Once upon a time, Hollywood made musicals into movies. Now Broadway makes movies into musicals, and the returns are mixed. On the plus side of the margin, you’ve got bona fide hits like The Producers, Hairspray (pictured), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, and Spamalot! On the minus, you’ve got Footloose and the unforgettable Carrie.
Taylor Hackford apparently thinks the movie-to-stage endeavor is worth his time. The film director, Oscar-nominated for Ray, must have had his choice of projects after the success of that celebrated biopic. He chose to helm Leap of Faith as it makes the move to Broadway, with a score by Alan Mencken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid). (Leap, by the way, seems to be considered the ideal movie for a musical adaptation: The Steve Martin-starrer wasn’t that big a hit when it was released, but respect for it has grown with years of video rentals. This, according to an agency friend, is what the big-money producers are looking for: smaller films with stealth fan bases, existing musical components, and gestalts that adapt easily to live stage production.)
The Wedding Singer debuts soon, and with it, a renewed attempt to attract younger audiences to Broadway. But while that battle rages on up nawth, Disney is skipping New York entirely and quietly debuting Finding Nemo: The Musical at its Animal Kingdom theme park in Florida. Clocking in at just 30 minutes, Nemo would seem to be the sort of “stage spectacular” you’re accustomed to seeing performed by college kids listlessly busking in sweaty character costumes. But Disney’s sprung for Avenue Q composer Bobby Lopez — so is this a test run for a larger-scale production? The Mouse is mum.
Mum, but multitasking. The company is also developing its surprise Disney Channel hit High School Musical into a show. But not a Broadway show: Once again, Disney’s doing an end-run around the Great White Way and taking this one straight to the people. They’re not even mounting a production, but simply allowing the stage version to be licensed by, yes, high-school theater troupes. As the wise woman said: Very smart, Maria; very smart. Because, come to think of it, the best way to get young people interested in musical theater is to give them access to musical theater. Instead of, y’know, asking them to pay $100 a ticket.
So I put the question to you, readers: What movie would you pay $100 to see sung-through? And keep in mind, there’s already a Silence of the Lambs musical out there. (I’m not kidding.)