10 2015 Broadway Shows with Hollywood Connections
By Susan Wloszczyna | Thompson on Hollywood
April 2, 2015 at 4:36PM
Playbillâ€™s roster of upcoming shows is looking more and more like a movie marquee, considering how many recognizable Tinseltown titles and names are featured.
All the world is a stage. But what is on that stage these days, at least when it comes to the Great White Way, is increasingly likely to be either based on a movie, boast a movie star as the headliner or both.
â€œThe Audienceâ€ recently opened on Broadway to solid reviews as Helen Mirren once again stepping into the sensible shoes of Elizabeth II, the role that won her a 2006 Oscar in â€œThe Queen,â€ which was also written by Peter Morgan. Directed by Stephen Daldry (â€œThe Hoursâ€ and â€œBilly Elliot,â€ both the film and musical), the play offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on Her Majestyâ€™s private meetings with a parade of prime ministers through the years.
April 2, David Hareâ€™s â€œSkylightâ€ â€“ also directed by Daldry — officially arrives with Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy as reconnected former lovers (bonus: Mulligan actually makes spaghetti bolognese onstage during each performance).
And next Wednesday brings the glossy musical â€œGigi,â€ the story of a young Parisian girl being groomed to be a high-society courtesan based on Lerner & Loeweâ€™s best-picture Oscar winner from 1958. The stage version, which originally flopped as a Broadway production in 1973, stars Vanessa Hudgens (â€œHigh School Musicalâ€) in the role made famous on the big screen by Leslie Caron.
The reason behind the growing trend of screen-to-stage transformations? As the song goes in â€œCabaret,â€ which most recently featured Emma Stone in her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles, money makes the world go round. And built-in familiarity, especially in the form of casting a popular celebrity or repurposing a successful movie, ensures even more cash in the ticket-sales coffers,
What does such exposure provide Hollywood types such as Stone or Bradley Cooper, who earned acclaim in a recent revival of â€œThe Elephant Manâ€? Prestige, for one. But also consider that Stone joined the now-closed production in the midst of Oscar season when the â€œBirdmanâ€ star competed in the supporting-actress category. And Cooper, whose play also just closed, similarly was in the running for an Academy Award as best actor for his work in â€œAmerican Sniper.â€ Coincidence? We think not since any positive publicity is valuable no matter what the source when trophies are involved
Also probably not a coincidence: Mirren, Mulligan and Nighy all have current or upcoming films at the multiplex. Nighy is part of the ensemble of â€œThe Second Best Marigold Hotel,â€ Mirrenâ€™s â€œWoman in Goldâ€ opened this week and Mulligan is the main attraction in the romantic period piece â€œFar From the Madding Crowd,â€ due May 1. Treading the boards on a regular basis is just another way to raise their profiles and draw new fans.
With jukebox musicals losing their luster as a novelty, it looks as if the Broadway-ification of movies is a fertile growth industry. Meanwhile, film studios are relying more and more on branding and synergy to make sure their bottom lines remain robust. And theater is becoming a bigger part of that financial equation.
Disney has been turning its lucrative animated features into stage spectacles for years, starting with 1994â€™s â€œBeauty and the Beast.â€ Now, â€œBeauty and the Beastâ€ is coming back to the big screen in 2017 as a live-action musical with Emma Watson of â€œHarry Potterâ€ fame as Belle.
Warner Bros., MGM, Sony and Universal are all players in the Broadway game to varying degrees. Twentieth-Century Fox â€“ whose 1997 Searchlight title, â€œThe Full Monty,â€ was a smash onstage in 2000 — got serious about getting into live-theater productions in 2013 by recruiting producer Kevin McCollum (â€œRent,â€ â€œAvenue Qâ€). His task: Turning suitable Fox films whose titles range from Shirley Temple musicals to the â€œIce Ageâ€ animated franchise to â€œMoulin Rouge!,â€ into theater-worthy vehicles.
