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Wintry Hit Musicals and Anna Kendrick To The Rescue!

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...

Chris Pine (Prince) and Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) filming Into the Woods

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.

Anna Kendrick headlines "The Last Five Years"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. 


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Reader Comments (19)

I'm really excited that both INTO THE WOODS and THE LAST 5 YEARS are getting film adaptations, but I've long accepted the fact that like Nutella, or fingerless gloves, Anna Kendick is just one of those much loved things that I'm unable to really appreciate. I really wish she wasn't cast in either (although, 7 years ago she'd have been a perfect Little Red Riding Hood). But, I sincerely hope both films are successful even if I've never warmed to Anna as an actress, especially in PITCH PERFECT.

(In other news, though, of all the 21st century Tony Award winners for best musical to adapt to film - I wonder how many people were waiting with bated breaths for a JERSEY BOYS movie? I hope it's good, but I can't remember the last time I was so unexcited for a stage to screen musical movie. Where's my THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE adaptation with Anne as Millie and Hugh as Mr Graydon?)

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Andrew, I hate to tell you this since you share my love of Katharine Hepburn, but if you can't enjoy Nutella or Anna Kendrick, you have no joy in your life. (Side note: Fingerless gloves? Are those a thing now?)

I'm really looking forward to INTO THE WOODS (though I have reservations about Little Red Riding Hood) and THE LAST FIVE YEARS (mostly because I have absolutely no idea how they'll adapt it). JERSEY BOYS is a giant meh. But yay for a musical year!

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

don't care much for anna kendrick either. when is "the last five years" getting released? there are online reactions to screenings already.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Don't forget that Kendrick was also nominated for a Tony Award at age 12!!!

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

I love Anna Kendick! I truly fell in love with here during that hilariously heartbroken bad karaoke scene from Up in the Air where she sang Time After Time. I think she's gonna be a perfect snarky Cinderella. Can't wait to see Into the Woods. She's gonna knock it out of the park!!

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonn

Oh, you threw that gauntlet down. 2nd best off-broadway musical of last 20 years, huh? Do you know Floyd Collins? As lovely as some of the songs are, Last 5 leaves an unpleasant afertaste that I can't always shake. No idea how that will work on film.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I totally agree with your about Anna Kendrick, I think she will do another musical (beside Pitch perfect 2) in future soon. May be remake of "My fair lady"?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVillage_voice

The major questions for Musicals 2014 are:

1) How will Clint Eastwood transform Jersey Boys into a brown, joyless dirge? Because Eastwood don't do colorful and peppy, yo.

2) By the time they're done autotuning the cast of Annie, will there be any human voice left or will it all be robot?

3) How badly will Rob Marshall screw up Into the Woods? Completely or just mostly?

4) Should I feel bad for never having heard of The Last Five Years?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I haven't seen much of her work apart from Up in the Air, in which she had her moments but the performance was a little hollow, and Pitch Perfect, where I didn't enjoy her approach to that character at all, so I can't say much about her professionally besides the sense that I get that she's game for anything and that she has a lovely voice. I will say that I love Anna Kendrick as a social media personality, because she has that shit down. Her Twitter is a gem.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFlickah

One good thing that the much watched TV Sound of Music did was make Audra McDonald known to a wide audience. Now that the general public also loves her, can we have her cast in some of these movie musicals, please?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I love Kendrick and think she will rule 2014 in musicals and when Wicked comes along Kendrick is my choice for the Elephaba role in the wicked movie.The musical I'm looking forward to is The Last 5 Years because it is the smallest and the others are in big studios which seem to fail I'd watch out for TL5Y especially Kendrick playing Kathy which is such a great theatre role.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I'm still unsure about what kind of structure Eastwood's Jersey Boys turns out to be. Is it basically on stage with Frankie breaking the fourth-wall or a straight-forward narrative? This can either be the best of the bunch or now not so typical Eastwood misfire (Oh is post-aughts work, I've only liked Blood Work, Space Cowboys, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino). John Logan scripting is somewhat giving me hope but I'm a little afraid of how green to the film screen the cast is because performing for the camera and not the rafters seems to be hardest transition for musicals these days.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am SHOCKED and DELIGHTED that Anna Kendrick, of all people, is turning out to be the face of Hollywood musicals. I honestly thought it would have been Hathaway, Jackman, Kristen Chenoweth, Amanda Seyfried, or Sutton Foster - with the outside chance of Idina Menzel, Audra McDonald, or Neil Patrick Harris (or, God help us, Beyoncé). Whod'a thunk?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I saw Jersey Boys in NYC and SAann Francisco ... absolutely loved it...

I am still in shock that Clint willl direct this .. I hope it will be in name only....

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Tom M - you're right about Floyd Collins. At least half right - that score is glorious, but I'd argue Hedwig has the better book.

But right now, Natasha, PIerre and the Great Comet of 1812 is dominating my life. Amazing score.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I stand with @Andrew K, and I'll take it further--that Anna Kendrick is emerging as the face of musicals is a fundamental sign that modern Hollywood doesn't understand what makes musicals work. She constantly positions herself as an actress above and outside her films, happily pointing to all of the places where it's not real. She's skittish around her own emotions. She has two feet FIRMLY planted in reality at all times. She's staunchly contemporary. It's not just that these are flaws, it's that these are flaws that all directly work against what a musical needs to survive.

Call me when Hollywood gives Amanda Seyfried or Amy Adams a musical. Then we can talk.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Yay for Anna Kendrick! Can't wait for both musicals she's in next year. Now all we need is for her to be on the big screen doing Wicked as Glinda.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVinicius


Mamma Mia! and Enchanted don't count?

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Sorry, if you're talking best off-Broadway musicals of the past 20 years, you have to mention "Altar Boyz" and the sublime gay-parallel-universe romance "Zanna, Don't!" The latter could be done on a low budget, but unfortunately there's not a part for Anna Kendrick, though several alums from "Glee" would do well by it.

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDback

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