Forgotten Musicals Friday: MR CINDERS

The London revival cast recording of MR CINDERS

The London revival cast recording of MR CINDERS

Last weekend’s post about my favourite 1920s musicals reminded me about the simply smashing Mr Cinders (1928), prompting me to give the London revival cast album a listen, with the view of featuring in this week’s Forgotten Musicals Friday column.

The show is typical 1920s musical comedy, based on Cinderella, but with the genders switched, and there are a number of songs written in the style that The Boy Friend would parody roughly a quarter century later. Even though this is the real thing rather than a parody like Sandy Wilson’s popular 1950s show, Mr Cinders plays with the same sense of camp pastiche that The Boy Friend has. The show features a score by Vivian Ellis and Richard Myers, with a libretto by Clifford Grey and Greatorex Newman.

My favourite number is, I think, the one that has become most popular outside of the show, “Spread A Little Happiness”. “Tennis” is loads of fun; the numbers that involve the two nasty brothers, “Blue Blood”, “True To Two”, “Honeymoon For Four,” are all quite witty; and the Mr Cinders-Jill duets are both sweet, although I was more partial to “One-Man Girl” than “I’ve Got You”, which attempts to substitute wit for character and get away with it, but doesn’t quite succeed in my view.

I wasn’t crazy about “On The Amazon,” which sounds like it might have been funny just shy of a century ago, but perhaps hasn’t aged as well as the rest of the score. There are, however, two super ensemble numbers, “On With Dance,” and the “18th Century Drag”. The latter, one of those trademark musical comedy songs in which a new dance style is introduced (which was parodied in recent memory in Young Frankenstein‘s “Transylvania Mania”), is delightfully complex.

I would really recommend this recording to anyone. Listening to the score made me wonder what the book is like. It can’t be too hopeless, with revivals having been mounted sporadically since the 1980s, so it leaves me wondering why this show isn’t more popular with high schools and community theatres. I think it should be.

Want to add your own thoughts about Mr Cinders? Head to the comment box and share your views! I’d love to hear what you think about this show.

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Monday Meditation: I am Over Being Polite about Homophobia

Seyi Omooba's post on Twitter

Seyi Omooba’s post on Twitter

The controversy surrounding Seyi Omooba’s comments about homosexuality and her casting as Celie in The Color Purple at Leicester’s Curve Theatre and the Birmingham Hippodrome has been big news in theatre communities worldwide the past two weeks or so. The calls for her to be removed from playing this role, one that is resonant with the LGBTQ community, have been heard and it was announced last Thursday that Omooba would no longer be playing the role. Many view this as a suitable punishment, but while it might offer a form of poetic justice, I don’t think it’s enough to constitute any kind of justice that is restorative or true.

Indeed, when the discussions around this situation focus exclusively on the removal of an actress from a role whose experience and values she doesn’t share and whether that’s right or not, I fear that we have missed the point. This situation is bigger than that. This situation is yet another example of prejudice at work in our society.

“But these are her own personal views!” people have written in objection to the reaction against Omooba. I can imagine the same thought running through people’s minds as they read this column. They’ll continue, “This isn’t hate speech. It doesn’t incite anyone to violence. Doesn’t she have the right to her own beliefs?”

Seyi Omooba

Seyi Omooba

Omooba absolutely has the right to her own beliefs. This does not mean, however, that she is free from the consequences that expressing her opinion may bring, especially when what she believes helps to perpetuate a society where LGBTQ people are oppressed.

Furthermore, while Omooba’s statement isn’t a call to genocide, it lays the foundations of the pyramid of hate that leads society to atrocities of that nature. Microaggressions matter. Microaggressions lead to prejudice, discrimination and ultimately violence. And let’s face it: there is nothing indirect, subtle or unintentional about Omooba’s words about homosexuality. She’s past the stage of microaggression. Comments like hers sustain the world in which the murder of Matthew Shepard was possible. In which the assault, strangulation, torture, and burning of David Olyne was possible. In which accusations of witchcraft, imprisonment and the corrective rape of lesbian teenagers in Cameroon is possible. In which transgender people are killed in countries all over the world. In which the criminalisation of homosexuality with sentences like long-term imprisonment and death is possible.

