This time last year the instant if much-hated hit Les Misérables (2012) was topping Billboard's Top 100 Albums chart, powered largely by Anne Hathaway's belting through hacking fits from freezing pneumonia (or whatever she died of - she certainly wasn't dressed for the snow!). Fast forward one exact year: the instant and much-loved hit Frozen is topping Billboard's Top 100 Albums chart and at the same time it's crossing an incredible $300 million at the box office. That's quite a feat. No Disney toon has topped Billboard since Pocahontas 18 years ago and no Disney toon (sans Pixar) has crossed that box office threshold since The Lion King (1994)... though if you adjust for inflation it's closer to a Beauty & The Beast (1991) level of audience rapture. But still... that's quite a lot of rapturizing!
Fast forward to Christmas/Early January next year. Will it be Annie or Into the Woods moving the most discs/downloads? Both of them are opening for Christmas but -- happy news -- they're not the only movie musicals hitting us in 2014...
We'll also get Clint Eastwood's take on Broadway's jukebox musical Jersey Boys (a biography of the Four Seasons) and the film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years. That's the lowest profile of the four but the one that could prove the best. The source material is pure genius, the second best Off Broadway musical of the past 20 years (Hedwig and the Angry Inch being the champ). All four of these pictures have enough possible demerits in either casting or the director's chair to bring my excited squealing down to entirely manageable volumes. Still, I'm aiming for maximum optimism in 2014, so I'll hope for the best while I hum cautiously.
Suffice it to say that I'm so relieved that the musical, my favorite genre, is back. People try to pretend it's still touch and go, but no. They're back. We've been getting musicals fairly regularly ever since that glorious 1-2-3-4 punch that revived them from 2000-2002: Dancer in the Dark (2000) & Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) got critics and discerning audiences excited about the genre again; Moulin Rouge! and Chicago grabbed the torch and ran straight to mainstream money and Oscar gold. Of course they'll only stay vital if we start getting interested from quality directors but that's a worry for another time.
But here's why I know the musical is back: Anna Kendrick.
I've long said that we'd know the genre was no longer a novelty nostalgic kick when we finally got a star who was most well known within the genre i.e. someone who made them regularly and was a movie actor first, rather than an already famous singer who happened to dabbled in acting. And she's finally here!
I thought it would be Anne Hathaway or Hugh Jackman but neither have been prolific with their pipes. So, surprise: Anna Kendrick! To recap: she debuted in the musical Camp (2003, which Glee later ripped off to vast sums of fame and fortune), won an Oscar nom for the non-musical Up in the Air (2009), and had her first solo hit with the acapella musical Pitch Perfect (2012). For her victory lap she's doubling down: Two musicals in the same calendar year! That'd be The Last Five Years & Into the Woods. Supposedly she'll follow those with Pitch Perfect 2 (2015). That'd be five musicals in 12 years, from debut on through above-the-title stardom. For this she earns my eternal gratitude and any request she'd like to make of me, I shall fulfill. I'm waiting for your call Anna Kendrick, Anna Kendrick.