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Let's Stop Pretending We Don't Have The Talent Base For Great Movie Musicals

Over at IndieWire Max O'Connell writes an impassioned essay about the terrible direction that keeps sinking movie musicals. While I do not agree that Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys is the best-directed musical of the past 10 years (yikes!) the case is stronger than I was expecting that that is at least debatable.

Why does Hollywood have such a hard time making musicals?

Many of the essay's points are memorize / share worthy. I merely wish that Max didn't succumb to the tired notion that there simply aren't enough charismatic stars with musical theater chops for the genre to really be alive again. This notion is brought up nearly every time people talk about the state of the film musical (or when they're casting and have to defend strange choices) but it's just patently false. 

Here's that bit of the otherwise stellar article:

Maybe there aren't enough modern equivalents to Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers or Judy Garland has made it difficult to churn out great musicals on a regular basis.

That last bit might have a lot to do with it: Few movie stars have the song-and-dance skills required to knock a musical out of the park, and not all musical theater performers have the charisma required for the camera. That leaves a lot of directors to choose between Russell Crowe and Pierce Brosnan warbling their way through well-known songs or John Lloyd Young, the original star of "Jersey Boys," who reprised his role in Eastwood's film, showing up and singing beautifully -- but lacking the fire to keep Frankie Valli interesting when he's not singing. There is a third option of pulling a Marni Nixon and dubbing Michael Cerveris singing over Johnny Depp or Patti LuPone over Helena Bonham Carter, but then you've got a star's ego to deal with.


Repeat after me: There is ALWAYS a better choice than Crowe vs. Brosnan vs. Someone People Have Never Heard Of Who Isn't Great on Camera. [More...]

Hollywood just has to try harder and be braver.  There are PLENTY of stars that have vocal and/or dancing chops. They're just rarely asked to use them. My go to example is this: Rob Marshall originally wanted Toni Collette (a true triple threat) for Chicago but the studio wanted Renée Zellweger who can't sing or dance. A slighly happier example: Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are both huge stars and musically gifted and they were both Oscar nominated for Les Miz. Weirdly it's the only movie musical Jackman has ever starred in though practically everyone in the world knows he's a song & dance man.

I'm about to list people who have sung and/or danced in other medium but their musical talents are (mostly) not being used for film musicals. And, most importantly, please know that this list is off the top of my head so it's surely only scratching the surface. I didn't even do research other than to double check my memory on some of the people who started as dancers. Surely casting directors and on up the food chain of Hollywood could do better than they've been doing in casting musicals.

Stars With The Full Song & Dance Package: Catherine Zeta Jones, Patrick Wilson, Neil Patrick Harris, Toni Collette, Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, John Travolta, Zac Efron, and Taye Diggs. (Please note how many of them have only made 1 movie musical, if that)

Anika Noni Rose doing "I Can Do Better Than That" which we'll hear
Anna Kendrick sing soon in the movie version of The Last Five Years

Stars Who Can Sing (Not Sure About Dancing): Anna Kendrick, Anne Hathaway, Oscar Isaac, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Glenn Close, Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst, Rosario Dawson, Ewan McGregor, Eddie Redmayne, Ryan Gosling, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mare Winningham, Garrett Hedlund, Jeremy Renner, Diane Keaton, James Marsden, Robert Downey Jr, Emmy Rossum, Andrew Rannells, Christian Bale, Zachary Levi, Anika Noni Rose, and Evan Rachel Wood

Stars Who Can Dance (Not Sure About Singing): Mia Wasikowska, Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Claire Danes, Judy Greer, Zoe Saldana, Neve Campbell, Juliette Binoche, and Jamie Bell

like all sensible people Jonathan Groff is obsessed with Sutton Foster

Great in Musicals on Stage AND They Have Screen Presence (at least on TV)
: Jonathan Groff, Sutton Foster, Laura Benanti, Megan Hilty, Aaron Tveit, Audra McDonald, Katie Finneran, Cheyenne Jackson, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski, Norm Lewis, Raul Esparza, Steven Pasquale, Annaleigh Ashford, and Donna Murphy... why is no one considering them for movie musicals?

