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BWW Blog: What is the Current State of Movie Musicals?

Let’s talk about movie musicals, from the days of MGM to Netflix’s The Prom.

BWW Blog: What is the Current State of Movie Musicals?

Hey all!

I hope everyone made it through finals relatively unscathed. Now it's time to settle in, grab some cocoa, and enjoy a relaxing (and safe) holiday. If you're reading this, one of the likely items on your winter to-do list is to watch Netflix's film adaptation of The Prom. I watched it last weekend, and I cried with joy. The film is so celebratory and spectacular, with a joyous message at the center. However, the film is not near perfect. There are several major flaws, which better reviewers than I have pointed out. Instead of talking about The Prom however, I wanted to talk about the bigger picture: what is the current state of movie musicals?

For years, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that the golden age of movie musicals was over. Depending on how you look at it, this could either be a contributing factor to musical theatre falling out of the American cultural zeitgeist, or a result of it. Although there were still some fantastic musical films, the heyday of MGM movie musicals, and those like it, had flown by.

BWW Blog: What is the Current State of Movie Musicals?In the early 2000s, it looked like movie musicals might be making a resurgence, possibly due to the recent Disney renaissance, composed mainly of stunningly solid movie musicals. As Disney was shying away from the musical theatre tradition (at least on screen), other filmmakers picked up the slack. In just over a year, we got Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Moulin Rouge!, and Chicago, which are widely regarded as some of the best movie musicals ever made. In particular, Moulin Rouge! showed the world that a movie musical didn't have to be based on an existing stage show. A filmmaker could create a quality movie musical based upon an original story, something that hadn't been done much since the MGM days. Unfortunately however, movie musicals seemed to vanish yet again.

There were peaks throughout the next decade or so, most notably Hairspray, Mamma-Mia!, and Dreamgirls, the latter of which received two Oscar wins. And come 2010, Disney was making full blown movie musicals again, starting with The Princess and the Frog. These films all likely worked to increase public interest in movie musicals. A few hits and misses later, we end up with the Oscar darling La La Land, which opened the floodgates for quality movie musicals to start thriving again. Soon, we began to receive new movie musicals like The Greatest Showman and a new adaptation of A Star Is Born, and top tier jukebox musical/biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

BWW Blog: What is the Current State of Movie Musicals?Whew. History lesson over. Now we come to 2020. If it weren't for COVID-19, we would have gotten four theatrically released movie musicals in the span of six months. In The Heights, The Prom, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, and West Side Story would have been a diverse and exciting set of musicals to see on the big screen, and attract new and old theatre fans alike. And that will still be a reality, even if it's delayed a year or so.

On top of that, we have exciting new films on the horizon with Lin-Manuel Miranda's directorial debut, tick, tick...BOOM!, and adaptations of everything from Dear Evan Hansen to Merrily We Roll Along in the works, all with both talent and star power to back them. The stories we tell through movie musicals are getting more diverse and exciting. For all my personal reservations about film adaptations, it's thrilling to think a new audience will get to see immortalized renditions of so many wonderful musicals. Film adaptations are also great for those of us who may not have the means to buy tickets to every Broadway show we want to see.

BWW Blog: What is the Current State of Movie Musicals?It may be cautious optimism, but I do truly think that we could be approaching a new golden age of movie musicals. With interest in musicals at a high point due to heavy hitters like Hamilton and Wicked, good movie musicals seem like an inevitability. I'd like to think it's for the love of the form, and not Hollywood realizing the money they could rake in from theatre fans all around the world. Either way, as long as the product is good, I can't wait to see what comes next.

With that, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Stay safe, wear a mask, and watch some movie musicals!



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