From the director of “Once” and “Begin Again” comes an unconventional musical movie set in Dublin, 1985. A boy navigating the perils of Catholic school finds solace in music, and the original songs (co-written by Carney) do what all songs in musicals should, but often fail, to do: Move the story forward while communicating something about the character. Though “Sing Street” did not garner as many awards as “Once,” it is a welcome addition to the contemporary movie musical canon, which Carney has done much to revitalize.
Hello, period costumes! Directed by none other than Gene Kelly, this lush broadway adaptation stars a young Barbra Streisand as eccentric matchmaker Dolly Levi, and Walter Mathau as the curmudgeonly “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” she sets her sights on. The film won three Oscars, including one for Best Production Design, and was nominated for Best Picture. With Tommy Tune, Louis Armstrong, and a lollipop-filled score from the great Jerry Herman, don’t let the parade pass you by on this one. (Especially considering the odds of scoring tickets to the revival with Bette Midler.)
The classic rock musical has introduced countless generations to the joys of musical theater over the years, and it still holds up today. Mediocre sequels, reality show revivals, and last year’s popstar-studded live television edition all pale in comparison to the bold, bright, and beautiful original. There are worse things you could do than watch it again.
Though its title earned it a place in the ranks of holiday classics, the christmas element is only part of this tale of two sisters who dream of showbiz fame. In the hands of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, this sweeping feel-good classic will have you yearning for the days when Hollywood churned out such delights as quickly as popcorn. There were never such devoted viewers.
Turns out Tim Burton, in all his campy gory glory, was the perfect fit to bring Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller to the big screen. As is his wont, Sondheim’s operetta turned the traditional musical on its head in both content and form. While Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter lacked the vocal finesse to bring the master songwriter’s intricate music fully to life, it’s hard to fault the beloved pair when they’re so much fun to watch. Thanks to Netflix, you can attend the tale from the comfort of your living room.
Tuck in for a Tim Burton double header with this stop motion musical thriller, featuring a dreamy (or nightmarish) score by Danny Elfman. The film changed the game for kids’ movies, adding a shot of dark humor to the otherwise saccharine 90’s Disney heyday. Director Henry Selick went on to make Coraline, which received a successful Broadway adaptation. Unfortunately, there are no such plans for “Nightmare.”
Directed by Sidney Lumet and chock full of some of the greatest entertainers to ever live (Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne all feature), “The Wiz” gave “The Wizard of Oz” the Motown makeover it always wanted. Bringing the Motor City to the Emerald City, Motown co-produced with Universal Pictures, with a score from songwriters such as Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, and Ashford & Simpson. While “The Wiz” didn’t quite live up to the hype (how could it?), it eased on down the road and into the hearts of musical theater fans.
Another critical disappointment that nevertheless found its share of rabid fans, “Camp” has since earned the distinction as being the first film featuring a young Anna Kendrick. One can try to resist its charms, but why? Though uneven, “Camp” is a touching comedy about a group of aspiring teens attending theater camp (modeled after the well regarded Stage Door Manor). Revisiting it now, the movie weds early aughts nostalgia with summer camp nostalgia to make a charming, if slightly embarrassing, time capsule. Plus, there’s a Stephen Sondheim cameo.
This lesser known musical movie is a drama about the rise and fall of a fictional R&B group, inspired loosely by the lives of James Brown, The Temptations, Sam Cooke, The Four Tops, and more. The original soundtrack was composed by Stanley Clarke, a jazz musician who cut his teeth playing bass with Chick Corea. Though the film grossed over $8 million, critical response was tepid. Never one to poo poo commercial fare, Roger Ebert was a fan, writing at the time that director Robert Townsend “shows a real talent, and, not surprisingly, an ability to avoid most cliches, to go for the human truth in his characters.”
The legendary Marilyn Monroe shows off her singing chops in this musical classic dripping in diamonds and sex appeal. Jane Russell and Tommy Noonan, while excellent, were eclipsed by Monroe in the long run. You won’t regret revisiting this one, even if just to count the myriad ways pop icons have emulated Monroe’s glitzy Lorelei Lee over the years.