This last description is the law of the land in Nigeria, the country from which Omooba hails.

Removing Omooba from this role doesn’t address the problem of her prejudice or the problems that prejudice like hers creates. I’m at the point in my life where I won’t support the career of people like Seyi Omooba in any way until not only an apology but also clear restitution is made the perpetuation of an oppressive worldview such as this one.

The Color Purple OBCR

The OBCR of THE COLOR PURPLE

Saying you’re sorry isn’t enough – and let’s be clear, we haven’t even seen the most glancing of apologies from Omooba yet. There have been calls for handling Omooba gently, thus acknowledging her potential to change, but it has been reported that she was given the opportunity to retract her statement or to express any change in her views before the action of removing her from this production of The Color Purple was taken. She did neither. At this time, she has demonstrated no potential to change.

My voice might only be a single one, but my resistance is important. I can’t control this woman’s hateful views, but I can control my response to them. Maybe you’ll join me in not purchasing cast recordings on which she is featured and not supporting any production in which she is cast. Maybe you’ll join me in continuing to address her casting with the production companies that cast her. This is bigger than The Color Purple. And maybe, once Omooba has put in some work to help counteract the oppression of LGBTQ people who are trying to live lives free from discrimination, then we can consider shifting our behaviour towards her and those who support her.

Monday Meditations at Musical Cyberspace are is inspired by Shirley MacLaine’s I’m Over All That and Other Confessions. This post responds in particulate to the chapter titled “I’m Over Being Polite to People with Closed Minds.”

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The Saturday List: Five Bees-Knees Musicals of the 1920s

How’s tricks, everyone? Today’s “Saturday List” takes a look at my top five musicals from the 1920s. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on these nifty little shows and, as always, I’m keen to hear about some of the musicals from this decade that you think are the cat’s meow – so feel free to share your thoughts using the comments box below!

Gertrude Lawrence in OH, KAY!

Gertrude Lawrence in OH, KAY!

5. Oh, Kay!

There are a number of shows that I could have placed into this fifth spot, none of which I truly prize above the other. Honourable mentions, then, must go to Strike up the Band, Dearest Enemy, The Desert Song, Funny Face and No, No, Nanette. In the end, I chose George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse’s Oh, Kay! because it is the show that gave the world that most enduring of standards, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” There are other delights in the score, including the ebullient “Do, Do, Do,” “Clap Yo’ Hands” and “Fidgety Feet.” Together, the numbers encapsulate the great appeal of the Gershwins in the 1920s: catchy lyrics and heartfelt sentiments married to the kind of music for which the term “earworm” was invented. It wouldn’t be hard for you to guess then, dear reader, what tune is spinning endlessly in my mind as I’m typing up this column.

An album cover for MR CINDERS

An album cover for MR CINDERS

4. Mr Cinders

I love a Cinderella story. I’m also a sucker for a good partworks collection. One such series was  The Musicals Collection, which allowed me to add the highlights of a cast recording and a magazine to my CD rack once a fortnight. I knew many of the shows that they featured already, but there were several that were new to me, including this little gem by Vivian Ellis, Richard Myers, Clifford Grey and Greatrex Newman.  A reverse gendered version of this most beloved of fairy tales, Mr Cinders toys with social class by placing Jim, a servant at Merton Chase, opposite Jill, an American heiress at the neighbouring home, The Towers. The usual fizzy 1920s plot devices knit together the appealing score, which includes a breakout hit (“Spread A Little Happiness”), a collection of witty numbers for the two nasty brothers (“Blue Blood”, “True To Two” and “Honeymoon For Four”) and a pair of delightful ensemble numbers  (“On With Dance” and “18th Century Drag”). Having enjoyed a couple of revivals towards the end of the last century, Mr Cinders has all but disappeared over the past two decades. Here’s hoping for a second rediscovery of this charming little musical!

