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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
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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.


  • 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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