The Tony Awards, to be announced on June 10, are considered one of the Big Four of U.S. entertainment -- along with the Oscars, the Emmies and the Grammies -- even though they just salute the best theater in one district of one city. True, it's a terrific theater scene, but when the winners are announced on theater's night of nights -- sorry, American theater's night of -- sorry, New York thea- Broadway's night of nights, lovers of musical theater around the world will be tuning in with the same breathless comment: "I can't wait for the movie!"
For those who can't visit New York -- or buy theater tickets -- often enough, movies are the closest they'll come to seeing a Broadway show. Somehow, many of the greatest Broadway musicals haven't been turned into movies yet (though I still wait in hope for a Hollywood version of George White's Scandals of 1931). Other movies based on Broadway shows didn't do justice to the stage versions. Still, a lot of shows have been turned into movies -- and with good reason.
For a start, they have a long history of box-office hits. Secondly, as I said, not everyone can make it to Broadway. Thirdly, they are Oscar bait. Every musical to win the Oscar for best film since the sixties -- West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oliver! and (34 years later) Chicago -- was previously a Broadway show. West Side Story, Oliver! and Chicago hadn't even won Tony Awards for Best Musical, but at the Oscars, they upstaged everything else. Lesson: There's no beating a good musical.
Though Hollywood doesn't make musicals as much as they used to, they still look to Broadway for possible hits. So what will be the next hit movie musical? Perhaps Wicked or The Book of Mormon, both due to be released in 2014 (and both based on Broadway hits). Or even Rock of Ages, out in the next month, based on Broadway show that ended its run last year. But while we wait, let's see go through this year's Tony nominees...
This is the dark horse. As it was somehow nominated for Best Musical, while being ignored in every other category, it might not be Hollywood’s first choice. Besides, it was based on another movie – an obscure 1992 Steve Martin flick. While there have been a movie musicals based on Broadway musicals based on non-musical movies, they don’t always do so well. Sure, Hairspray the musical movie was OK, Nine had its admirers, but even The Producers lost some of its magic when it returned to the screen. Casting call: Most of the great Broadway stars never made it to Hollywood. Movie people want a box-office star, whatever that means. Hence, if this was ever filmed, Raul Esparza – as a charismatic faith healer – would probably be replaced by someone who could lure the multitudes. (Will Ferrell, maybe?)
The favorite… to win the Tony for Best Musical, at least. It has already been a movie musical, made in 1992, starring a young English guy called Christian Bale, along with Bill Pullman, Trey Parker and Robert Duvall… and it flopped. If a cast like that couldn’t make it succeed, who could? (Well… singers, perhaps?) Casting call: It makes perfect sense that the handsome and talented star, Jeremy Jordan, would do well in the movies. So... they’ll probably get someone else. Can Ryan Gosling sing?
Though it’s promoted as “new”, I’m sure that this has already been filmed – about 80 years ago. It’s not just the score of Gershwin classics, or the 1920s setting, but the fact that the one-liners and the characters could be straight out of a Preston Sturges farce. If someone could invent time travel, this could be a great one to pitch to Jack Warner in 1933… Casting call: Matthew Broderick stars in the Broadway version, so it would seem logical that he’d do the Hollywood version too… except that they tried that with The Producers, which didn't work so well. Now, the man we all remember as Ferris Bueller is a bona fide Broadway box-office star, but not a bona fide Hollywood box-office star. (Those who loved him in the 1980s have since saved up enough for Broadway tickets.) Still, Lindsay Lohan once told me that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was one of her favorite movies (yes, really), so don’t discount him. As for his leading lady, played wonderfully by Kelli O’Hara… I’d suggest her for the movie as well, but an even better idea would be to invent that time machine and use Ginger Rogers instead.
This is the surprise hit, the small musical with 11 nominations that everyone wants to see. But there’s no need to make a movie, because it’s already based on one – and apart from ensemble dance routines, the Broadway version doesn’t try to outdo the 2006 original. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová have already won an Oscar for best song (“Falling Slowly”), and Hansard gave one of the nicest acceptance speeches in Oscars history. He was so gracious that, when Oscars host Jon Stewart said “That guy is so arrogant,” everyone knew that he was joking. What could follow that? Casting call: Like the original movie, it’s a cutesy romance, starring a pair of unknowns as a pair of non-lovers, that somehow works more brilliantly than it should. A remake (with dancing!) should keep to the formula. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, the little-known Broadway leads, should sign up for the Hollywood version before some fool suggests Enrique Iglesias and Miley Cyrus. (Umm... Too late.)
It doesn’t have enough songs to be nominated for best musical (it’s in the Best Play category), but the music and songs are good enough to get a nomination for Best Original Score. Musical or non-musical, it’s a terrific adventure-comedy. Like Wicked, it's an origin story about a classic literary character - in this case, Peter Pan. But half the fun is in the inventive use of the stage. Though a film would provide plenty of opportunities for fantasy special effects, some things are just perfect for the theater. Casting call: Christian Borle, one of the stars of the TV series Smash, upstages everyone as the high-energy villain, complete with a Groucho Marx mustache. But if he’s busy, Jim Carrey could probably do it.
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