Broadway fans, especially those who aren't lucky enough to live near the theatre mecca, have had a lot to celebrate over the past decade with the releases of film versions of some of the biggest hit musicals ever to hit the Great White Way. The 2002 release of the Oscar-sweeping hit Chicago, starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah paved the way for a new generation of movie musicals. Soon thereafter came Phantom of the Opera (2004), starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. Though these Hollywood stars gave honorable performances, Broadway fans were happy to see most of the original cast of Jonathan Larson's groundbreaking hit Rent reunite for the 2005 film.
2006's Dreamgirls starred Beyonce and Jamie Foxx, but made a breakout star of former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson. 2007 saw the releases of the campy Hairspray, starring Zac Efron and Amanda Bynes, and the gothic thriller Sweeney Todd, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The irreverent fun of Mamma Mia! hit movie theatres in 2008, starring Meryl Streep, and the film version of Nine graced the silver screen in 2009, featuring an ensemble of Hollywood's loveliest ladies, including Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman.
The beginning of the 2010s has seen a bit of a dry spell for film adaptations of Broadway musicals. I know I speak for many theatre fanatics when I say we are long overdue for another dose of showtunes on the silver screen. Thankfully, there are quite a few projects in the works that are set to satiate our hunger. The film adaptation of Rock of Ages is scheduled for release in 2012, and though the show uses 1980s rock songs for its score instead of original songs, they are arranged and presented in a highly theatrical way, and fans of the stage show will be clamoring to see the story on the big screen. It certainly doesn't hurt that the cast is star-studded, including Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige, Julianne Hough, Bryan Cranston, and Paul Giamatti. And the creative team's decision to cast a relative unknown, Diego Boneta, in the lead role of Drew should prove an interesting foil to this cast of high-profile actors. As long as he's got the chops, I say rock on!
Because of its impending release, the Rock of Ages film is getting the lion's share of attention as far as movie musicals go, but there are many more great projects on the horizon. John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo) has been tapped to adapt Jersey Boys, 2006's Tony-winning Best Musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, to film. And Rob Marshall, who has directed films such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Chicago, and has choreographed such Broadway shows as Kiss of the Spider Woman and Cabaret, is slated to helm a movie version of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, the Tony-winning musical that rearranges some classic fairy tales. Also, be on the lookout for film versions of American Idiot, featuring the music of Green Day, and a remake of the iconic Jesus Christ Superstar.
Musical theatre fans all over the world can now heave a sigh of relief. Hollywood has not forgotten Broadway in its search for the next big hit movies. Thankfully, the magic that some of us are able to experience in person can be made available to a wider audience with the film adaptations of Broadway's best offerings. Rumors are already circulating about film versions of hits like Spring Awakening, The Book of Mormon, and (breathe), Wicked. But who will star in these flicks? They are normally cast from Hollywood, not the Broadway pool of talent, but the Rent movie broke that trend, and it could happen again. And now that some of our favorite Broadway stars have crossed over onto the screen, (see Glee's Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Idina Menzel, and Lea Michele, and even Sara Ramirez of Grey's Anatomy), maybe we Broadway folk still have a hope of one day seeing a familiar green face flying on that silver screen...