LEIGH SCHEPS | FEBRUARY 23, 2021
Broadway may be on hiatus right now, but while we eagerly wait for it to reopen, several movie musicals will help us get through 2021. Shows such as In the Heights, Dear Evan Hansen, and West Side Story are being reimagined for the screen, giving audiences a fresh take on beloved stories.
“We’re getting movie musicals again — that’s epic!” says West Side Story star Paloma Garcia-Lee of the recent resurgence. The Moulin Rouge! dancer with six Broadway shows on her résumé hopes “this opens the door for us to tell stories in bigger capacities and not just on Broadway.”
“These iconic pieces are getting this fresh coat of paint,” she says. “Movie musicals are getting their time in the spotlight, and so are triple treats. Now we are seeing, for example, [The Prom actress, singer, and dancer] Ariana DeBose, and the rest of us. We are not just dancers: We are multiplatform storytellers.”
“The fact that these two major movies [Heights and Story] with Latinos are happening and being the center of it all is really incredible,” Carlos Gonzalez, who appears in In the Heights, West Side Story, and tick, tick…BOOM!, said in 2019.
Here’s everything you need to know about the movie musicals headed our way.
In the Heights
The good news is that In the Heights, which features a new song over the end credits, is less than 96,000 days away despite having been pushed back an entire year.
Anthony Ramos (Hamilton) plays Usnavi, a role that was originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and catapulted his career. So many other recognizable actors are also in the film, including Leslie Grace as Nina; Melissa Barrera (Vida) as Vanessa; Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as Benny; Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn99) as Carla; Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) as Daniela; and Olga Merediz as Abuela, the role she originated on Broadway. Elle reports that Dasha Polanco (Orange Is the New Black) is playing Cuca, a new role created for the film. Miranda, who started writing the music for the show when he was in college, plays the Piragua Guy in a cameo.
The movie was filmed during the summer of 2019 in various locations around New York City, and on some days, just two blocks away from where West Side Story was filmed. Jon M. Chu directs, with a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who also wrote the musical’s book.
The Warner Bros. movie musical, based on the Tony Award–winning Broadway show, will hit both the big screen and HBO Max on June 18.
Cinderella heads for the ball again, a few months after the 1997 made-for-TV version aired on Disney+. This live-action film stars Camila Cabello in her acting debut. Billy Porter plays the Fairy Godparent; Idina Menzel plays Cinderella’s stepmother; Nicholas Galitzine is the Prince; Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver are the King and Queen; John Mulaney and James Corden play footmen/mice; and Missy Elliot is the Town Crier.
Idina Menzel revealed that she and Cabello will sing original songs. Billy Porter raved about the updated screenplay by Kay Cannon, who also directed.
“This new version takes all of that into account and it is the most empowering version of a Cinderella story that you could ever imagine. And that’s all I can say,”
Production on the movie was halted due to the pandemic and picked back up again last summer.
Cinderella premieres in theaters July 16.
Dear Evan Hansen
September is going to be a good month, and here’s why: Ben Platt is reviving his Tony Award–winning role as Evan Hansen in the Universal Pictures movie musical adaptation. Julianne Moore plays Evan’s mother, Heidi; Amy Adams plays Connor Murphy’s mom; Kaitlyn Dever is Zoe Murphy, and Amandla Stenberg is Alana Beck.
The movie is based on the Tony-winning musical about a teen with social anxiety who gets tangled in a series of lies. It features Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Grammy- and Tony-winning music and lyrics. Book writer Steven Levenson adapts his work for the screenplay; Stephen Chbosky directs. Platt’s dad, Marc Platt, serves as co-executive producer.
Dear Evan Hansen is set to be released September 24.
West Side Story
Something’s coming, and we’ve all waited an extra year for it: Nineteen-year-old Rachel Zegler plays Maria opposite Ansel Elgort’s Tony in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated adaptation of West Side Story. The cast features a roster of Broadway stars, including Ariana DeBose (Anita), Brian D’Arcy James (Officer Krupke), and David Alvarez (Bernardo). Michael Faist (Dear Evan Hansen) is Riff to Paloma Garcia-Lee’s (Moulin Rouge!) Graziella.
Screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels in America) has adapted the original Arthur Laurents–Stephen Sondheim–Leonard Bernstein 1957 musical and added new scenes, dialogue, and characters. Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film, plays Valentina, Doc’s widow. Another new character is Fausta, Maria’s dress shop boss, played by Andrea Burns (On Your Feet!).
Straying from the 1961 film, this time the Sharks will be played by Latinos. “I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” Spielberg said in a press release.
The movie was filmed during the summer of 2019 in NYC’s Washington Heights and Brooklyn, and parts of New Jersey, including Newark and Paterson. Broadway’s original Anita, Chita Rivera, visited the set one day for lunch with the Shark girls — one of whom is Yesenia Ayala, who played Anita in Broadway’s 2020 revival of the musical. Of the sisterhood of Anitas, Ayala notes that DeBose’s name will now forever be synonymous alongside Rivera’s and Moreno’s. “Watching her do her own spin and take on it was beautiful,” she said in 2019 of DeBose’s portrayal.
