Chris Connor on the resurrection of the movie musical…
Film musicals are certainly not a new phenomenon with a long history of both animated and live action features proving incredibly successful both with audiences and award bodies alike. Be it the 50s and 60s musicals from the likes of Singin’ in the Rain, Guys and Dolls, The King and I or The Sound of Music there is a rich cinematic tradition for the genre and while there have been glimpses off revived interest in recent years, the genre certainly isn’t as rich as it was in its heyday.
2021 however has seen a crop of musicals emerge as some of the year’s most buzzed about titles with the much lauded Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation In The Heights proving a hit with audiences and critics. It appears to be a bumper year cinematically for Miranda with his directorial debut tick, tick…Boom! starring Andrew Garfield set for release later in the year. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s much anticipated remake of West Side Story is finally due to be released later in the year following its delay from December 2020; the 1961 film adaptation won an incredible 10 Oscars from its 11 nominations and remains regarded as one of the all-time great film musicals.
Other musical highlights for the remainder of 2021 include Annette, built around the music of the group Sparks, in what is a bumper year for the group with a documentary from Edgar Wright also released. The film stars Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, the early glimpses provided at the film have led to this being one of the most anticipated films of the year in critic circles. While it has star-power given its niche premise, it will be interesting to see how this film fares at the box office. Dear Evan Hansen and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie are based upon successful stage productions and will likely prove crowd pleasers in their own right, underlining the amount of musical riches for audiences in 2021, perfectly timed to lift audiences spirits perhaps when we need it most.
Building to 2021’s titles, since the turn of the millennium with the likes of Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman proving hugely successful. Jukebox musicals like the Mamma Mia films have also found an audience along with increased interest in biopics; Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman depicting the life of Elton John as a stylish musical won widespread plaudits and was labelled by many as a fitting way to tell the story of its musical icon rather than with lip-synching to the original artist as had been the case with Bohemian Rhapsody just a few months prior. Fletcher had also helmed the hugely successful Sunshine On Leith in 2013, inspired by the music of Scottish group The Proclaimers. La La Land’s huge success in 2016-17 proved that there is still room for a musical to be both an awards darling and a major success with audiences, grossing close to $450 million worldwide, 15 times its budget.
The sheer breadth of musicals being released in 2021 show’s that this isn’t a one size fits all genre with each appealing to a different demographic while some are likely to be more niche in offering than others; there certainly appears to be considerable mainstream appeal for In The Heights even if its box office total isn’t quite what was expected, and West Side Story being a remake of an iconic classic from one of the best known filmmakers of all time should help to boost its profile. Whether or not this carries on into 2022 remains to be seen but we are promised a fresh version of Guys and Dolls as well as Netflix’s adaptation of 13 and a film version of the Matilda musical as well as Billy Elliot the Musical to name but a few offerings that should hopefully please audiences and critics alike.
What are your thoughts on modern movie musicals? Which are your favourites, and what are you looking forward to seeing? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth…