Every week, the CriticWire Survey asks a question to a handful of film and TV critics and publishes the results on Monday.
This week’s question: In honor of the Tony Awards, what Broadway production — musical or otherwise — would you most like to see adapted for the big screen?
Mallory Andrews (@mallory_andrews), Movie Mezzanine, cléo
I’d like to see an adaptation of the 2014 revival of “On The Town,” with the original score and book intact. The 1949 movie is cute, but marred by the decision to sub out the majority of the great Bernstein, Comden and Green numbers for more radio-friendly singles (eg, “I Can Cook Too” for Frank Sinatra’s awful “You’re Awful”). There’s a real sweetness and poignancy to the original version that’s been completely lost to the movie’s sillier take on a trio of Navy officers enjoying a 24-hour shore leave in “New York, New York.” And casting the revival’s star Tony Yazbeck is a must: time to introduce the world to the second coming of Gene Kelly.
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Rolling Stone
A big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s pitch-black political satire “Assassins” would kick ass(assins). A stroll through this glorious nation’s “legacy of butchery and treason” set to a jaunty Americana soundtrack that evolves as decades fly by, the musical collects successful and would-be killers of Commanders-in-Chief, starting with a vainglorious Confederate actor right on through to a nervous man overlooking Dealey Plaza with a sniper rifle. Sondheim’s sharpest observation concerns the dangerous ease with which unstable individuals outwardly project personal problems onto the country at large; a bitter child of divorce sees his bickering parents in the ’72 debates between Nixon and McGovern, an unloved nobody believes murder will earn him the admiration of celeb crush Jodie Foster, and a disgruntled anarchist hopes to undo a lifetime of capitalist indignities by lighting up McKinley. Perhaps the most ideologically and lyrically dense of Sondheim’s works and certainly his most pointedly topical, the show chronicles America’s dark history of disenfranchisement and alienation through the fringe lunatics left in the footnotes. Translating the show to the screen wouldn’t be easy – scenes nebulously bleed into one another, figures from different centuries commingle in a carnival purgatory – but tapping Neil Patrick Harris to reprise the Balladeer role he owned on Broadway would be a no-brainer. Hey, kid, wanna kill a President?
Richard Brody (@TNYFrontRow), The New Yorker
I don’t see many Broadway productions (although — or perhaps because — as a child, thanks to a family friend who was secretary to a big producer, I used to get great seats to every show they couldn’t sell tickets to, making me a precocious connoisseur of the instant flops) but one that I saw recently, under ideal circumstances, struck me instantly as a movie waiting to be made: “Shuffle Along”. It’s not just a meta-musical, it’s a docu-musical about the genesis, production, and aftermath of the 1921 musical by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. It invites — even seems made for — an opening-out of spectacular artifice into a period reconstruction blending digital-era naturalism with a second layer of history, the history of the reality of the artifice of the theatre; seems made for an opening of a recognizable theatrical space into an impossibly deep one that would then bend back into the practicality of its stage-bound identity, Busby-Berkeley-style; it even invites the folding-in of actual documentary and archival film. In short, I watched it with emotion and delight in what it was, as a play, as well as in what it could be, as a movie. And I confess: from a distance (he was sitting up front, I was in the back), I saw Spike Lee in the house that night, too, and I can imagine that–approaching it freely rather than merely recording the stage production — his movie of it could be wonderful.
Erik Davis (@ErikDavis), Fandango
“Hamilton,” because obviously, but mainly so that people can actually see the damn thing without having to cash in their retirement funds or wait four years for tickets.
Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC), Vulture
Pretty easy to narrow this down, since it sometimes feels like 80% of what’s on Broadway has been a movie already. But an exception is Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s brilliant musical “Fun Home,” which has already made one huge leap from graphic novel to stage and could, in the right hands, be as moving and intimate and challenging a family portrait on screen as it is on Broadway; part of its power is that it draws you close rather than bellows at you, which makes it feel potentially cinematic to me. (Runner-up because it was not on Broadway: “The Flick,” Annie Baker’s play, set in a movie theater, about movies and movie love and obsession and loneliness and standards and drudgery. Everyone who loves movies should see or read it.)
