My friends know that I am a theatre nerd who sees an insane amount of live theatre. Unfair. I have interests beyond seeing live works of theatre. I also like to see films based on plays or featuring theatrical stars. How’s that for well-rounded?
Below is a list of the films that I am most eagerly anticipating in 2013 and in 2014.
Romeo and Juliet
Storyline: (Come on, do you really need this?) “When the star-crossed lovers of two enemy families meet, forbidden love ensues.”
Select Casting Notes: Hailee Steinfeld (Juliet), Douglas Booth (Romeo), Ed Westwick (Tybalt), Damian Lewis (Lord Capulet), Stellan Skarsgaard (Prince of Verona), Paul Giamatti (Friar Laurence).
Projected Release Date: October 11, 2013.
Why I Am Interested: The screenplay adaptation was penned by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. This production is more authentic and traditional than Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Based on the movie’s trailer, the sets and costumes look lush and the cinematography top-notch. Seems like a big budget for a work of limited appeal, but I’m not complaining. It will be interesting to see if the release of the movie helps or hurts the Broadway revival of Romeo & Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad that is scheduled to open on September 19.
Why I Am Concerned: It is a mostly British cast, so expect to hear the standard Shakespearean English. I saw Douglas Booth as Pip in a mini-series of “Great Expectations” and I expect him to be fine. While I enjoyed Hailee Steinfeld in her Academy Award-nominated performance in the remake of True Grit, she’s from California and she hasn’t had a movie come out in three years. Is she a flash in the pan or the real thing?
Storyline: “Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.”
Select Casting Notes: Kristen Bell (voice of Anna), Alan Tudyk (voice of Duke of Weselton), Josh Gad (voice of Olaf), Idina Menzel (voice of Snow Queen), Johnathan Groff (voice of Kristoff).
Projected Release Date: November 27, 2013.
Why I Am Interested: The movie will features original songs by Broadway’s Robert Lopez (a two-time Tony winner for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who worked with him on Disney’s 2011 Winnie the Pooh.) Plus, lots of theatre people are providing voices. Idina Menzel (Elphaba in Wicked) will be making her return to Broadway this fall in the new romantic musical If/Then which will be doing the pre-Broadway run here in DC at the National Theatre. Josh Gad’s leap to fame occurred when he was the original Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon. Jonathan Groff is best known for his role originating the role of Melchior in Spring Awakening, for which he received a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor. Even Alan Tudyk has appeared in three Broadway shows, including Spamalot.
Why I Am Concerned: Disney hasn’t had the greatest track record in recent years. Not much word of mouth or publicity on the film is a warning signal, even these early. Let’s hope that the emphasis on the 3-D element didn’t take away from the story and the music.
August: Osage County
Storyline: “A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.”
Select Casting Notes: Julia Roberts (Barbara Weston), Meryl Streep (Violet Weston), Juliette Lewis (Karen Weston), Julianne Nicholson (Ivy Weston), Sam Shepherd (Beverly Weston), Ewan McGregor (Bill Fordham), Dermot Mulroney (Steve), Margo Martindale (Mattie Fae Aiken), Chris Cooper (Charles Aiken), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Little” Charles Aiken).
Projected Release Date: December 25, 2013
Why I Am Interested: I loved the play (which also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award). Harvey Weinstein obviously picked this project so he could push for more Academy Awards and assembled a great cast.
Why I Am Concerned: Tracy Letts is adapting his own play and writing the screen play. That formula only produced mediocre results the first two times he did the same: Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2012). Rumors have it that the part of Barbara is being beefed up so Julia Roberts can compete for Best Actress while Meryl Streep will drop down to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress (despite the fact that the actress playing Violet won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play). More generally, I worry that they will make the characters too exaggerated and “country” (my personal pet peeve being a native Southerner).
About Last Night
Storyline: “Follow two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.”