Since these are off the top of my head, there are surely countless others who *might* have it all but they'd have to be screen tested or given a shot.

the 1-2-3 punch, the thrilling rebirth of the film musical genre

The IndieWire article is correct that the movie musical genre needs its contemporary Vincent Minnelli, Busby Berkeley or Bob Fosse something terrible. Amen. (The revival started off so well with strong directors like von Trier, Mitchell and Luhrmann but since then...) But there is more than enough on camera talent out there for the ballsy gifted director if he or she is willing to look for it and has the stomach for fights with the studios. The studios will always, no matter the genre, ask for the bigger name whether or not they have the chops or are right for the role. Not only does the musical need better directors, it needs directors with a backbone who want to nurture the right kind of talent, and make them names ... not work around the weaknesses of stars who think it might be fun to try carrying a tune. It probably needs a director willing to take a chance on a stage star and make an original musical like a Mary Poppins rather than a star driven stage-bound transfer like a My Fair Lady.

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Reader Comments (61)

I mean you could expand that in a way: film needs more directors that are willing to make new actors stars. When was the last time you saw a major motion picture and didn't know the name of the main actor?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

On Charlize Theron's most recent SNL episode she admitted she's a tone deaf singer, but please someone let her dance on film for 90 minutes straight.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Did Zellweger not redeem her casting to some extent? Putting her in the same bracket as crowe and depp seems harsh even though Colette was a superior choice .Have to say this about Zellweger, everything aside she is a hard worker.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRizz

John T -- that's so true. The answer to that question is i cant' remember. but i do KNOW it was more common in the past. It's so weird how risk averse they are now. It's not like movies were ever "cheap" to make, you know?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Terrific article, Nathan. I am a huge Toni Collette fan, and I had no idea she could sing and dance. Where have I been?! Sutton Foster has great charisma and should be in a big-screen musical as soon as possible. And I am still licking my wounds that Jane Lynch isn't in this year's Annie. What a huge letdown.

Hollywood is still so afraid of the movie musical, even though recently Mama Mia and Les Miserable proved they can make money. I think if Rob Marshall had succeeded with Nine, it really would have turned the tide. It's sad that every time a big screen musical comes out, so much for future projects hangs in the balance.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

It's not popular but I'd like to defend Crowe in Les Miz. I thought his acting was fantastic, he built a credible character and made me understand what drives Javert. He was let down by Hooper insistence on live singing for all the actors. I think his vocals would've been fine if pre-recorded and refined in the studio. But as far as acting he was aces. I was convinced.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

If there's anything I love, it's stumping for underused musical film actors! A few I'd add to your list:

Ever since I saw Hairspray I've been praying for more opportunities to watch Elijah Kelley dance and sing. It's criminal that he hasn't done a musical since.

Sara Ramirez, of Gray's Anatomy and Spamalot fame, has presence for daaaayyys and a heartbreakingly beautiful soprano.

And Brie Larson, our Star of Tomorrow also sings-- in addition to her contributions to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in the mid-aughts she made a stab at teeny-bopper stardom which led to this deeply embarrassing single:

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Cinematic Releases of Stars with the Full Package: CZJ (2: Chicago, Rock of Ages), Patrick Wilson (1: The Phantom of the Opera), NPH (counting only cinematic releases he just has his Muppets Cameo. I'm just going to call that 0.2. It's more honest that way), Toni Colette (1: Cosi), Hugh Jackman (1: Les Miz), Alan Cumming (2: Spice World (ugh), Burlesque), John Travolta (4: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Staying Alive, Hairspray), Zac Efron (2: Hairspray, High School Musical 3 (yes, that got a cinematic release, meaning Efron has actually been in more cinematically released musicals than Hugh Jackman)), Taye Diggs (1: Rent). Of nine actors, 5 appeared in 1 (or less) and only one (Travolta) appeared in more than 2.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Kathy Bates was Marshall's first choice for Matron Mama Morton. And her first onscreen film role was a cameo in a Milos Forman movie TAKING OFF where she sung an original song she wrote. Beautiful voice too.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Bless this post. So many great points made, especially in regards to casting. There are so many great people that should be doing movie musicals yet studios/casting directors are so scared of not having a "big star". Toni Collette would've been amazing in Chicago, somebody just give her a good role, that woman's picture comes when you google underrated. Patrick Wilson needs another go at a musical, Sondheim's Company maybe? Hugh Jackmann should quit Wolverine, he got rich already, go sing and dance. What about Audra McDonald? She used to say she was afraid of the camera, but after doing a series, she's ready to slay in a big musical role. Instead of doing another remake that doesn't need one, why not a new Porgy & Bess with her?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVinicius

