well as Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli as executive producers.  "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau was attached to the project last summer with a planned release for Christmas 2013, but the movie was placed in turnaround last October after Warner Bros. signed an exclusive first-look deal with GK Films.

Wicked: This dark retelling of the Oz story scored by Oscar-winning composer Stephen Schwartz has been running strong on Broadway for almost ten years, breaking ticket office records and raking in money.  Talks of a film version started as early as 2004, and Stephen Daldry, who enjoyed success at the helm of both the film and stage versions of "Billy Elliott," is attached to direct.  Universal's got the rights, and producer Marc Platt told Entertainment Weekly last month that "conversations are now starting" about moving the project forward.  "Glee" star Lea Michele's got her eyes on the lead role of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch herself), but this year's "Oz the Great and Powerful" might convince Universal to drag its feet a little bit longer.

This article is related to: Musical, In The Works, IN THE WORKS, Harvey Weinstein, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Redgrave, Jesse Eisenberg


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.