Movie Poster for THE STUDENT PRINCE

Movie Poster for THE STUDENT PRINCE

3. The Student Prince

My way into Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Donnelly’s The Student Prince, as in so many matters musical theatre, was through my grandmother. My grandmother’s record collection was the source of the first musicals I encountered, but it wasn’t until she guided me towards knowing The Student Prince. I was gathering some movie musicals for my gran to watch on her new flatscreen TV and The Student Prince was one of the films she asked me to find. When I sat down to watch it with her, I had prepared myself for something I’d have to endure. I found myself seduced by the giddy romance of this tale, in which love and life experience transforms the staid Prince Karl into a man who has to choose between the kingdom for which he is responsible or Kathie, the woman he loves. (In the interest of full disclosure, it was partly the dreamy Edmund Purdom and Mario Lanza’s heartfelt vocal for Prince Karl’s “I Walk With God” that sealed the deal for me, even though I know this song was written for the film rather than the original stage production. But as I mentioned before, one song can be the gateway to the entire journey.) What is particularly bittersweet about The Student Prince is that Kathie – to some extent, given the period – is able to exercise her own agency in bringing Karl to his final decision. Her choices, thoughts and emotions matter as much as his. I don’t know where it would play, but I’d love to see a contemporary revival of this show.

The National Theatre's THE THREEPENNY OPERA

The National Theatre’s THE THREEPENNY OPERA

2. The Threepenny Opera

I always respected Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, but I never truly loved it until I saw the National Theatre’s live broadcast of their 2016 production, a new adaptation by Simon Stephens that was directed by Rufus Norris. Watching the incredible cast bring this interpretation of the material to life, I felt within me everything that, until then, I only understood academically about this brilliant piece of theatre. Its unforgiving commentary on human vices such as corruption, exploitation and hypocrisy remains as incisive today as it must have been at its premiere in Germany in 1928. (In truth, perhaps it was watching the United States cut of the 1962 film that had disenchanted my ability to perceive its brilliance.) Besides its thematic heft, The Threepenny Opera also numbers in its score some jewels of songwriting, “Pirate Jenny” (which I had the privilege of seeing Bea Arthur sing live in Just Between Friends as she shared her memories of the brilliant Lotte Lenya’s performance of the same song) and the “Jealousy Duet” (which Arthur intones most memorably with Jo Sullivan on the 1954 cast recording of the show) among them. What I enjoy most about The Threepenny Opera, I think, is how layered it is. It’s serious stuff, but it’s so funny. It plays with you as you watch it.  And isn’t play one of the things we desire most when we go to the theatre?

Cape Town Opera's SHOW BOAT

Cape Town Opera’s SHOW BOAT

1. Show Boat

One of the most fascinating things about Show Boat is the sheer number of iterations of the show that have played the world’s stages since Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II created this landmark musical. These are largely documented in Miles Kreuger’s Show Boat – The Story of a Classic American Musical, offering a rare and detailed tour through the production history of the show up until the time of its final revision in 1990 before going out of print. What makes Show Boat survive the ages? Certainly, its classic score has something to do with it, the grand lyrics and gorgeous melodies of songs like “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” being unforgettable, as is the wit of numbers like “Life Upon the Wicked Stage,” the radiant joy of “Why Do I Love You?” and the devastating rawness of “Bill.” That said, there are many great scores that have slipped into the recesses of time. May I submit the idea that it is Hammerstein’s integrity in handling the themes that emerged from Edna Ferber’s novel that lends the show its continued relevance? For in addition to its central love story, Show Boat tackles the shifting dynamics of race relations in the face of a society that espouses the ideal of freedom for all but still treats people unequally in reality. This idea is strongly resonant with our times and in an age where Oklahoma! can be explored with a contemporary sensibility, as is being done in the production directed by Daniel Fish that is currently in previews at the Circle on the Square theatre in New York, perhaps the time is right for Show Boat to be reinvented yet again.

