By Drew Parton
As a high school student, I was involved with a lot of musical theater. While I enjoy it, I can completely understand that some people can’t quite get into the whole musical part of the play—and maybe that’s the stage aspect. But movie musicals allow us to blend the emotionality of musicals with the contemporary cinematic techniques. With that in mind, here are three musicals that desperately deserve a movie treatment:
My Favorite Year
This one’s getting a bit recursive, because it was a movie first. It was executive-produced by Mel Brooks, and definitely has that sense of humor. The plot is actually kind of similar to the TV show 30 Rock. Set in 1954, Benjy Stone is an aspiring writer on a sketch comedy show. He manages to get his big break by writing a sketch starring his childhood hero Alan Swann (originally played by Tim Curry in the Broadway musical). Swann’s insane, drunken primadonna antics lead Benjy into a series of mishaps, and ultimately a personal journey of discovery for both himself and Swann. I can personally attest that the musical is charming, and the dialogue witty. I think it’s actually a strong improvement over the original movie.
It may come as a surprise that Ragtime only first premiered in 1996. But even if it’s not as old as mainstays like Oklahoma, or The Sound of Music, Ragtime is- without a doubt- one of the greatest musicals of all time. It takes place in the 1920’s, and follows the inter-locking stories of three different social groups: A Jewish family newly immigrated to the US, an upper-class white family, and an African American musician from Harlem. The social commentary—especially with Coalhouse Walker Jr.—is still poignant today. There has already been a film based on the book, but the intimate musical numbers add so much more depth to the story. Whenever you find yourself hopeless, listen to “Make them hear you.”
Selected pieces: “Make them hear you”
The Scarlett Pimpernel
Really, this was the entire purpose of this article. It is no doubt one of my favorite musicals of all time, with music written by the incredible Frank Wildhorn (who also wrote Jekyll and Hyde). During the reign of terror in the French Revolution, English nobleman Percy Blakeney decides to become a masked vigilante called The Scarlett Pimpernel, who rescues innocents from execution. All the while, he is hunted by Monsieur Chauvelin, a fanatic revolution leader. Tackling the roles would be really difficult, because Percy pretends to be an ignorant fop in order to mask his identity, so playing both the daring Pimpernel, and the bumbling Percy would take range in an actor. And playing the villain Chauvelin would take a seriously vicious actor. I think that I would actually like to see Tom Hiddleston in the title role. He’s already proven that he can have action chops, and just has that posh air that would be perfect for him. As for Chauvelin, I would really love to see Hugh Jackman try his hand at being a brutal villain- go listen to Chauvelin’s song “Falcon in the Dive,” and just picture Jackman bringing his intensity to that. Along with The Scarlett Pimpernel’s theme “Into the Fire,” they are two of my favorite pieces of music. Just listen to “Into the Fire” before you have to do any sort of task- it will even make folding laundry inspiring.