People keep yakking about how moviegoing moderns don’t get musicals anymore. But with the nearly unanimous raves for the new Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling musical La La Land (read our review here), plus the big box-office success of Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods and Enchanted, not to mention TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Grease and The Sound of Music, you can expect a whole lot of singing and dancing in the next two years.
This March, Disney trots out Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Kline in a much buzzed-about live-action big-screen version of Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, Hello Again, Michael John LaChiusa’s sexy modern musical based on Arthur Schnitzler’s libido-driven 1897 play La Ronde, hits theaters next year with a cast that includes Audra McDonald, Cheyenne Jackson and Rumer Willis.
Hugh Jackman, who first caught Hollywood’s attention on stage in the 1999 revival of Oklahoma and who broke Broadway attendance records with The Boy from Oz, is currently filming for 20th Century Fox one of his several musical dream projects. In The Greatest Showman, he plays circus huckster P.T. Barnum, leading a cast includes Zendaya, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Williams. Nice to see that Jackman and Williams will finally get to warble together, since director Michael Mayer’s big-movie remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific–in which they’d been rumored to costar with Justin Timberlake—has yet to set sail. Jackman is also throwing his weight behind a big-screen adaptation of that parody of 1920s musicals, The Drowsy Chaperone, with Fred Schepisi possibly directing a cast that, if all goes right, could include Geoffrey Rush, Anne Hathaway and none other than Barbra Streisand.
Fox has also hired stage director Michael Grandage and screenwriter Danny Strong to tackle the Damon Runyon-style shenanigans in a remake of Guys and Dolls, composer-lyricist Frank Loesser’s musical set among the gamblers, gangsters, hookers and do-gooders of the New York underbelly. Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were mentioned a few years ago to star but now, who knows? Danny Boyle looks all set to direct the long-stalled movie version of Miss Saigon, the Vietnam War-era reworking of the opera Madame Butterfly that became an international stage megahit that ran for 10 years after its 1999 opening. Working Title Films and Les Miserables movie producer Cameron Mackintosh have linked arms to produce and finance the movie and rumor has it that Chris Pine, Gordon-Levitt and Eddie Redmayne are among the actors already jockeying for the role of the sergeant who seduces and abandons a tragic 17-year-old bar girl.
Over at Sony, producer Tom Hanks and company are said to be searching for the right director to make the earth move for the hit jukebox musical Beautiful. Casting hasn’t been announced, of course, but we’re hearing that Scarlett Johansson and Anna Kendrick are among the actresses who might be in line to play composer-singer-barrier breaker Carole King, whose Tapestry album hit the pop music charts in 1971 and stayed there for an astonishing six years plus.
Considering the public uproar director Steven Spielberg created when news broke that he might attempt a new adaptation of West Side Story, no wonder he’s kept the project on stealth mode. After all, the 1961 film version, from the groundbreaking show by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, racked up 10 Oscar wins, including Best Picture, and is among the most-respected musicals ever committed to celluloid.
Two of the Broadway smashes by hotter-than-hot composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda also appear to be gearing up for production. The Weinstein Company has tapped director Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) to helm and Miranda’s co-librettist Quiara Alegria Hudes to script Miranda’s In the Heights, the Tony-winning slice of life set among the dreamers who live around a Washington Heights bodega.
Apparently, way, way off in the distance will be the movie version of Miranda’s record-busting hip-hop musical Hamilton, still the hottest ticket on Broadway and on the road. That’s not for lack of Hollywood interest, though; it’s because Miranda, who also wrote songs for Disney’s Moana and will co-star with Emily Blunt in another high profile musical movie, Mary Poppins Returns, has yet to meet with every studio boss in town vying for a shot at the screen rights. The Hollywood Hills are alive with the sound of music, all right.