Sunday, March 22, 2009
The Producers may have seemed like just the latest in a long line of films trying to capitalize on the renewed viability of the movie musical. But it was actually a unique cinematic creation: As far as I'm aware, it was the first story to start out as a film, become adapted as a Broadway musical, and then become re-adapted as a film again. (Others may qualify, but they don't jump to mind -- feel free to set me straight in the comments section). As of last weekend, I've now seen all three incarnations.
Mel Brooks directed the original Producers in 1968, and it was considered by some to be the funniest film ever made. (I disagree, and in fact I prefer Blazing Saddles among Brooks' own work, but everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion). Then in 2001 Brooks had the masterstroke of bringing it to Broadway, and with a bunch of catchy new songs, it became one of Broadway's most popular modern phenomena. When I saw it at LA's Pantages Theater in 2003, it featured Jason Alexander as Max Bialystock and Martin Short as Leo Bloom, and I quite enjoyed it. But when Brooks tapped Susan Stroman to direct a 2005 film adaptation, they got original Broadway cast members Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick back together to reprise their roles. I found this version just a little flat, but certainly enjoyable enough. Uma Thuman is the real standout as Ulla.
A couple years later, Hairspray followed in The Producers' footsteps. John Waters' 1988 film became a popular Broadway musical in 2002, and a film again in 2007, directed by Adam Shankman and featuring John Travolta in drag. In this case I've only seen the first of the three.
So it got me wondering what other properties we might one day see join this fraternity, properties that become different enough with the inclusion of songs that they'd warrant another run at the big screen. Since Broadway has fallen on hard times with the economy, none of these may ever transpire. But this post is more about supposing than actually predicting. If any of these films is already in production, I know nothing about it.
1) Footloose. Herbert Ross' 1984 audience favorite ran on Broadway as a musical between 1998 and 2000. Since it's been nine years and there's no sign of a movie, this probably won't happen, but can't you just see it being remade as a vehicle for Zac Efron?
2) The Full Monty. Peter Cattaneo's 1997 Oscar nominee ran on Broadway from late 2000 for 770 performances. The end of its run is a little fresher in people's minds, but we still probably won't see this movie materialize. If it did, I could see Hugh Jackman starring, especially if the object was to drive the female fans (and, more to the point, the gay male fans) crazy.
3) Legally Blonde. Robert Luketic directed the 2001 film, and it made it to Broadway in the fall of 2007, running for only a year-and-a-half, but then launching a national tour. If Kristen Chenowith is too old to play Elle Woods, maybe someone like Amanda Seyfried could step in, after starring in the film version of Mamma Mia!
Okay, now on to the movies that haven't made it to the stage yet ...
1) Slumdog Millionaire. Last year's best picture winner has got "Broadway musical" written all over it. They'd probably have to write some songs with English lyrics, but some of A.R. Rahmen's score could stay. They could wheel the Millionaire set in and out, and the set designers would have a super fun time creating an Oliver! version of the Mumbai slums. When it inevably becomes a movie again, maybe Kal Penn could star. Okay, he was the only prominent and relatively young Indian actor I could think of.
2) The Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates have a great tradition in Gilbert & Sullivan, but haven't been seen on the Broadway stage lately. Isn't it about time? You could have ships coming at each other from opposite sides of the stage, kind of like the pirate show outside the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, and there'd be plenty of opportunity to sing about the cruelties of fate. Maybe Lion King creator Julie Taymor could supervise the creation of the skeletonized soldiers. Johnny Depp can sing alright, but he's probably got better things to do, so Neil Patrick Harris takes the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the new film version. I don't know, why not?
3) The House Bunny. Okay, I'm only suggesting this because it has that Legally Blonde feel to it, though it's a lot better than Legally Blonde. But the Playboy mansion aspect of it gives it some of the cheekiness that Broadway audiences love. Besides, you might get a line a mile long of actors wanting to play Hugh Hefner. As for the ousted Playboy bunny herself ... well, I guess whoever doesn't get cast as Elle Woods can take up the role.
That's all I got ... please return to your regularly scheduled Saturday.