Tomris Laffly (@tomilaffly), Film Journal International, Film School Rejects
Written by Danai Gurira, “Eclipsed” is the most powerful and moving play I’ve seen on Broadway this year. I would love to see a big-screen adaptation of this brilliant original work, that tells the story of a group of resilient women — three of them, sex slaves of a commanding officer – surviving amid the Liberian civil war with solidarity, optimism and even humor. I have three reasons why a film adaptation of this should be a no brainer. First (the most obvious), it’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching story charged by a strong sense of sisterhood and offers the kind of emotional and visual scope fit for a cinematic adaptation. Second, the women’s rights issues at the heart of the story are urgently relevant to today’s world and demand the kind of universal attention cinema could attract. And last but not least, we continue to be starved for diverse, female-helmed projects telling women’s stories. Here’s a great one Hollywood can tap into.
Matt Patches (@misterpatches), Thrillist
With bigotry and blind outrage running amok across our digital culture, I’d love to see a studio take a chance on Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade”. The material’s heavy, dramatizing the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee, and the tension is palpable — 20th century Georgia: where antisemitism and racism collide! Brown melds traditional showtune melodies with the gospel traditions rooted in the story’s location for a score that burns bright. Knowing his ability to bottle the electricity of the South, I’d love to see Craig Brewer (“Black Snake Moan”, “Footloose”) tackle the material (and when I off-handedly mentioned it once on Twitter, he seemed to agree — Craig, baby, have your people call my people!). “Parade” answers our need for diversity in the movie musical space. So… get with it Hollywood. Back-up choice: Ben Wheatley tackling Sondheim’s “Assassins”.
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/ Comic Book Resources
“Hamilton.” Mainly because I’m one of the poor saps who can’t get a ticket no matter how many days she enters the lottery and waits and she waits and she waits…I know Lin Manuel-Miranda has said a movie adaptation wouldn’t happen for 20 years. Nonetheless, it’d be exhilarating to see the standard Founding Fathers biopic get shaken up in the way the hip hop musical has shaken up Broadway. Screw “conventional” casting. Forget the “authentic” production design. Break out the beatboxing. Round up the Schuyler Sisters, and give me a movie that makes history come alive. I’m willing to wait for it.
Tasha Robinson (@tasharobinson), The Verge
The top pick would absolutely be “Hamilton” itself, wouldn’t it? With ticket prices skyrocketing to insane degrees, the only way most of us are going to get to see it is if it makes it to our local multiplex. I’m sure we’d all rather pay $12 a ticket than $850. But “We want to pay less money to see this” isn’t much of an incentive for anyone involved in the show, so let’s suggest this instead: Done right, “Hamilton” could be a killer movie. Its story hits so many different locations, and even kinds of locations, that it would open up on the screen beautifully, much more than something like, say, “Avenue Q”. It’s got spectacle and energy which plays well on Broadway, but it also has those intimate, personal, close-up moments that would work especially well on a film screen. And with Lin-Manuel Miranda about to leave the Broadway show to work on other projects, this would be the best time to capture his iconic lead performance for the ages. Besides, with ticket-scalping around “Hamilton” reaching a ridiculous high, what better way to celebrate the show than to make sure everyone who wants to see it can, without giving their money to a bunch of unaffiliated middleman opportunists?
Christopher Rosen (@chrisjrosen) Entertainment Weekly
“Waitress.” It was a movie, now it’s a musical, so how about turning it into a movie musical? It feels like a natural progression for this story, which is simple as pie (groan) but sweet and timely in its message. Plus, the songs are bangers and it would be cool if Jesse Mueller (yes, she should come along too) became a movie star.
Alissa Wilkinson (@alissamarie), Christianity Today
“Sweeney Todd.” It’s been done, I know. But when I saw it on Broadway, I saw the spare, deeply disturbing revival. There was no chorus. The set consisted of a single wood plank platform in the middle of the stage, with a giant, looming set of shelves rising up from the back, where it towered over the cast. The entire cast was on stage, but only got onto the platform when they were in the scene. Otherwise, they sat on the side and played (or, presumably, pretended to play) their instrument with the orchestra. The staging also set the play inside the frenzied mind of a madman. I’d like to see all of that done by a horror director in a Dogma-like set; Tim Burton’s sensibility tipped him far too much to the side of comedy, but while “Sweeney Todd” is hilarious, it’s a tragedy, and one that’s meant to haunt your nightmares.