Rock of Ages premiered recently. Les Miserables is finally making its way into theaters at the end of the year. Wicked is popular enough that Hollywood will get to it sooner or later. So what's next? Here's my five suggestions for musicals that haven't had the film treatment yet, but should:
1.) Next to Normal
Musicals are often large, over-the-top affairs, which is one of the reasons translating them to film gets so tricky—some things just play better on the big stage than up close and personal on a camera. Next to Normal is a very intimate story, which would lend itself well to a film translation. You'd have every mature actress in Hollywood who can even remotely carry a tune lining up to play the broken, mentally unstable Diana, and almost as many younger generation stars looking to land Natalie and Gabe. My suggestion for director? Darren Aronofsky, who loves playing with people's perceptions and who told a chillingly effective mind-coming-unglued story in Black Swan.
2.) Miss Saigon
Like a lot of musicals, this one keeps coming on the radar and falling off again (the latest rumor: American Idol alum Jessica Sanchez is gunning for the role of Kim). It really needs to happen: the Vietnam-era take on Madame Butterfly is a story that almost begs for an epic cinematic adaptation, with its scenes of rowdy Marines seeking one last fling in the war's closing days, parading throngs honoring Ho Chi Minh, crass interpretations of the American Dream and, of course, the fall of Saigon. (Forget the dinky little helicopter—imagine what the full scope and chaos of the Embassy's collapse would look like on screen!)
3.) Into the Woods
Another musical that seems stuck in the on-again-off-again world of development Hell, and one that deserves to see the light of day. Rob Marshall is currently rumored to direct, which would be nice (his Chicago and Nine, like Into the Woods, both dealt with interlocking levels of reality)...but might I suggest the more daring choice of Terry Gilliam? His dark, surreal style seems a natural fit for this material. And hey, maybe we could get Jonathan Pryce to play the Narrator.
4.) Sunset Boulevard
I know, I know. Andrew Lloyd Webber hasn't had much luck with film adaptations, and doing a remake of an iconic classic like Billy Wilder's 1950 movie is just asking for trouble. But I'd still like to see them try. The score represents Lloyd Webber's last decent work before descending into his current state of self-derivative laziness, and trimmed of its excess (does Norma really need two ballads to mark her grand entrance?) it could play very well on film. The role of the degraded, deluded Ms. Desmond automatically invokes grand dame names such as Close, Streep, and Streisand, and either Hugh Jackman or John Barrowman could reprise their stage performance as Joe Gillis.
5.) Once on This Island
There's been a few animated movies that made the crossover to live Broadway shows, but not a whole lot of stage shows being turned into animated features—the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the 1999 The King and I, which did not turn out well to put it extremely mildly. That said, I think Once on This Island could work very well as an animated film, or rather as a mixture of live-action and animation to suit its framing device of Caribbean peasants passing a storm by telling each other a story. Being a solid ensemble piece, it has a lot of potential for assembling a broad range of talent...though Queen Latifah would be inevitable for Asaka.
Honorable Mentions: The Secret Garden, In the Heights, Ragtime, Avenue Q
Your turn: What musical would you want to see brought to film (assuming that, you know, they wouldn't mess it up)?