Could you imagine how much easier life would be if we had a background soundtrack explaining to us what the hell is going on and how we should feel about it? That’s why I love musicals, the characters just randomly start singing and dancing in the middle of the street without caring about anything else and then, suddenly, all their problems are resolved and they can just live happily ever after. I mean, that’s the dream, right? On that though, more and more people should be able to share this excitement and admiration for musicals, they make life light, they make life seem less messed up! And how could it be done? Broadway and Off-Browadway should take on the Big-Screens more often, we already have masterpieces like Chicago, West Side Story and In The Heights, but there are many more that should take on the theaters.
Before giving you the list, it’s important to understand that a theater filmed production is different from a musical movie. The first one is a video from a live performance of an on-stage musical, while a movie is made with many takes, throughout a long period of filming and with all the attributes we all know and love. Well, now that we cleared that out, let’s go to the 5 musicals that should definitely turn into movies:
- Forever Plaid (1989-1994, Off-Broadway)
Forever Plaid already has a movie, but it is a recording of a live performance in theater and it would be interesting to dig deeper into this story and see the development of this narrative from a more fluid and free perspective, other than the limited single stage filming. This story would be tricky to play as a motion picture, though, since it is basically the quartet in a concert. However, a film is a must-have, since Stuart Ross’ story, choreography and direction, and James Raitt’s beautiful songs deserve to be seen and heard by a wider audience.
The story follows a group of four singers who died in a car crash on the way to their “big-break gig” and remained trapped between dimensions. At a particular night, the universe aligns so they can have a brief moment of hope and rest in peace. For that to happen, the quartet needs to finish their final show, the one they didn’t get to do when they were alive, so now, as Sparky says, they hope to do the “show that we would’ve done, if we could’ve, when we were, which we are not, so we didn’t and now we can”. That’s the only way for their “unresolved chords of those unresolved lives” to rest properly.
This musical has some strong Jersey Boys vibes, with the singing group, the harmonious music and the funny jokes. Then, there’s no way it could go wrong! The Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ movie biography was a success and Forever Plaid, with their own Frankie (that is actually called Francis), the humorous Sparky, the paranoid Smudge and the sweet Jinx, are going to be a hit. No pun intended.
- Wicked (2003-present, Broadway)
Ok, so this one is a personal one for me. I simply love The Wizard of Oz, it is my favorite movie of all-time and Wicked, the musical, is so beautifully built that I demand a movie just so I can say that it is my second favorite movie of all-time and have some peace of mind knowing that Oz, and Oz only, has my whole “cinema-fanatic” heart.
Wicked shows us the friendship between two well-known witches: Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda – later to be Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Way before the Kansas girl, Dorothy Gale, and her sweet dog, Toto, arrive at the Land of Oz, these two witches are shown as great friends, unlike their relationship in Judy Garland’s 1939 movie. Besides their love for each other, they have opposite personalities and, to add more stress, they fall in love with the same boy, Fiyero. Got curious, hun? I know!
Winner of 3 Tony Awards, the original Broadway production has everything we desperately need in a movie: rivalry, young love, amazing character development and, mostly, answers to all the questions The Wizard of Oz left with us: why did Glinda seem to know the Wicked Witch of the West so well? Why was Elphaba so evil? What happens after the melt-down?
So, moviemakers, I’m begging you, Winnie Holzman’s breath-taking plot and Stephen Schwartz’s eye watering music are the combination to a certain-to-be-a-success project. So, just close your eyes and take a leap. Go ahead and defy gravity to fly high with this masterpiece.
- Hamilton (2015-present, Broadway)
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore/And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot/In the Caribbean grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”. These are the words that first describe our main character, Alexander Hamilton, the face printed on the ten-dollar bill, a “founding father without a father” who got “a lot farther by working a lot harder/by being a lot smarter/by being a self-starter”.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creation uses a mix of hip-hop, rap and jazz to tell the story of this immigrant that came up from the bottom, had his reputation destroyed by his enemies and who “America forgot”. It’s impossible to put into words how amazingly well built this narrative is, it has it all: great songs, great characters, tears and laughter, love and hate, slavery and freedom. Chills.
Since the first song we find out about who is going to play an important part on Hamilton’s story: two that “fought with him”, one that “died for him”, one that “trusted him”, three that “loved him” and another one, who was “the damn fool that shot him”. It’s intriguing, it’s full of hope, it’s historical, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s a recipe for success in theaters.
- Hadestown (2019-present, Broadway)
New to the Broadway scenario, Hadestown already has a legion of fans. “On the road to hell” where “there was a railroad line” the Greek mythological stories of Orpheus, Euridice, Hades and Persephone are all narrated by Hermes. This modern view of these characters shows Orpheus as a musician and poet dreamer, who falls in love with Euridice, a girl who has always had a hard life. The antagonists are Hades, the cold and rigid dictator of Hadestown, and Persephone, his free spirited alcoholic wife.
Hadestown, Hades’ underground factory, is a place of sadness and oppression, where you can’t leave without Hades’ approval, nor can you do anything besides working all your days for the God of the Underground. There’s no place for love, dreams or songs and there’s where Orpheus and his god-worthy music enters, bringing hope and the possibility of spring to the two lovers.
I mean, Greek mythology, kick-ass songs by Anaïs Mitchell, the king of hell as the king of a town full of mindless laborers who have no remembrance of our world and who they are, and a love story. “It’s a tale of love from long ago/It’s a sad song” about a town “way down Hadestown/Way down under the ground”, what’s more to ask?
- Waitress (2016-2020, Broadway)
There is already a Waitress movie, I know! But, in this case, the independent movie isn’t a musical and came first than the theatrical performance, in 2007. That’s when Jenna Hunterson came into our lives on the Silver-Screen and never left, with her hopes and troubles and dreams. The waitress who takes the lead on this marvelous story is also a baker. And a really good one! However, the sweetness in her life is only present in her delicious pies. Unfortunately, she lives an abusive relationship with her husband, Earl. Among all the downs in her life, she gets pregnant, starts an affair with her doctor, Dr. Jim Pomatter, and enters a pie baking contest to try turning her life around.
“Sugar, butter, flour”, for Jenna, baking a pie is easy, life is really hard. I mean, we all wish life had a recipe for success: add a little bit of this, add a little bit of that and we are done, with a tasty dish to enjoy. But that’s not how it goes, all we can do is live one day after another trying hard to be happy, even when we have no clue how to do so. That’s Waitress, a story about following your dreams when all the odds are against you and trying to be happy in the process. All that, united to a killer soundtrack by Sara Bareilles will make this musical a big hit on-screen. We have love, great music, incredible characters, a moving and relatable storyline and pies, what else do you look for in a movie?
The article above was edited by Anna Bastos.
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