A New Age For Musical Film: Here’s What’s Coming Up

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in the heights

As long as both musical theatre and film has co-existed, the two formats have been somewhat intertwined. Many films have been made into musical stage shows (Waitress, Shrek, Sister Act and many more), with even more musicals being transported from stage to the screen. While this is nothing new, it is clear that we are entering a new renaissance of movie musicals, with stage shows densely populating the upcoming release slate. Here are some of the musical adaptations that we’re excited about for over the coming year and beyond.

Coming Soon

In the Heights (18 June 2021)

Long before Hamilton became a universal sensation, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes wrote the Tony Award-winning In the Heights. The show follows a Latin American community who live in Washington Heights (where Miranda himself grew up) over the course of a Summer weekend as they deal with dreams, failures, romance, and the winning of a lottery ticket. The music infuses hip-hop and latinx music to express the beauty of multicultural living, and audiences fall in love with the story’s vibrant, upbeat energy and its warm and intimate portrayal of family. The new film version, helmed by Crazy, Rich Asians director John M. Chu, explodes the same energy on to the screen, having all the makings of a classic blockbuster movie musical; it updates elements of the stage show, but retains its heart. Having been delayed a year due to COVID-19, the film is set to hit UK screens on 18 June 2021. Early reviews are in, and they have praised the musical film relentlessly. This is definitely one to watch.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (TBC)

Everybody really is, in fact, talking about Jamie: this show has been a crowd pleaser since its opening in 2017. Based on a 2011 documentary following a 16 year-old teenager who dreamt of being a drag queen, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been celebrated as a funny, feel-good musical, near approaching its 1000th performance. Its film adaptation, made by 20th Century Studios and Film4, was due to be released last year but has now been pushed back to an undetermined date. It has been penned by Tom McRae, who also wrote the book for the original stage show. This show, at its heart, is about being yourself authentically and unapologetically: it’s a perfect message for the big-screen. In the meantime, it’s set to be the first West End show to re-open post-lockdown, and tickets can be booked now!

Dear Evan Hansen (September 2021)

As another contemporary musical that has taken the world by storm, the musical film version of Dear Evan Hansen is set to be huge. Its main cast are beyond impressive, with Ben Platt reprising the lead role he originated on stage, joined by Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, The Hate U Give), and Nik Dodani (Atypical) rounding off the younger cast. However, it’s the mums we have to look out for with Amy Adams and Julianne Moore stepping into the roles of Cynthia Murphy and Heidi Hansen, respectively. It’s a difficult one to adapt for the stage with its technology-utlising staging, small ensemble cast, and difficult themes, but I’m confident that director Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower) will be able to sensitively and beautifully adapt the source material.

West Side Story (21 December 2021)

Arguably, West Side Story is better remembered for its 1961 adaptation than the stage show, but this hasn’t stopped Steven Spielberg from trying his hand at re-adapting it. The classic retelling of Romeo and Juliet transports the tale to New York, where an Italian American and Puerto Rican gang battle it out for dominance, whilst one from each side fall in love. The first look at the film shows that it has kept the grandiose nature of the 60s film, but given it a neater sheen with its contemporary filmmaking style. The real highlight of this is set to be Rachel Zegler’s debut performance as Maria; with a powerful voice and youthful vulnerability, the eighteen year-old is one to watch.

Tick, Tick… Boom! (November 2021)

Lin-Manuel Miranda hops from the writer’s seat into the director’s chair for his directorial debut, a Netflix adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s musical Tick, Tick… Boom! The show, written by the Rent creator, serves as a semi-autobiographical tale, following a New York based aspiring composer, as an existential crisis has him wondering if he made the right career choice. As a lesser known musical, there’s more room for experimentation, and Miranda’s adaptation has made the most of this, with additional characters and songs being added to the mix. With Andrew Garfield leading in his first musical role, it’ll be exciting to see this brought to life. We haven’t seen much footage yet, other than a very brief clip in Netflix’s 2021 film showreel, but the anticipation builds!

A Little Further Down the Line…

Wicked (TBC)

It’s true that the Wicked musical film feels like a pipe dream at this point, with its original 2019 release date having well past, and with its team rotating constantly. However, following In The Heights, it seems that Jon M. Chu has got the musical adaptation fever, as he is now signed on to direct, taking over from Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot). We know very little else at this point, other than the fact that it is expected to have a few extra songs. Amanda Seyfried is currently campaigning to get herself cast as Glinda, so we’ll see if she succeeds…

Matilda The Musical (TBC)

The stage version of Roald Dahl’s classic is set to return to screen, courtesy of Netflix. Matthew Warchus, who directed the show at The Cambridge Theatre, will also be directing it for the screen, and it keeps its original songs by Tim Minchin. While we don’t have a release date, we do have a central cast, with newcomer Alisha Weir taking on the titular role, while Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch step in to play Ms Trunchball and Miss Honey. Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough and Sindhu Vee will also star.

Also rumoured for musical film adaptations in the near-future are Mean Girls: The Musical, Be More Chill, Follies, Merrily We Roll Along (starring Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein) and The King and I. Whether these adaptations come to fruition or not, it is clear that musical fans are in no shortage of upcoming cinema trips! Film adaptations of musicals make theatre accessible beyond their usual audiences, and it’ll be exciting to welcome new people into the fanbases of all these well-loved shows.

Words by Rehana Nurmahi.


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