Spike Jonze should direct a musical; his music videos, like the Weapon of Choice video and the video for Bjork's It's Oh So Quiet, indicate that he has a real sense of musicality and could breathe new life into the genre.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I know you were writing this under stress, but let's not forget about La Pfeiffer and that wonderful number she had in Hairspray that slayed all the lessers. And of course The Fabulous Baker Boys...

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Toni Collette has an amazing voice. Check out her album with The Finish.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

I'd agree that there must surely be people who could carry a musical and have the necessary gifts to do it without dubbing but I think part of it is the fact that every musical that is made now is a big budget make or break affair. In the studio days A & B musicals were churned out just like dramas and comedies. Most actors were tried out in the genre in some B assembly production and if they faltered like Joan Fontaine in A Damsel in Distress or Jimmy Stewart in Born to Dance the experiment wasn't repeated. If they did well, John Payne or Jack Carson among others, they alternated between musicals and other genres.

It was mostly the same for future big stars, Gene Kelly being the exception who started at the top in For Me and My Gal. His costar in that Judy Garland made her debut in a cheapie football flick, Pigskin Parade, with music thrown in to test not just her abilities but her screen presence. Then she made a series of low budget musicals while she and MGM refined her persona. That luxury has vanished now.

TV presence and big screen presence are two very different things. If they weren't Perry Como and Dinah Shore, two giants of early television, would have been enormous stars in 40's musicals but both were flops in their respective attempts. Not to mention the undisputed queen of musical theatre, Ethel Merman who had some qualified hits but where Como & Shore were too intimate to make an impact she was too big for the screen.

Some of the names mentioned have already had their shot, Patrick Wilson & Emmy Rossum in Phantom, Mare Winningham in Georgia etc and nowadays that's all they get unlike the days of old where stars of promise were given several shots to connect.

The ones I don't get not being selected are the ones who have had success in that area, Zac Efron, Hathaway, Bale, Hugh Jackman and even though I'm not personally a fan Amy Adams. Enchanted was huge but since then nothing. Perhaps that's her choice though since right now she has her pick of projects.

I also thought of Seth MacFarlane to add to the list, he showed off a fine voice when he hosted the Oscars plus in other clips on Youtube. He's attractive and trying to make the jump to film, it could be a nice change of pace from the juvenile humor he usually does.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I'm sorry but I loved Johnny Depp's singing and had no problem with it.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterUm

John T is exactly right. And directors need not merely be willing to take a risk on completely unknown names. There are plenty of famous people (as noted on Nathaniel's lists) who are A+ talents in acting AND singing and are already recognizable. We need not settle for A-list actors with C-level singing talents.

I know most of the people around here are of the opinion that Meryl can sing (I am not of that opinion), but imagine if someone in the casting department of Into the Woods had said that her chops weren't good enough for that musical and had said that someone of the level of Patti Lupone was required. Plenty of the target audience for that film would still have recognized the name and been excited.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

joel 6 -- i'm fully aware that tv and big screen presence are two different things: hence the disclaimer. It bugs me that so many people assume it's the same. It's so not. Rare is the actor who is top notch in all three (Laura Linney is one of the few who resonates everywhere. But most are best suited to one or maybe two.

But my point is TV producers are willing to try out Broadway stars and some of them show they have absolutely no problem acting for the camera. So why aren't they considered for the movies. I mean screen test them AT LEAST since they are true triple threats.