Which is why composer Alan Menken, known for re-imaging his Disney animated efforts for the stage including the current â€œAladdin,â€ has been tasked with working his magic on a musical interpretation of â€œMrs. Doubtfire,â€ based on Foxâ€™s 1993 Robin Williams comedy classic.
And while The Weinstein Company has been involved with stage shows before, the upcoming musical â€œFinding Neverlandâ€ — the 2004 Oscar-nominated film that told the backstory of how J.M. Barrie came to create his play â€œPeter Panâ€ — marks the first time that studio honcho Harvey Weinstein is the lead producer. Opening April 15, the production stars Broadway veteran Matthew Morrison of TVâ€™s â€œGleeâ€ as Barrie (played by Johnny Depp onscreen) and Kelsey Grammer in the dual role of Barrieâ€™s theatrical producer and Capt. Hook.
And thatâ€™s not all folks. Playbillâ€™s roster of upcoming shows is looking more and more like a movie marquee, considering how many recognizable Tinseltown titles and names are featured. Upcoming shows with Hollywood connections include:
â€An American in Parisâ€ (opening April 12) â€“ Based on the 1951 best-picture Oscar winner that starred Gene Kelly as a World War II vet starting anew in the City of Lights and featuring George Gershwin tunes.
â€The King and Iâ€ (opening April 16) â€“ This revival of the beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein musical features Ken Watanabe (supporting Oscar nominee for 2003â€™s “The Last Samurai”) in his Broadway debut as the imperious King of Siam (Yul Brynnerâ€™s breakout role on stage and screen) who meets his match in Anna Leonowens, his childrenâ€™s strong-willed British governess (Broadway fave Kelli Oâ€™Hara).
“Doctor Zhivago” (opening April 21) â€“ A musical version of David Leanâ€™s 1965 epic romance set against the backdrop of Russiaâ€™s Bolshievik Revolution and based on Boris Pasternakâ€™s Nobel Prize-winning novel. Directed by Des McNuff (â€œJersey Boysâ€).
â€An Act of Godâ€ (opening May 5) â€“ Jim Parsons of TVâ€™s â€œThe Big Bang Theoryâ€ and currently providing the voice of an alien in the animated feature â€œHomeâ€ returns to Broadway (he was last seen in a 2012 revival of â€œHarveyâ€) a bigger star than ever as the Almighty in this one-man show.
“Therese Raquin” (opening Oct. 29) â€“ Keira Knightley makes her Broadway debut as the adulterous title character in a new adaptation based on Emile Zolaâ€™s 19th century novel and play.
â€China Dollâ€ (opening fall 2015) â€“ Al Pacino returns to Broadway in a two-character play that David Mamet wrote specifically for the star. In their fifth collaboration together, including the 1992 film version of â€œGlengarry Glen Rossâ€ and HBOâ€™s 2013 Phil Spector bio, the actor plays a retiring billionaire whose life is changed when he takes a phone call.
â€Miseryâ€ (opening fall 2015) â€“ Bruce Willis makes his Broadway debut as the unlucky writer held captive by a crazed fan in this adaptation of the 1990 movie thriller, based on Stephen Kingâ€™s 1987 novel, that starred James Caan and won Kathy Bates an Oscar.
â€School of Rock â€“ The Musicalâ€ (opening Nov. 2) â€“ Andrew Lloyd Webber steps outside of his comfort zone with this stage version of the 2003 Jack Black comedy about an aspiring rock star who pretends to be a substitute at an elementary school and ends up recruiting his students for a band. Adapted by Julian Fellowes (TVâ€™s â€œDownton Abbeyâ€).
â€The Color Purpleâ€ (opening Dec. 3) â€“ Jennifer Hudson, Oscar winner for the 2006 movie musical â€œDreamgirls,â€ will step onto the Broadway stage for the first time as blues singer Shug Avery in a revival of the musical based on Alice Walkerâ€™s 1982 Pulitzer-winning novel.
â€The First Wives Clubâ€ (target opening 2015-16) â€“ Three middle-age college friends whose heartless husbands have tossed aside for younger women band together to seek revenge. Based on the hit 1996 comedy film that starred Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn.