For a couple of decades, Hollywood studios were reluctant or simply refused to adapt Broadway musicals into movies. All that changed in 2002 when "Chicago" hit the silver screen. The rousing energetic adaptation of the satirical stage musical with themes of celebrity, scandal and corruption during Chicago's Jazz Age wowed critics, moviegoers and Oscar voters.
So during the following ten years, big-screen adaptations of three Broadway musicals were released bwith very mixed results. But 2014 will be historic as film versions of three stage musicals will all be released this year.
IN THE PAST TEN YEARS
A still from the upcoming film version of “Into the Woods”?shows Meryl Streep as The Witch.
"The Phantom of the Opera" (2004) - The British-American adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's groundbreaking musical was generally disappointing.
Gerard Butler was not very disfigured and Christine was only a teenager when filming began, although "The Music of the Night" score drew appreciative reviews.
"Sweeney Todd" (2007) - Many fans of Stephen Sondheim's bloody tale of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street questioned the casting. Johnny Depp was barely passable as Sweeney but his longtime acting companion Helene Bonham Carter was totally miscast as the pie-making Mrs. Lovett.
"Les Miserables" (2012) - A grand filming of the the epic musical historical drama excelled, wowing everyone. A great cast was headed by Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, and Ann Hathaway as Fontaine (winning an Oscar for her poignant portrayal). Oh yes, there was also Russell Crowe, miscast as Inspector Javert, not able to passionately sing the powerful tunes.
The "live" singing as scenes were filmed made "Les Miz" stirring musical entertainment.
IN THE NEXT TEN MONTHS
Two familiar and one little-known Broadway musical are slated for release this year.
"Jersey Boys" - The pop music biopic won the 2006 Tony Award as "Best Musical." The long-delayed screen version, expected to be released in June, is directed by Clint Eastwood.
The storyline follows Frankie Valli and his singing group go from blue-collar, "wrong side of the tracks" origins to become American pop sensations, selling 175 million records worldwide before they are 30 years old. Much of the Four Seasons' music and lyrics from the stage play including hits such as "Sherry." "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Rag Doll" and "Oh, What A Night" are retained in the movie.
Best casting news is that John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frank Valli, playing over 1,300 performances, will play the Jersey singer with the famous falsetto.
"Into the Woods" - The popular musical is a modern twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Familiar tales of Cinderella, Little Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel are tied together with new characters, including a baker and his wife who wish to begin a family and a witch who puts a strange curse on them.
The large cast features both Broadway and Hollywood actors: Johnny Depp (The Wolf), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (Cinderella's Prince), Christine Baranski (Cinderella's Stepmother), Tracy Ullman (Jack's Mother) - and drum roll, please - Meryl Streep (The Witch).
The movie, anticipated to be released late this fall, will feature a new song from Stephen Sondheim, and answers the question "What happens after 'happily ever after'?"
"The Last Five Years" - From Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, this is musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five-year period.
Although this cult musical was written for only one man and one woman, the film's cast is expanded to a dozen. The leads are Anna Kendrick as a struggling actress Cathy and Jeremy Jordan as an up-and-coming talented novelist Jamie.
Their story is told almost entirely through songs using an intercutting timeline device.
All of Cathy's songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair; Jamie's songs start at the beginning of their affair and move forward to the end of their marriage.
Cathy and Jeremy meet in the center when Jamie proposes. This structuring is so unique that it may limit the film's broad appeal for moviegoers.