Select Casting Notes: Remake of the 1986 film has African-American cast starring Michael Early & Joy Bryant as the main couple (i.e., the Rob Lowe & Demi Moore parts) and Kevin Hart & Regina Hall as the more caustic best friends (the Jim Belushi & Elizabeth Perkins parts).
Projected Release Date: February 14, 2014.
Why I Am Interested: Both films are based on David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago but this one is supposed to be closer to the play (even if they did move the story to Los Angeles). The screenplay adaptation was written by Leslye Headland, whose work I loved in both the play and movie versions of Bachelorette (which played at Studio Theatre).
Why I Am Concerned: Kevin Hart is a hilarious stand-up comedian (his most recent concert film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain had the fourth highest box office of any comedian film in the last 30 years), but I wonder if the coarseness of the humor might overshadow the central love story.
The Last Five Years
Storyline: “Based on the musical, a struggling actress and her novelist lover each illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair.”
Select Casting Notes: Adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s cult favorite musical stars Jeremy Jordan (Jamie) and Anna Kendrick (Cathy). Expanded cast also includes the original off-Broadway stars Norbert Leo Butz and Sheree Renee Scott and a cameo by Betsy Wolfe (star of the 2013 off-Broadway revival) as a stripper who performs with a snake.
Projected Release Date: TBD.
Why I Am Interested: I love the clever structure of this musical (in which the woman tells the story of a five year love in reverse chronological order from end of marriage backward and the man tells it in chronological order from just after their first meeting forward). I recently saw the 2013 off-Broadway production directed by writer Jason Robert Brown and Signature Theatre produced The Last Five Years locally. Photographs from the filming in New York City are promising. Anna Kendrick proved her vocal chops in the film Pitch Perfect and her lightened hair makes her more convincing as a “Shiksa Goddess.”
Why I Am Concerned: Jeremy Jordan is great on stage (I have seen him in the musicals Newsies and the short-lived Bonnie & Clyde with Laura Osnes). After watching his acting on the TV series Smash as musical composer Jimmy, however, I wonder how good he’ll be in the movie when not singing.
Storyline: Adaptation of the Broadway musical about the comic strip orphan whose optimism even the Great Depression can’t defeat.
Select Casting Notes: Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie), Cameron Diaz (Miss Hannigan), Jamie Foxx (Benjamin Stacks), Rose Byrne (Grace).
Projected Release Date: December 25, 2014.
Why I Am Interested: I thought that John Huston’s 1982 film version felt glossy and empty, so I am glad to see a remake coming. I also like the idea of a grittier remake which producers Jay-Z and Will Smith have planned. Jamie Foxx is an intriguing selection for the Daddy Warbucks figure and he can sing. Jay-Z has promised to “re-imagine” the music. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna wrote the terrific adaptation of The Devil Wore Prada.
Why I Am Concerned: Director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends With Benefits) does not have much movie directing experience generally and musicals are tricky. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna also wrote the relatively flat remake of Fame (2009). Quvenzhané Wallis was terrific in her Academy Award-nominated performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but can she sing (or at least lip sync convincingly)?
Into the Woods
Storyline: Adaptation of the Sondheim musical in which “A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children’s stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.”
Select Casting Notes: Meryl Streep (The Witch), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), Johnny Depp (The Wolf), Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife), James Corden (The Baker).
Projected Release Date: December 25, 2014.
Why I Am Interested: Director Rob Marshall did the Academy Award-winning adaptation of the musical Chicago (2002) as well as the adaptation of Nine (2009). James Lapine is adapting his own book from the musical. The casting is terrific. Yes, Meryl Streep can sing (trivia note: she was almost the lead in the movie adaptation of Evita until Disney decided that Madonna would better attract young moviegoers; see also Momma Mia!, Postcards from the Edge).
Why I Am Concerned: The best part in the musical is The Baker’s Wife, for which Joanna Gleason won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Although Emily Blunt has been haunted by a clip of a certain drunken karaoke duet , this YouTube clip has me convinced she’ll be able to pull it off ().
So, no concerns other than “How can I bear to wait for over a year to see this film?”
