The Best Moments From Bad Movie Musicals
November 7th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
This December 25, Broadway fans can enjoy not one but two big screen adaptations of classic Tony-winning musicals: Annie and Into the Woods. Trailers are officially out and hopes are high (maybe a little higher for Disney’s Into the Woods), but Broadway fans have been burned before by a flashy film adaptation. Oh, yes. BUURRNED. And while it’s easy to dismiss disappointing movie musicals entirely, we are here to say, ‘Hey, even the bad ones have great moments that offer us a glimpse of the stage musicals we love.’ Below, we highlight the best moments from movie musicals** traditionally/almost universally considered “bad.”
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is a mixed bag at best with no one really singing the score and some amazing moments cut (#RIPBalladofSweeneyTodd), but seeing “Poor Thing” come alive so vividly was pretty fantastic.
Phans waited decades to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sweeping, record-breaking musical hit the big screen, but when it finally did, it was greeted much like the Phantom on the masquerade staircase (personally, I loved it, but whatever). And although she didn’t actually sing the role of Carlotta, Minnie Driver’s performance remains the true high point of the The Phantom of the Opera film.
Emily Blunt said it best in The Devil Wears, “That? I can’t even talk about.” Of course, she was referring to pre-makeover Anne Hathaway and we’re referring to the movie of A Chorus Line. The only saving grace was Audrey Landers’ performance as Val.
Another movie, we personally loved but critics did not was the long-awaited big screen Rent. The majority of OBC got back together and so many numbers were so smart and so moving to see on screen, but the most affecting is seeing the Life Support meeting scenes close up and not shoved upstage right.
Nine may have beat Dreamgirls for Tony glory back in the ‘80s but Deena Jones and the Dreams kicked Guido and his ladies’ butts on the big screen. That being said, the most exciting number was one that didn’t even appear in the stage play: Kate Hudson’s swingin’ ‘60s “Cinema Italiano.”
Remember that time they took the most Tony-winning musical of all time and made a lackluster film? They were probably better off just filming a live performance of The Producers; but at least in the end, we ended up with the most fully realized “Springtime for Hitler” ever.
There’s this great story about how the creators of Hair don’t even consider that a film adaptation has ever really been made of their beloved musical because the 1979 movie was changed so much from the show. One change worth enjoying was this practically inappropriate version of “Black Boys/White Boys.”
Man of La Mancha had a lot of troubles during production; it still only has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes; and we haven’t even sat through the whole thing, but let’s just assume Sophia Loren as Aldonza is the best part.
The Rock of Ages movie was super star-studded and fun in a lot of ways, but it just didn’t bring in the big bucks at the box office. Also, the addition of Catherine Zeta-Jones and the cutting of Franz and all that was unnecessary. Blah Blah. The important thing is the “Any Way You Want It” number at the strip club was really cool and featured original and current ROA star Constantine Maroulis.
Poor Stevie Sondheim has been burned with more than one movie musical that didn’t quite live up to its stage predecessor. This time, we are talking about A Little Night Music (11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Liz Taylor starred but the best part was not her but Love Letters star Diana Rigg singing “Every Day a Little Death.” #Acting #IWantThatHat
Because she helped finance the film, Lucille Ball decided that she, and not original star Angela Lansbury, would play the title character in the movie Mame. And she did... But at least we have Lucy and Bea Arthur (two of the best screen comedians of all time) performing “Bosom Buddies.”
**We only considered actual stage musicals made into films (No Glitter, Burlesque, Grease 2), Mamma Mia! and Les Miz made a ton of money so we’re giving them a pass and Evita was fantastic despite what anyone says ever.