 

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Forgotten Musicals Friday: I REMEMBER MAMA

Carrie Horner, Maureen Silliman, Kristen Vigard, Liv Ullmann, George Hearn, Ian Ziering and Tara Kennedy in I REMEMBER MAMA

Carrie Horner, Maureen Silliman, Kristen Vigard, Liv Ullmann, George Hearn, Ian Ziering and Tara Kennedy in I REMEMBER MAMA

It’s been almost thirty years since the opening of the last musical that Richard Rodgers composed, I Remember Mama. Running for only 108 performances in 1979, this rather sentimental musical featured a book by Thomas Meehan and lyrics by Martin Charnin and Raymond Jessel. Based on an overwhelmingly successful play by John Van Druten, which was produced by Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in the 1940s, which was in turn based on the Kathryn Forbes’s memoir, Mama’s Bank Account, I Remember Mama tells the tale of a family of Norwegian immigrants living in San Francisco in the early twentieth century.

Chiefly remembered for the (mis-)casting of Liv Ullman in the central role, the original production of I Remember Mama earned itself a spot in Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. Such was the initial failure of the show that an original cast album was not recorded. It was not until a 1985 studio album was released that the score became available to the general public in the form of a cast recording. All things considered, this was not the ideal swan song for Rodgers after his auspicious career, was it?

Liv Ullmann and George Hearn in I REMEMBER MAMA

Liv Ullmann and George Hearn in I REMEMBER MAMA

When I Remember Mama surfaces in discussions, as it does in musical theatre forums on social media from time to time, nobody who remembers seeing the show says that it was brilliant – and many say it was an unsalvagable disaster. But those who don’t say it was a complete failure say that it was a sweet show that came along thirty years too late. Listening to the recording, it does rather remind me of Meet Me in St Louis with a little bit of Act One and Little Women thrown in for fun, and it certainly is an old-fashioned show. I think its heart is in the right place, and its certainly easier looking back at it as a nostalgic piece of work now than it must have been in 1979.

In its favour, I Remember Mama has some lovely melodies by Rodgers. I’m rather fond of “You Could Not Please Me More,” which seems to achieve what “An Ordinary Couple” from The Sound of Music set out to do. In fact, I think that it is the better song of the two, even if its lyric could take one on more of a journey. “When?” is also lovely, with the music once again outshining the lyric.

Indeed, the lyrics of I Remember Mama are often pedestrian. A good example of this quality is in evidence in “Ev’ry Day (Comes Something Beautiful), a number which aims to list things in the world that are ineffably beautiful. The very idea of the song seems counter-intuitive: how can one describe imagery that can’t be captured in words, in words? And when the score dips into comic numbers, the results are mostly poor. The two songs written for Uncle Chris are clunkers. Actually, the music of “Easy Come, Easy Go” has a pleasing build, and there’s some glee-inducing counterpoint. It’s the lyrics – cliché after cliché – that let it down. But there’s no such defence for the choruses of the song that introduces him: “Uncle Chris” is a most disagreeable song.

Carrie Horner, Kristen Vigard, Liv Ullmann, Maureen Silliman, Tara Kennedy and Ian Ziering in I REMEMBER MAMA

Carrie Horner, Kristen Vigard, Liv Ullmann, Maureen Silliman, Tara Kennedy and Ian Ziering in I REMEMBER MAMA

There are some charming character pieces, including the number that establishes Katrin’s desire to become an author, “A Writer Writes at Night”. The number also helps to establish the relationship between Katrin and her Mama as well as, more importantly, lending some context to the frame story, something that the musical proper could afford to incorporate more often. “Fair Trade,” a second act number that introduces the cameo role of Dame Sybil Fitzgibbons, is great fun, as is its reprise.

