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.
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.
Into the Woods: Ah yes, the holy grail of film musicals. Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s complex, deconstructionist fairytale (Cinderella meets Rapunzel meets Little Red Riding Hood meets Jack and the Beanstalk meets real-life issues) has been a classic of the stage since it premiered in 1986. It’s funny, it’s disturbing and it’s utterly unconventional, which makes it a perfect project for…Disney? Yes, the big mouse announced in early 2012 that it was moving forward on the project with director Rob Marshall, who brought 2002’s Oscar-winning “Chicago” from the stage to the screen. An October 2012 reading of a screenplay written by Tony-winner James Lapine (who wrote the script for and directed the 1986 Broadway production) featured some big stage names–Nina Arianda, Megan Hilty–and some big screen ones as well–Allison Janney, Anna Kendrick. The best news of all? While Donna Murphy played the role of the Witch at the reading, word on the street is that the role in the film could very well go to none other than the great Meryl Streep.
Screen to Stage
American Psycho: Yeah, we didn’t believe it either when we heard in 2010 that “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik and “Big Love” writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa were making a musical (as in, with songs) of the Christian Bale-starring slasher film based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. Then, last April, London’s Headlong Theater Company announced it would be producing the show as part of its 2012-13 season. Just last week, Sheik told Gothamist the music for the show is “all electronic.” Here’s a sample of a few of the show’s song names: “You Are What You Wear,” “I Am Clean,” “This Is Not an Exit.”
Aladdin: I will go to my grave beating the drum that the absolute most obvious Disney movie that should be made into a stage musical is “Hercules.” Period. Apparently, Disney Theatrical doesn’t agree with me, choosing instead to bring us shows as different as “The Lion King” (amazing), “Mary Poppins” (fun, but not great) and “Newsies” (in my humble opinion, bad, but the stage show was a bigger hit than the movie). Next? A stage version of “Aladdin,” which was performed last year at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in Ivins, Utah. The fully staged production will have its world premiere at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish theater this November before heading to Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre in spring 2014. The reason you should be excited: the show apparently includes several songs written by composer Alan Menken and genius lyricist Howard Ashman that were cut from the film. Ashman died from AIDS-related complications before the movie’s release in 1992.
Sleepless in Seattle: Nora Ephron’s shining masterpiece of what a rom-com can and should be is making its way to the stage this May with a production at the Pasadena Playhouse, whose artistic director, Sheldon Epps, will take over directorial duties from actor and director Lonny Price. The show, with music by Ben Toth and lyrics by Sam Forman, is also being written by Jeff Arch, who wrote the original story for the film and collaborated on the screenplay with Ephron and David S. Ward. Epps told the Los Angeles Times that the musical, which has its sights set on the Great White Way, is “very, very faithful to the film script.”
The Nutty Professor: The Musical: Be of strong heart, friends, this musical is an adaptation of the 1963 film starring and directed (and produced and co-written) by Jerry Lewis, not the 1996 Eddie Murphy vehicle. Actually, we’re not sure whether that’s any cause for comfort, but this stage version premiered in Nashville last summer, directed by (you guessed it!) Jerry Lewis with music by Oscar/Emmy/Tony/Pulitzer winner Marvin Hamlisch and book and lyrics by Tony winner Rupert Holmes. Following the composer’s unexpected death later that summer, the show’s Broadway prospects are currently uncertain: apparently, the Hamlisch score is complete but it remains unclear how the almost-certain tweaks that Broadway would require could accomplished.
Bridges of Madison County: This 1995 Clint Eastwood film has been adapted for the stage by Tony-winning composer Jason Robert Brown (“Parade”) and Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman and theater Director Bartlett Sher, who won a Tony for the Lincoln Center revival of “South Pacific,” helmed a workshop to develop the show in December 2011. A reading of the show also took place in New York this month. According to the New York Times, a production “Bridges,” directed by Sher, will take place at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts this August.
Finding Neverland: The Musical: Marc Forster’s 2004 semi-biography of “Peter Pan”-scribe J.M. Barrie was a touching, gentle period piece with a magnificent score by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Last year, an $11 million production (complete with flying sequences) premiered at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, UK, marking yet another theater excursion by infamous movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The musical version, written by Allan Knee (who wrote the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” that inspired Forster’s film) and “Grey Gardens” composer/lyricist team Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, didn’t exactly flourish–the Daily Telegraph said that is “rarely soars above the realm of so-so.” Weinstein and the team plan to revamp the show, hoping for a chance at London or Broadway.
Kinky Boots: This 2005 British comedy starred Chiwetel Ejiofor in a Golden Globe-nominated turn as Lola, a drag queen who helps Charlie Price (played by Joel Edgerton) save his family’s failing shoe business by making boots that can support of weight of men who perform as women. A musical version with music and lyrics by 80s pop-star Cyndi Lauper and a script by Harvey Fierstein opened in Chicago last year. A Broadway production will open this April, with previews beginning March 5.