Storyline: “A bachelor travels to Monte Carlo to claim an inheritance from his late rich uncle.”
Select Casting Notes: Dominic Marsh (Harry Witherspoon), Nikki M. James (Annabel Glick), Pamela Shaw (Rita LaPorta), Jason Alexander (Vinnie Di Ruzzio), Dennis Farina (Luigi), Kate Shindle (Dominique), Jayne Houdyshell (Harry’s Landlady).
Projected Release Date: TBA. Filming was completed by September, 2012 and a 2013 release was originally planned.
Why I Am Interested: The original musical farce was the first collaboration of Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). This team went on to write musicals such as Once on this Island, Ragtime, and Seussical. Lucky Stiff was first produced off-Broadway for a limited run in 1988. A 1989 production at Olney Theatre Center won Helen Hayes Awards for Best Musical and for Best Actor in a Musical for Evan Pappas.
Why I Am Concerned: I cannot find any recent news anywhere about plans for release of this movie. If any readers know, I would appreciate it if you could post the news below.
FANTASY MOVIE PRODUCER
Last year’s filmed adaptation of Les Misérables means that a new musical has ascended to the top position on my mental “musicals I would like to see filmed” list. My new number one is the follow-up piece from the same Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil team, Miss Saigon.
[Note: The actual credits for Miss Saigon are: Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyrics by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.; Additional material by Richard Maltby, Jr.; Book by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.]
First, I love the music from Miss Saigon. Second, I believe that the musical could be “opened up” nicely. While some musicals adaptations feel “stagey” and claustrophobic, the location shooting to recreate Vietnam would make this adaptation very natural and dramatic.
Finally, one of the reasons I want this musical to be adapted for a movie is because I have long doubted that Miss Saigon would ever be filmed. I expect musicals like Jersey Boys and Wicked (both in development) will eventually be filmed. Yet because I don’t expect Miss Saigon will hit the movie screens, it is an even more precious desire for me.
Why don’t I think that Miss Saigon will be filmed? (SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you plan to see Miss Saigon at Signature Theatre!). As many of you know, Miss Saigon is based upon the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. That means it has one sad, bummer of an ending. Film executives don’t need test scores to know the reaction of casual audiences to the ending of the musical.
What about Les Mis, you say? Doesn’t that end with a death? Yes, but Jean Valjean had a relatively long life, he performed noble acts, he got to experience a feeling of accomplishment resulting from his kindness to other, and he was welcomed to heaven by those who had passed before him. The death at the end of Miss Saigon is much more unnecessary and depressing.
In addition, Miss Saigon could not be filmed well on the cheap. Therefore, it would be hard for a star to push a film company to finance it as a vanity project for a star. Les Mis aside, musicals are viewed as box office risks in Hollywood. To give a couple of recent examples, a star-filled production of Rock of Ages only grossed $38 million in theatres and Rent took in just over $29 million.
Perhaps I am wrong. Cameron Mackintosh was quoted a year ago as saying that if the Les Mis movie made $500 million worldwide, he would invest in a Miss Saigon adaptation. [For the record, it made $448.2 million.] Mackintosh is said to have discussed the role of the Eurasian Engineer with Hugh Jackman. (Look out for another controversy!)
A good theatre friend is positive Miss Saigon will be in production in the near future, but I’ll believe it when I see it. In any event, I don’t expect it to happen in the next couple of years. Mackintosh has announced a West End (London) revival of Miss Saigon starting in May, 2014. I believe he has decided to reap more theatre money for now before moving ahead with the movie.
In any event, no filmed adaptation of Miss Saigon is coming soon. So, rush to buy a ticket to the Signature Theatre production of Miss Saigon before they all sell out. The opportunity to see and hear this show in an intimate theatre with a 15-piece orchestra is too valuable to pass up. And for that matter, go see Les Mis in its current run at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Nothing beats live theatre.
Meanwhile, readers, I would love to know “What unmade musical or play would you most like to see made into a motion picture?”