New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck choreographed, paying tribute to Jerome Robbins but not solely relying on the original material. And several ensemble members in the film say the most inspiring person to them on set was Spielberg. “There was a lot of love he spilled all over the dancers,” Burns said of Spielberg in 2020. “Dancers often get the short stick of everything and work the hardest. They are the stars really of this movie, and to see them beloved and cherished so much by Steven Spielberg was beautiful.”
West Side Story premieres in theaters December 10.
Diana: A New Musical
Some people just can’t get enough content about the People’s Princess. There’s the recent popularity of The Crown and the upcoming Spencer movie — and now add a musical to the mix!
The biopic of the Broadway musical about Princess Diana’s life isn’t waiting for theaters to reopen to have a royally grand premiere: The show will first air on Netflix this spring. Diana: A New Musical had begun performances March 2, 2020, before Broadway shows were shuttered due to the pandemic. In August, it was announced the cast was reuniting (after quarantining) to film the show without an audience inside the Longacre Theatre for Netflix. Diana stars Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles, and two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth.
So far, we’ve gotten to hear a few songs from the show (unless you were lucky enough to score a ticket for the first week of previews), including “If” and “Underestimated.” And we know from Diana’s iconic style, de Waal has several dozen epic costume changes designed by six-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long.
Christopher Ashley directs; Kelly Devine choreographs, with music and lyrics by David Bryan; and the book and lyrics are by Joe DiPietro. An exact premiere date has not yet been announced.
Lin-Manuel Miranda started his directorial debut with a bang: tick, tick…BOOM! stars Andrew Garfield in his first singing role.
“Andrew’s someone who’s never been a musical. The other day, we’re in rehearsal, and he stops me and goes, ‘I just have to say, I love doing this,’” costar Robin de Jesús said in 2020 at the beginning of filming.
The show originally premiered Off-Broadway in 2001. It tells the autobiographical story of Rent composer Jonathan Larson as he questions his creative aspirations while living in New York City during the early 1990s. Joshua Henry (The Wrong Man), Judith Light (Transparent), and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) join Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) and Alexandra Shipp (Shaft) in the cast. Jordan Fisher (Rent: Live), Lauren Marcus (Be More Chill), and Beth Malone (Fun Home) also appear in the film. Christopher Jackson revealed to Den of Geek that he has a cameo in the film.
De Jesús (The Boys in the Band), who plays Michael, Jon’s best friend, revealed last year what it was like to join back up with Miranda. “It’s a bit of a reunion, with many of us from In the Heights, and there’s new people too. They’re connected from other worlds too. So it does feel like a family function in that sense. To watch Lin, who’s always like a little kid, just be amazed by everyone – it’s so infectious. It’s so joyous,” de Jesús said.
Dear Evan Hansen’s book writer, Steven Levenson, penned the screenplay, with music and lyrics by Larson. Filming had just started when the pandemic hit, so the cast and crew went back into production over the summer and wrapped in late 2020.
A release date has not yet been announced but a few scenes were featured in Netflix’s 2021 trailer.
Everyone’s Talking About Jamie
This might be the next teen cult favorite, as everyone’s talking about, well, Jamie. People caught on to the music after listening to the concept album, which came out in 2017. Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is based on the musical of the same name that originally debuted on London’s West End that year. The musical is inspired by the true story featured in a 2011 documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The movie follows a 16-year-old (Max Harwood) from England as he becomes a drag queen despite his father’s disdain.
Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is directed by Jonathan Butterell with a screenplay by Tom MacRae. MacRae also wrote the lyrics to accompany music by Dan Gillespie Sells.
A release for Disney’s 20th Century Studios was set for February 26 after being pushed back from 2020, though it has been delayed again, with no new date set for its release and it is no longer listed on Disney’s movie release calendar.
Come From Away
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical will be available to watch from home. Based on true events, Come From Away tells a touching story in the wake of September 11, 2001. Thirty-eight planes carrying more than 6,500 passengers were rerouted and stranded in the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland. The people who lived there opened not only their homes to international strangers, but their hearts. To create the musical, Canadian writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein collected hundreds of hours of interviews that turned into this 100-minute production.
Entertainment One announced it will produce and finance a live filming of the musical this May at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, featuring members from the Broadway cast. Filming the show will also employ more than 220 people, many of whom have been out of work since the shutdown. RadicalMedia will film the production, as they did for the filmed versions of Hamilton for Disney+ and David Byrne’s American Utopia for HBO.
After Diana, Come From Away marks the second musical that director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Kelly Devine are collaborating on for film. A release date and the platform it will air on have not yet been announced.