When the Toronto Civic Light Opera Company, a community theatre group, produced the Canadian premiere of I Remember Mama in 2006, it was a successful holiday show over that year’s Christmas season. Word is that the company tinkered with the book and score, although there seems to be no record online of what they changed. With a general consensus that the show could have been and should have been better, perhaps this is a show that is a serious candidate for an official, sensitive revision. There are supposed to be many cut songs that might serve as alternative material, and there’s enough source material to use should the book need tweaking. There’s no real reason that this shouldn’t be a reliable seasonal show for families to enjoy.

So what are your memories or thoughts – good or bad – of I Remember Mama? Head on to the comment box and share them with us!

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#ThursdayThoughts: Musical Theatre Revivals

Poster artwork for the Lincoln Center revival of SOUTH PACIFIC

Poster artwork for the Lincoln Center revival of SOUTH PACIFIC

Welcome to the very first #ThursdayThoughts, a new forum for interactive discussion that will take place weekly at Musical Cyberspace from here on out as part of our slow and careful rejuvenation of this site. Each week, we’ll share a quotation about musical theatre that is open for discussion.

Today’s quote is about revivals of musicals on either side of the pond and is taken from Michael Billington’s review of the West End transfer of the Lincoln Center’s production of South Pacific in 2011:

New York has little to teach (London) about resurrecting the Broadway past.

Head on down to the comments and sound off! Although anyone is welcome to share their opinions, please try to treat other readers mindfully and stay on topic as far as possible. Discussions that get out of hand will be moderated.

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The “Happy Birthday, MISS SAIGON” Quiz

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

Today in 1989, Miss Saigon had its world premiere in London. Here’s a little quiz to celebrate. I’ve answered the questions in the body of this body, and I’ve love to see yours in the comments! Feel free to copy and paste the questions if you need to.

1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? I’ve always liked Miss Saigon. I really love the epic feel of it, the sweeping melodrama, the romance at the core of it all. I think it’s all just wonderful. But you have to buy into it at the start – or you never will.

2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “I’d Give My Life for You”. I think the song is simple and direct, a moment where I think you see exactly who Kim is. I think it might be melodramatic and over-the-top in something a little drier, but I think it’s perfect for the kind of musical that Miss Saigon is.

What is your favourite song in Miss Saigon? Easy. “I’d Give My Life for You” is one of the things that really makes Miss Saigon so effective as an emotional experience: it is a beautiful character piece married to a haunting melody. I cannot believe it has not appeared on more favourite lists in this thread

3. What is your favourite lyric? I really like “Sun and Moon”, particularly the line ‘How in the light of one night did we come so far?’ I also really like the verses in “It’s Her or Me”/”Now That I’ve Seen Her”. But see below for more on this….

Jonathan Pryce and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

Jonathan Pryce and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. Where Miss Saigon falls down for me is in the details. There’s not a number as a whole that I can’t stand, but there are lyrics that just don’t work. My least favourite by a long shot was “What is this bug up my ass? You tell me, I don’t know”. Thankfully, that one’s been replaced in the years since the show’s premiere in London. One of the changes I dislike is the rewritten opening of the chorus for “It’s Her or Me”, which became “Now That I’ve Seen Her”. I understand the thinking behind the change, but the change itself is sloppy and doesn’t match the musical phrases of the song.

5. Who’s your favorite character? Kim. I think it’s a fantastic role.

6. Who is your favourite Miss Saigon-related performer? Lea Salonga.

7. Got a favourite production or cast recording? What makes it so special? Nope. But I reckon that anyone who got to see Lea Salonga in the role got to see something pretty special.

8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of Madama Butterfly? I think it works and I think it works better. The characters are less one-note than in Madama Butterfly. Kim, as I’ve said, I think is fantastically written. Chris is a huge improvement on Pinkerton, a character that holds little appeal and who deserves no sympathy. And I like the other shifts too – Suzuki’s transformation into Mimi, Goro’s retooling as the Engineer, Prince Yamadori’s now politically motivated Thuy. Also, the building up of the Kate Pinkerton role into Ellen gives the piece an added dimension. And the context given to the piece of the war in Viet-Nam works perfectly. Character, situation and narrative come together really well in this adaptation.