June 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I think the main point is that we don't have original movie musicals. Broadway is another beast and mostly don't work when translated to movies. Most great movie musicals are originals, like Singing in The Rain, An American in Paris, The Bandwagon, most Fred Astaire movies, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Dancer in the Dark, Moulin Rouge...

Of course there are movies like Cabaret and West Side Story, but, in my opinion, you need to think a musical as a movie first to explore all its cinematics possibilities, and not being concerned with stege-to-screen questions like cutting songs, opening up and et cetera. One may love Broadway, but I go see a movie, I really don't want to see 2 hours and a half of belt out songs with no choreography.

When you see something on stage you understand why there are songs. When I see movie versions, mostly I don't understand why the songs are there. That never happens, for example, in a Christophe Honoré movie. The songs just have to be there because they are organic, they don't feel like an alien element.

My point being: of course you need better directors for musicals, but above all things, you need writers who understand the difference between stage and screen and who want to make movies intead of translate things from another media.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Jordan: Okay, she's a SECOND who manages to be in more than 2 cinematically released musicals (Grease 2, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Prince of Egypt and Hairspray.) But of ten, that only two scratch above 2 cinematically released musicals and one, on my metric, only manages a measly 0.2, is regretful. Couldn't NPH be awesome as The Wolf? Or Toni Collette (41) as a (more) age appropriate Baker's Wife?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Jordan -- i purposefully left her off. (sad face) I'm trying to let her go since she so clearly has no drive to work. she claims otherwise but the proof is in the no projects! and she's too big of a star not to have at least an offer here and there.

Suzanne -- agreed.

June 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Just curious, Nat: Why Ewan and not Nicole?

And let's not forget singing Academy Award winners Marion Cotillard, Emma Thompson and Jared Leto.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Sutton Foster is a big question mark why she has not been cast in a movie musical I mean she would have been perfect for The Baker's Wife and has announced she wants to do it but they went with Blunt obviously. I feel like Hathaway is trying to do well in musicals but her problem is it always comes off as needy. The change that is coming I feel is Wicked because once that hits the big screen we will see it can save the genre and all I hope is unlike Into the Woods a studio always the film to go dark because the tale is dark and should be told that way.

One last shoutout is for Audra McDonald one of the greatest voices of all time who to her own fears of the camera has not done a big musical and I just want her to be cast in something worthy of her talent.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly



Dan in the Next to Normal movie adaptation? Please? Pleaseeeeee?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Paul Outlaw: 1. Considering Edith Piaf, I'd say Cotillard should be under "Can sing (not sure about dancing)". 2. Emma Thompson has done occasional musical theatre, but I'm not entirely sure she's comfortable doing it often. (0 musical films and almost thirty years separating her stage musicals.) 3. Jared Leto is a rock star and the last two times we got rock or folk star style voices trying to do show tunes, we got Johnny Depp in Sweeney and Russell Crowe in Les Miz. So...I'm not sure having that happen again is desirable for Nat.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia - Marion is a very good singer, but you're considering the wrong movies. She did'nt sing in La Vie en Rose, but you can find a lot of videos of her singing live with French band Yodelice under the alias Simone. Try her cover of David Bowie's Velvet Goldmine. Or maybe her collaboration with Franz Ferdinand. Or maybe her duet with singer Jenifer Bartoli, that shows that she could have made her own singing in La Vie Rose...

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal & volvagia -- and she sings beautifully in NINE whatever one thinks of the movie

Oh and, Cal, I 100% agree with the stage to cinema thing. It works in reverse too. There are so many film to musical adaptations on stage right now and very few of them try to reimagine themselvse for the stage. and you have to. They are very very different mediums. Stage pieces that change "scenes" every 2 minutes are so annoying and dont feel organic at all but a lot of movies are like that. Stage musicals that try to keep all the famous dialogue from movies and forget that in musicals the songs are the storytelling -- they're not meant to be redundant 'what we just did/said but now in song' scenes... - those also don't work.

