Culture Pick | The movie musical hysteria isn’t slowing down 

Lucy Phillips, Contributing Writer

We are in the era of the modern movie musical. Kids who grew up watching classics like “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music” have access to a new generation of melody-driven films that include big-screen adaptations of Broadway musicals, Disney live-action adaptations and new versions of classic fairy tales. 

New Releases

This year, new releases include “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” “In the Heights,” “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the pro-shot (a professional filming of the Broadway production) of “Come from Away.” 

In 2022, viewers will have the opportunity to see “West Side Story” back on the big screen starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, as well as “Cyrano” and a movie musical for “Matilda.” 

Netflix is in postproduction for “13,” a musical about a boy preparing for his bar mitzvah, and Disney is working on the live-action “The Little Mermaid,” set to star Halle Bailey, Daveed Diggs, and Melissa McCarthy. 

According to Playbill, some other big titles are in production. Some theorize that an abundance of movie musicals will harm the theater industry. They believe people who would go see shows live will pass on those opportunities if they can access them on streaming platforms. Others believe that with so much access to great theater, the industry will see an influx of new fans who are more excited to see shows live after they’re exposed to the magic of the productions on the silver screen. 

The inaccessibility of theater and Broadway shows has been in discourse for decades — the popularity of movie musicals add a new dimension to it. Many wonder if in the wake of this new trend, there will be an uptick in students and stars who specifically pursue stardom in the movie musical capacity. 


Movie musicals repeatedly showcase the talents of major celebrities, including seasoned Broadway performers and actors with no theater background. For instance, “Les Misérables” (2012) featured the talents of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. These stars have varied backgrounds in theater. Others had no experience and were controversial stunt casts, such as Russell Crowe as Javert. “Les Mis” fans despised Crowe’s portrayal of the iconic character, and distaste for the actor’s singing lingered.

In the wake of these films, fans lament the lack of Broadway star power. Many believe that huge movie musicals should star the famous Broadway performers that originated the parts. It’s often argued that Broadway actors deserve the opportunity to play those parts on screen and be afforded the fame that comes with it. 

Theatergoers must realize that producers want ticket sales, and A-list celebrities bring those. It’s the celebrity-driven box-office successes that have paved the way for the numerous upcoming films. 

Now that movie musicals are abundant, fans hope that they will see more Broadway celebrities included. Hopefully, tickets will sell because of recognizable titles and positive experiences viewers have had with past musical films. 

“Tick, Tick… Boom!,” produced by Netflix and the most recent release in the litany of movie musicals, seems to support this shift. The musical features over 40 cameos of Broadway superstars, including a vocal cameo from the late great Stephen Sondheim, who composed or wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd,” all of which have film adaptations.   

The film, directed by “Hamilton” writer and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda, follows the life of “Rent” writer Jonathan Larson. Larson wrote several musicals prior to “Rent,” and unfortunately never experienced the glowing, international success of the show as he tragically passed away before its opening.

Andrew Garfield, who stars in the film as Jonathan Larson, has a background in Broadway, including a Tony Award in 2018 for his role of Prior Walter in “Angels in America.” His theater talent alongside his movie star power makes the film stand out and will hopefully draw viewers from beyond the theater community. 

From Film to Broadway

The transition from Broadway to film stardom is a jump that many celebrities make. It is a well-known and widely protested trend that some performers treat Broadway as a stepping stone to their greater movie and TV careers. Many theater fans see this as a slap in the face to the industry they love as well as the performers who make and finish their careers on Broadway and never see the recognition that they may deserve. As the movie musical trend continues, theater fans watch to see if producers feature theater or film stars. 

One celebrity who seems to make his way into many movie musicals, quite controversially, is James Corden. His notable appearances include Amazon Prime’s “Cinderella” adaptation, “Into the Woods,” the “Trolls” franchise, “The Prom,” “Begin Again,” “Yesterday” and the “Cats” movie. He is a widely protested feature of numerous adaptations, due to his rumored bad attitude, rude demeanor and problematic portrayal of a gay man in “The Prom,” and fans fear his casting in the future releases of their favorite shows. 

Fans primarily fear his potential casting in another highly anticipated movie musical, “Wicked.” In fact, there is a petition against Corden’s inclusion in the film that has already surpassed 96,000 signatures. 

The “Wicked” movie adaptation has been rumored to be in production for decades, but the leading cast of the film was finally announced to feature superstar Ariana Grande as Glinda, and Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba. Erivo is best known for starring in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple,” for which she won a Tony Award in 2016, and her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in the 2019 biopic “Tubman,” whose soundtrack she contributed to with the song “Stand Up.” 

The casting for the remainder of the “Wicked” starring roles remains unknown and a subject of constant discussion, with a seemingly daily influx of celebrities throwing their hats into the ring for consideration.

To longtime fans of the show, fear not. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda on Broadway in 2003, are rumored to make a cameo in the movie musical. 

New to the movie musicals world? Here’s where to start: 

“Mamma Mia!” and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” both available on Amazon Prime Video, are adaptations of the popular ABBA jukebox musical of the same name and are all-time classics. With a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan (who, yes, sings!), you’ll enjoy these movies even if you don’t normally love musicals. 

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” available on Hulu, and “Rocketman,” available on Amazon Prime, are two movie musical biopics for Freddie Mercury and Elton John, respectively, that will break your heart and make you want to throw out your clothes, restart your wardrobe and fill it with decades fashion. 

“Hairspray,” available on Amazon Prime, is one of the best movie musicals ever and a nostalgic classic with even more nostalgic songs. The film also boasts star power including Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, and John Travolta and Christopher Walken, who are in love! You can’t miss that. 

Netflix: “Shrek the Musical,” “Les Misérables,” “The Prom,” “The Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Muppets.”

Hulu: “La La Land,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Step Up 2: The Streets,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” (in concert), “Sweeney Todd.”

Disney+: “The Greatest Showman,” “Into the Woods,” “Newsies” (pro-shot and 1992 film), “The Sound of Music” and all the animated Disney movies and live-action remakes.

Amazon Prime: “Dear Evan Hansen,” “In the Heights,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Hairspray,” “Chicago,” “Oklahoma!,” “Cinderella” (the not-good one, with Camila Cabello), “Cats,” “Yesterday,” “A Star Is Born” (the amazing one, with Lady Gaga), “Into the Woods,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocketman,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” “Annie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.