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga as Chris and Kim in the original production of MISS SAIGON

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga as Chris and Kim in the original production of MISS SAIGON

9. A film…. What would you like to see if one was made? I’d love to see a film. I think the only way to cast Kim would be to go the same route that the producers went to find Lea Salonga – to look for a complete unknown who has what it takes to hold the film together. In terms of the screenplay, I’d like to see the fall of Saigon restored to it’s chronological place in the action. Without the act divisions, I think the second act material is strong enough to carry a film through to the ending. And I would like to see “The Sacred Bird” restored. And I think a big budget Hollywood epic would be the only way to do. With Miss Saigon, it has to be all or nothing.

So there you go! Scroll down and send us your answers. Happy birthday, Miss Saigon!

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The Saturday List: Lights, Camera, Action! Ten Movie Musicals on the Way to the Silver Screen

Emma Watson as Belle in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Emma Watson as Belle in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Who doesn’t love a great movie musical? OK, there are loads of people who don’t. But I do, and it’s devastating when one doesn’t live up to its potential. On this week’s Saturday List, I’m taking a look at five upcoming movie musicals to which I’m looking forward. Some of these are nowhere near opening day, but here’s hoping!

1. Let’s get Beauty and the Beast out of the way first, mainly because it has a release date that is less than a year away. When this live action remake of the 1991 animated classic was first announced, my first reaction was that Disney should have produced a live television special of their stage adaptation rather than trying, once again, to reinvent the wheel. At that point, I think we all presumed that the new film would be an adaptation of the stage show, but it turned out that this was not to be the case. The new film, with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky, would incorporate songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from the original film and new songs with lyrics by Tim Rice, who augmented Ashman’s lyrics for the stage show, but none of the material from the stage show itself would be used. Although the teaser trailer was something of a non-starter, we’re all waiting in anticipation to see what the film is like, with its cast led by Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Audra McDonald on set in HELLO AGAIN

Audra McDonald on set in HELLO AGAIN

2. Nobody who knows me will be surprised that I’ve placed Hello Again second: I’m a huge Michael John LaChiusa fan and make no apologies for it. I’m also a huge fan of the play upon which the musical is based, La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, and its various incarnations such as David Hare’s The Blue Room. So when news arrived about a film version of one of my favourite LaChiusa shows starring Audra McDonald (who will get a new song in the film), Cheyenne Jackson, T.R. Knight, Martha Plimpton, I was in seventh heaven. Directed by Tom Gustafson with a screeplay by Cory Krueckeberg, Hello Again is currently being filmed. Everytime LaChiusa posts something on Facebook or the film updates its Instagram or Twitter account, the excitment builds. I simply cannot wait for this one.

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

Simon Bowman and Lea Salonga in the original production of MISS SAIGON

3. Miss Saigon is a musical I’ve always wanted to see make the jump to the big screen. The popular musical retelling of Madama Butterfly that transfers the action to the fall of Saigon in 1975 is already incredibly cinematic and lends itself to the kind of visual expression that a cinema experience can provide. Back in 2009, I loved hearing industry buzz that ex-United Artists CEO Paula Wagner was gearing up to produce a screen version of Miss Saigon with Lee Daniels at the helm. That film was to be a co-production with Cameron Mackintosh with a 2011 release date. That never happened. Then, in 2012, Les Misérables hit in the big screen. Although both Mackintosh and Daniels hoped that the success of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s first musical theatre classic would spur on a film adaptation of their second, it was not until the closing night of the West End revival earlier this year that Mackintosh indicated that things were on track. In March, it was announched that Danny Boyle might direct the film. All along, it has been said that the film will remain faithful to its source material, although I still wonder what changes we’ll see to the show as we know it. No doubt Ellen will get yet another song to try and solve a moment in the show that has never quite gelled. I know I’ve always thought the fall of Saigon – the infamous helicopter scene – could be shifted to its chronological place because the last half of the piece is strong enough both emotionally and dramatically without it. But we’ll have to wait and see, I guess. It took 32 years for Les Misérables to go from its first production as a Parisian spectacular to the premiere of the film. Miss Saigon opened in London in 1989. 1989 + 32 years = 2021. The clock’s ticking, Mr Mackintosh…