June 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Exactly, cal roth.

As for Emma Thompson, I'm pretty sure she'd be game for anything if the project was to her liking.

I've actually never heard Jared Leto sing, so I can't say if he's got classic rock pipes, which would be more than up to a musical (think the original Jesus Christ Superstar, Roger Daltrey, David Clayton-Thomas etc.)

Nicole, Nat?

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I would've paid to see a musical with Charlize and Channing after their Oscars dance. Don't know if they can sing, but... He had a real Gene Kelly vibe in that moment.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

...TV producers are willing to try out Broadway stars and some of them show they have absolutely no problem acting for the camera. So why aren't they considered for the movies.

TV is a low risk medium financially. Hollywood claims the economics dictate they hire only known film talent. But they prefer not to make anyone happen who does not fit their narrow agenda.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Studio treat musicals the same way they do with most of their stuff: as if they could be generated by a computer. Musicals need an acute artistic vision more than any other genre I can think of.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Daniel Radcliffe deserves a spot on the singing/dancing. He's turning out to be a GREAT actor on screen and stage, plus he's mother fucking Harry Potter.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike B.

Does Joseph Gordon Levitt dance? If so, then he's a triple threat. I adore his voice and his face and he definitely has the acting chops. Forget musicals, they should just cast him more in everything!

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGuest459

Volvagia- Toni Collette has another "musical"' the filem Connie and Carla with Nia Vardalos. She sings, dances and do drag.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Mike -- i thought about including him but i have to say that both his singing and dancing were of the "oh, it's cute that he's trying" variety in HOW TO SUCCEED so i think it'd be the same problem as we have with like Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.

Guest 459 -- He does. After I posted this i remembered that he made a video with Zooey Deschanel where they're singing and dancing and it's really cute and he has natural grace.

June 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Pedro: Missed it. Still, you'd think ALL those people would have at least THREE musicals on their filmographies, not 1/9 scraping above two.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Oh man, Toni Collette is brilliant in The Wild Party. There are some captures of it:

The problem is the audience. The audience doesn't know they like musicals because there are so few, and even fewer good ones, that come along.

Musical stars is not the problem. In the olden days, Kristen Bell would have become a huge star just based on Frozen and those looks.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

I know his Smash character might have left a bad taste in folks' mouths, but Jeremy Jordan has it all-- amaaaazing voice, dance skills, attractiveness, and acting chops. I'd love to see him get a chance at a big role. (I guess we'll see his talent in the upcoming The Last Five Years but I have my worries that that musical's setup will not translate to film.)

Also, my celebrity crush Adam Chanler-Berat has proven himself in the otherwise forgettable Delivery Man (for which he won good notices) and he has a lovely voice.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Co-sign EVERYTHING you say, Nathaniel. Also, the stunning lack of great material making it to big-budget (not even that big, comparatively speaking) Hollywood movie musicals is distressing.

And also: Antonio Banderas, Bernadette Peters, John Barrowman, Samantha Barks (HOW did she not become a huge star after Les Miz?!?), America Ferrera, John Gallagher Jr., Darren Criss, Mandy Moore, Kyle Dean Massey, Cristin Milioti, Arthur Darvill, Jenna Elfman, Christina Applegate, Mandy Patinkin, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Sara Ramirez, Norm Lewis, Tracie Thoms, Matthew Morrison, Jesse L. Martin, Jane Horrocks, Gina Gershon, Brooke Shields, Janet Jackson, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mulally, Sean Hayes, Jill Scott, CHER... the list of quality musical theater people Hollywood has to choose from with positively-tested film experience is ENDLESS.

Basically, there is no excuse for crap like Jersey Boys. The American public has proven time and time again that they WILL see musicals when they're good. Come on Hollywood! It's NOT HARD! You used to do this ALL THE TIME!

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Does Jack Black warrant a mention? Or are only pretty people allowed to sing? ;)

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Channig Tatum should do a real musical- his body is transformed when ever he stand to dance and while not the same level as Kelly- he does share his every man star quality. Crowe was a terrible choice for "Les Miserables" And if you must use star names for box office at least dub their singing voice.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Love this article!

