Five film musicals to watch for – some you’ve seen onstage

I love musicals.  I prefer my musicals live and in person; however, I will take a good musical wherever I can find it regardless of setting or format.

Below is a list in chronological order of five upcoming musicals (more or less) that can be found in movie theatres or on television.  I am eagerly anticipating all of them for one reason or another.  Best of all, I won’t have to dress up and the prices range from reasonable to free.

The Threepenny Opera, National Theatre Live
October 1 & 23

I have always loved this musical, having seen it both Broadway in 2005 and a great local production at Signature Theatre in 2014.  Yet this version looks particularly interesting.  Rory Kinnear could be the most menacing Macheath (Mack the Knife) ever based upon his Olivier Award Winning performance as Iago in Othello. In addition, the great biting musical numbers are combined with a new adaptation by Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

Note:  The big screen broadcasts of the National Theatre Live from London (how I saw Rory Kinnear in Othello) are outstanding.  If you haven’t tried it before, this production is a great time to start.

Three Penny Opera: Area dates, venues, and ticket prices:

8:00 PM Saturday, Oct. 1st:  Shakespeare Theatre, Harman Hall ($20)
11:00 AM Sunday, Oct. 23rd:  Bethesda Row Cinema ($15)
11:00 AM Sunday, Oct. 23rd:  Harbor East, Baltimore ($15)


The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, FOX Television
Premieres Thursday, October 20, 8:00 PM EST

As sacrilegious as it may sound, FOX has filmed a new version of the 1975 campy cult classic.  FOX has described this production as a “reimagining of the original movie.”  Agitated fans of the original may have been placated by the participation of the original movie’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Tim Curry, as narrator of the new film.

Taking over the iconic role is Laverne Cox, the openly transgender cast member of the acclaimed Netflix television show “Orange is the New Black.” Other cast members include Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice as the beleaguered couple Brad and Janet, Reeve Carney (Riff Raff), Annaleigh Ashford (Columbia), Christina Milian (Magenta), Adam Lambert (Eddie), Staz Nair (Rocky), and Ben Vereen (Dr. Everett Scott).

Will I watch?  Of course – I did the “Time Warp” back in college 30 years ago (fortunately before the advent of embarrassing cell phone video).


Trolls, DreamWorks Movie
In theatres starting November 4

Okay, while it’s technically a comedy, this animated film from the creators of Shrek and several other great movies looks hilarious and has original music (including the song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” which went to #1 after its May release).  In addition, it and features Anna Kendrick (who has proven her musical abilities in such films as Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect, and The Last Five Years) and pop star Justin Timberlake.

Other characters are voiced by famous performers such as James Corden, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, John Cleese, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gwen Stefani, and Jeffrey Tambor. Several cast members will be featured on the soundtrack, with Justin Timberlake serving as primary producer, with additional contributions from Ariana Grande and Earth, Wind, and Fire.


Hairspray Live! NBC Television
Premieres Wednesday, December 7, 8:00 PM EST

While newcomer Maddie Baillio (who reportedly beat out over a thousand women for the lead role of Tracy Turnblad) is relatively unknown, audience members will know several other cast members.  I am most looking forward to seeing Harvey Fierstein and Martin Short as her parents Edna and Wilbur Turnblad and Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle.  Other cast members include Ariana Grande as Tracy’s BFF Penny Pingleton, Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth and Tracy’s rival Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma, Garrett Clayton as hunk Link Larkin, and Derek Hough as dance show emcee Corny Collins.

The cast is in great artistic hands.  The director is Kenny Leon, who directed NBC’s The Wiz Live! and won a Tony Award® for his direction of the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.  The choreographer is Jerry Mitchell (original choreographer for Hairspray and two-time Tony Award® winner for his choreography of La Cage aux Folles and Kinky Boots).


La La Land, Movie
In Theatres December 16th

This throwback musical set in dreamy Los Angeles and featuring frequent co-stars Emma Stone (aspiring actress Mia) and Ryan Gosling (her jazz pianist boyfriend Sebastian) is causing major buzz on the festival circuit.  Having seen Emma Stone as Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, I can vouch for the fact that she’s the real deal as a musical star.  Some film critics are already predicting a Golden Globe for Emma Stone in the musical/comedy category next spring.

The film looks technically dazzling and gorgeously romantic (watch the dancing in the stars sequence and try and resist going to see La La Land) before it takes a darker turn.   This film may mark the advent of  writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) as  a major creative force and could influence the future direction of American musicals.  I will be there opening weekend!

Which shows most interests you?

Steven McKnight About Steven McKnight

Steven McKnight is a recovering lawyer who now works in a lobbying firm and enjoys the drama of political theatre on both sides of the aisle. He admires authors, actors, athletes, teachers, and chefs, and has dabbled in all of those roles with mixed (and occasionally hilarious) results.



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