In The Works? 10 Musicals That Should Be Made Films

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 16, 2021

Billy Porter in 'Kinky Boots.'
Billy Porter in 'Kinky Boots.'  

With films like "Dear Evan Hansen," "Tick, Tick... Boom!," and "West Side Story" slated for release this year — and a slew of others like "Bare: A Pop Opera," "The Color Purple," "Follies," and "Wicked" gearing up for production — there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. And to think that only 20 years ago, the movie musical seemed like a bygone artform. (Thank you, "Chicago" and "Moulin Rouge," from the bottom of all of our hearts.)

If there's one thing that can be learned from "Cats" other than the fact that digital fur technology need not exist, it should be that just because something can be made into a film doesn't mean that it should be. While I'd be as happy as anyone to see film adaptations of "Company," "Sunday in the Park with George," "Spring Awakening," and "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812," some creations are intrinsically a thing of live theater and might best be served to remain that way.

Nevertheless, here are 10 musicals ripe for a fresh film adaptation:


"The Book of Mormon"

While there are some flagrantly racist and problematic aspects of this musical that ought to be addressed before anything else happens, it's mystifying that there still doesn't seem to be any concrete plans to bring this Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone musical to the big screen. Having grossed over $500 million — making it one of the most successful musicals of all time — this would undoubtedly be a major movie event.


"Falsettos"

While this William Finn and James Lapine musical occasionally feels like a bit of a museum piece when viewed with modern eyes, the more dated (and sentimental) aspects of the musical could easily be cleaned up for a film adaptation. "Falsettos" straddles the world of musical comedy and heartbreaking tragedy better than most, though, and it remains an indispensable entry in the oeuvre of landmark gay theater. If nothing else, however, the 2016 Broadway revival was preserved on film.


Barbra Streisand's "Gypsy"

There is a prime place in hell for every single film executive who let the funding for this slip away. For the love of God, will somebody please get this movie made? Is she too old for the role? Sure. Would she have made the entire thing about her? Lord, I hope so. But who cares? Barbra has said that she wanted the bookends of her career to be "Funny Girl" and "Gypsy," two musicals by Jule Styne, and to deny her this symmetry is an act of violence against humanity. To add salt to the wound, rumor has it that she wanted Tom Hanks for Herbie and Lady Gaga for Louise, which is something I still lose sleep over. Rumor also has it that Amy Sherman-Palladino ("Gilmore Girls," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") was attached to a forthcoming remake. This is why we can't have nice things.

"Hello, Dolly!"

If you're expecting to see something snarky about the Babs movie here, you've come to the wrong place. But as we saw with the recent Bette Midler revival, this old chestnut can still delight and bring people together like nothing else. And just like producer David Merrick did when he brought Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, and an all-Black cast to the musical in 1967, it's time to breathe some new life into this old girl and invite contemporary audiences to fall under her enduring spell. Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, and Queen Latifah have long been at the top of my Dolly wish list, and what better way to make that happen than with a brand-new film.


"Kinky Boots

This 2013 Best Musical winner, which also won Cyndi Lauper a Tony for her score, empowered audiences to "Just Be" for six years before closing up shop in 2019. Itself adapted from the non-musical 2005 film, "Kinky Boots" helped make Billy Porter a household name (at least in households that follow Broadway musicals), and in the process proved to be a relentlessly infectious tonic of pure joy. Who couldn't use more of that?


"La Cage aux Folles"

There is a very "been there, done that" feeling to this Jerry Herman musical, but you shouldn't hold that familiarity against it. Besides, it has never been given the proper movie musical treatment. Blame "The Birdcage," perhaps — which is an adaptation of the same source material as the musical — but enough time has passed that "La Cage" ought to be given another look. While a 2010 Tony-winning revival could cast a slightly seedier light on the musical, there's more darkness to be mined here; a film in the hands of a director not afraid to go there would do it a world of good. Just don't cast James Corden.


"Miss Saigon"

The fact that films of tiny musicals like "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "The Prom" made the leap to the big screen in no time at all, yet it's been over 30 years and there hasn't been much said about "Miss Saigon" — one of the most successful musicals of all time — is a very puzzling thing. This is a heartbreaking love story set against the brutality of the Vietnam War, and if you've seen this live you know that it is so epically massive that it's a wonder any of it fits on the stage at all. Vague chatter has Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") attached, but there hasn't been a peep on that front in years.


"Parade"

While a musical about the arrest, conviction, and lynching of an innocent Jewish man in 1913 Atlanta doesn't exactly scream "crowd-pleasing joyride," this richly detailed — and wrenchingly timely — musical would make one helluva film. While some of the more cinematic aspects of the musical seemed almost too lofty for the stage, "Parade" feels, for several reasons, ideally suited to the big screen, where the story can be unfurled in a more cohesive, epic manner. Despite the heavy subject matter, Jason Robert Brown's Tony-winning score goes down easy and remains one of the best scores of the last several decades.


"The Scottsboro Boys"

One of the last collaborations between "Chicago" and "Cabaret" songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, "The Scottsboro Boys" is, to put it mildly, one of the most powerful and upsetting musicals I've ever seen. Telling the true story of nine African-American teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931, "The Scottsboro Boys" relays one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the history of the United States through the unlikely framework of a minstrel show. While some finessing of the more overtly theatrical parts of the musical would need to happen for this to find real success as a film, this unforgettable — and totally unconventional — musical deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible.


"Taboo"

It's true that Boy George's "Taboo" is one of the most notorious Broadway flops of the last 20 years. But, as anyone who actually saw the Rosie O'Donnell-produced show will tell you, there was something remarkable underneath all that mess. (And I saw it 13 times, so I'm something of an expert.) This audacious musical — which actually starred Boy George as well — told the autobiographical story of George's rise to stardom and struggles with addiction as it intersected with the life of performance artist Leigh Bowery against the backdrop of the '80s club scene. (If that sounds like a lot, it's because it was.) But the score, which earned George a Tony nomination, was incredible, and the potential was stratospheric. Where is Ryan Murphy when you need him?