Top 5 musicals that deserve big screen outings
This show that tells the tale of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, before she became all crotchety and – well – wicked, has become something of a phenomenon. Its stand out song ‘Defying Gravity’ is well-loved even by people who haven’t seen the show, and the Land of Oz has always leant itself well to film. So who should star in this cinematic adaptation? Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, the original Glinda and Elphaba respectively, would seem the perfect casting choices, but while they might be household names in the musical world, the studios might think they’re not big enough stars to carry a film. Having said that, the film of Rent (2005), in which Idina Menzel also appeared, starred most of the original Broadway cast and was all the better for it. And musical-geeks should know Menzel and Chenoweth from their recurring roles on Glee. The problem is, of course, that considering the characters meet during their heady university days the two may now be a little old to pull it off…
Bear with me here. Yes the musical show might already be based on a film, but just look at the evolution of The Producers – first a film, then a musical adaptation of the film, then a filmic adaptation of the musical (still with me so far?) Billy Elliot the musical might just be sufficiently different from the original film to warrant an outing on the big screen, and it has achieved considerable success in the West End. As for casting, if Freddie Highmore can carry a tune, and dance, and his voice hasn’t already broken, he might be a good fit for everyone’s favourite Geordie “bally dancer” (granted, those are quite a lot of conditions). The trouble would be the character of Mrs. Wilkinson. Julie Walters formidable performance in the original film would be hard to top, and while she herself is no stranger to musicals (the lovably awful Acorn Antiques), it would be just slightly too ‘meta’ if she were to reprise her role for a musical film. Any suggestions?
#3. Avenue Q
Possibly the rudest coming-of-age puppet musical ever made (and we don’t use that phrase lightly), adapting this to film could be tricky, but if done right the results would be well worth it. The most important thing would be avoiding any trace of CGI. The Muppets are an example of how hand-operated puppets can still captivate on film and are much more charming than a huggable bunch of pixels (we’re looking at you, Jar Jar DEATH). In this case voice casting would be the key; after James Gandolfini’s voice work on Where the Wild Things Are, he would make for a good, growling Trekkie Monster (based on Cookie Monster from Sesame Street), while double-act Simon Pegg and Nick Frost could follow up on their roles as Thomson and Thompson on Steven Spielberg’s Tintin and voice Rod and Nicky, characters based on Bert and Ernie.
#2. Spring Awakening
Based on a 19th century German play that was considered so controversial it was banned many times, Spring Awakening isn’t the most well-known of musicals, but it has all the drama and poignancy that makes for a good film. Set in a strict religious community, it focuses on the dangers its young people face exploring first love and sexual desire in this claustrophobic environment. When the show opened on Broadway, Lea Michele took her first leading role as Wendla: a girl frustrated by her mother’s refusal to explain the facts of life. Given Michele has now found international fame through her role as Rachel in Glee, reprising her role as Wendla for a big-screen adaptation seems to make sense. Unfortunately, director McG (not known for his sensitivity in previous films Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation) has apparently been attached to an upcoming cinematic adaptation of Spring Awakening. God help us all.
#1. Blood Brothers
Currently one of the longest-running West End productions in history, Blood Brothers seems to be ripe for a big screen adaptation. Melanie Chisolm (Sporty Spice to the rest of us) earned an Olivier nomination in 2009 for her performance in the central role as Mrs Johnstone, the woman who has to give away one of her twins as she cannot afford to raise them both. It is a great role for any actress on stage and screen, and Kate Winslet would be an obvious choice; we know she can handle pretty much anything and she can sing as well, as she proved during her voice work for the animated film A Christmas Carol. Sam Riley could take on the role of Mickey, the twin who is brought up by Mr Johnstone. He did all his own singing for his performance as Ian Curtis in Control, and his chilling turn as Pinky in the new adaptation of Brighton Rock would stand him in good stead.