Also, Anna Kendrick has dance training and gets to show it off a little bit in L5Y.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

denny & mike -- this list was off the top of my head. I'm sure I missed lots of people which only reinforces my point :)

June 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

After her Nine and Glee's Kate Hudson proved she had her musical chops.
And for musical casting, they several times took the easy way choosing musicians or singers with mediocre or no acting skills

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchatan

I would just love to see them transfer Little Night Music with CZJ to the big screen. Maybe that would give Angela Lansbury a chance to win her competitive Oscar as well, a la Paul Newman

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Jessica Chastain can sing, too.

HBC may have lacked vocal power in 'Sweeney Todd,' but she more than made up for it with her acting, IMO.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

As gifted as all those people are it's not just talent it's also a certain personality that is needed to be a successful musical star. A very few of the greats of screen musicals had amazing voices and killer dance skills but rarely both. Aside from Judy Garland, Ann Miller and Doris Day who were accomplished dancers and could really belt out the tunes most of the star performers only excelled at one or the other.

Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire-Great dancers who could carry a tune but their voices weren't exceptional. Deanna Durbin, Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Shirley Jones, Gordon MacRae and Sinatra all had wonderful voices but none were dancers of extraordinary skill. The best examples: Betty Grable who by her own admission was neither the greatest singer nor dancer, the same could be said for Debbie Reynolds. What they all had to varying degrees was a certain type of personality that was for the most part irony free, critical to making the unreality of musicals real. Their likability and ease with the format came through on the screen and made sometimes bizarre situations believable. It's a large part of what kept Madonna from having a successful screen career. It's the kind of thing that makes Grease so enjoyable even though all the performers are too old for their roles. In these cynical and self aware times I don't know if that type of performer exists anymore. The closest is probably Hugh Jackman due to his exuberance.

Of course a director who knows how to work with that type of personality and situation and has a distinctive style of their own is also vital, again they are in short supply. Is that really the director's fault though? It's a skill set that like any other has to be perfected and there is precious little chance of that with the dearth of musical productions made now.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

The problem with modern movie musicals is that they are focussed merely on singing and not on dancing. They should cater to what works best in the cinematic medium and that is the combination of singing AND dancing.

Just think about the most iconic movie moments: Gene Kelly singing in the rain, Fred Astaire dancing cheek to cheek, the Girl Hunt ballet at the end of The Band Wagon (still my favourite musical of all) or the amazing final 15 minutes of An American in Paris. All of them have the dancing front and center (though the music is top rate as well). The only recent musical that even tried to do this right was Hairspray, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although that movie also highlighted another problem.

All of the great musicals were shot in Academy ratio (1.33:1), which is perfect for intimate dances between 2 or 3 performers. When you shoot in widescreen (as most modern musicals do), you kind of have to use group choreographies, which dilutes the emotion of the central love affair.

So my advice --> shoot a musical in Academy ratio, make sure the dancing is equally important as the singing (or even more so) and you could have an instant classic on your hands.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDieter

Toni Collette's a capella rendition of Stand by Me is still one of the most heartbreaking sounds I've listened to.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

chatan -- I LOVED Kate Hudson in Nine! She can really brighten up the screen when directed well.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Studios are gun-shy labeling movies as musicals, you just have to look at the early marketing for Frozen to see this. All of the early trailers deliberately excluded the songs, it wasn't until "Let It Go" took off that they embraced it as a 'musical'. The frustrating thing is that the appetite for movie musicals is out there -- just look at the success of Pitch Perfect -- but studios stubbornly refuse to produce them.

As for people who I wish would get cast in a movie musical, my top pick is Raul Esparza. (though the person who suggested Patrick Wilson as Bobby in a movie adaptation of Company was spot on, that is inspired casting). John Gallagher, Jr. is also doing great work on TV and in movies, but I want to hear him sing!

I remain saddened the the rumors of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum starring in a remake of Guys and Dolls are just that: rumors. Because OMG that would be fantastic.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

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