Joshua Park as Pippin the the 2006 Goodspeed Opera House's produciton of PIPPIN

Joshua Park as Pippin the the 2006 Goodspeed Opera House’s produciton of PIPPIN

4. Pippin has been in development since 2003 when Miramax acquired the film rights for the musical penned by Stephen Schwartz, Roger O. Hirson and (the uncredited) Bob Fosse. A decade later, The Weinstein Company – who I guess took the rights along when Bob and Harvey Weinstein broke away from Miramax – named James Ponsoldt as a screenwriter for the project, which was subsequently confirmed as Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s next project. This was around the time of the much-loved Broadway revival of the show, but things have been pretty quiet since then. Perhaps this team is still struggling to find a way to make this very theatrical musical work in the medium of film. Maybe they should recruit Rob Marshall: Pippin seems like the kind of thing that would suit him and his style of musical film-making, one with a framework that offers a plausible excuse for the stylistic features of the genre. Or… why not take inspiration from the anime-inspired hip-hop version that played Los Angeles in 2008? Animation might be an inspired choice of medium for this adaptation.

IN THE HEIGHTS as it appeared on Broadway

IN THE HEIGHTS as it appeared on Broadway

5. It’s been five long years since Universal withdrew from the production of a film based on Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. Back then Miranda, the show’s original Usnavi, would have been directed by Kenny Ortega, who would have had the opportunity to redeem himself for his tacky work on the High School Musical franchise following the promising work he did in staging the numbers for Newsies. Miranda said that he would try to get another studio interested in making the film, but many – including myself – feared that this stumbling block would be the end of the road for a film adaptation of this show. Last month, The Weinstein Company announced a $15 million production, which would have a new screenwriter working on Marc Klein’s existing treatment of the material. In the wake of the success of Hamilton, Miranda will be involved, but not as Usnavi, as he has aged out of the role.

Honourable Mention

Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY

Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY

For all intents and purposes, My Fair Lady is dead in the water. That’s why it’s in last place here, but it did attract enough buzz over its time in development to merit an inclusion  – and given the change in circumstances for In the Heights, why not? There are those who have no desire to see a remake of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s classic musical, believing that the original film is brilliant. While I don’t think a new My Fair Lady film is a necessity, the original film is by no means untouchable. It’s a solid film, and a faithful one, but it’s not perfect. Rex Harrison is fantastic, but…. In any case, new films don’t supplant old ones. Nobody who doesn’t want to watch the remake has to and the old film will always be there for anyone to see whenever they like. The one consistent factor in the saga of bringing a new Eliza Doolittle to the screen: a screenplay by Emma Thompson. At one point, Danny Boyle was on board to direct the remake. I didn’t think it a great loss when he dropped out. Then it was rumoured that Keira Knightly would play Eliza, with Joe Wright, who directed her in the tepid Pride and Prejudice remake and Atonement. Knightly and Wright obviously enjoy working together, but the idea of the two of them and this material seemed to be something of a mismatch and they went on to make Anna Karenina instead. When Knightley backed out, Carey Mulligan’s name was tossed about as an option, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt both being bandied about as potential Higginses. At that point, John Madden also had his eye on the director’s chair. For a while, Sony Pictures tried keep the buzz about the remake going, but Mulligan shattered all hopes of it moving forward in a statement she made at Cannes. Since then, no further information about the project has been forthcoming. Not yet, anyway.

So there you go… My favourite five movie musicals to be. What movie musicals are you anticipating with glee? Head over to the comments section and let’s hear!

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