There isn’t any denying that Broadway is now strongly shaped by movies, if not just revivals of past musicals that were also turned into movies. But while Broadway occasionally influences movies based on direct musicals and plays, are we looking at a new influence of Broadway influencing Hollywood based on a new casting trend?
As Hollywood continues to suffer through the needless pain of women not getting enough strong lead roles in movies (or in the general making of movies), the problem seems deadlocked in some kind of long-running, perpetual hell of gender politics. That kind of frustration came to a head recently in a compelling op-ed written by director Lexi Alexander.
Is there some kind of influence that can change the tide before it gets too conveniently swept under the rug yet again? With Broadway a decidedly different entity, they could easily influence Hollywood as much as they’ve been wooing Hollywood A-list stars away for substance over money. These upcoming musicals on Broadway with strong leading women may have Hollywood stealing from the Great White Way, or at least temporarily.
They can also teach a lesson to screenwriters writing for the big screen how many compelling tales have yet to be told from a woman’s perspective.
Idina Menzel in “If/Then”
It’ll be a hint of bias if this new Broadway musical isn’t turned into a movie within another year or two. Starring Idina Menzel (no, not Adele Azeem), it’s a musical concept that digs a little deeper than typical musical plots. This one involves alternate choices and imagines the different scenarios unfolding based on the paths taken by Menzel’s character.
If that sounds a little like “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow, you may be right. Nevertheless, this one may mean more when you wrap a strong musical score around it. When you consider that Idina Menzel is arguably the Barbra Streisand of today in vocal and overall talent, a movie adaptation would instantly turn her into a big screen star.
Another strong point: The lead character is in her 40s, which would bring the walls down in Hollywood.
New Musical Biographies: Carole King and Billie Holiday
The life of Carole King deserves to make it to the big screen considering how many dozens of songs you probably still don’t know she wrote. On Broadway, a musical called “Beautiful” takes on King’s life through Broadway star Jessie Mueller in the lead. It’s a story that deserves as much attention as “Jersey Boys” received and its own upcoming big screen adaptation. And for once, with Mueller so celebrated in the King role, Hollywood should let a Broadway actress have a chance at a lead rather than assume an A-list star would be the only selling point.
On the heels of “Beautiful” is a new upcoming Broadway musical about Billie Holiday starring Audra McDonald. We need a new biopic on Holiday 42 years after Diana Ross played her in the somewhat fictional “Lady Sings the Blues.” This stage musical will reportedly show Holiday in her final years when drugs consumed her.
Fortunately, McDonald has already worked plentifully in movies and TV, so giving her a lead in a movie adaptation wouldn’t be a challenge. She also knows how to bring the house down with her stunning voice.
An Original Musical: “Violet”
For some, it’s likely gratifying to see an original musical being made for Broadway again. With most new productions being revivals, adaptations of prior movies, or other media properties, you have to root for this one called “Violet”, starring Broadway star Sutton Foster. It’s not often we see a lead female role on Broadway when the character is disfigured with facial scars and dealing with the troubles of life as a result.
This role is reportedly heartbreakingly emotional in every aspect, and no doubt emotionally exhausting for Foster to handle on a nightly basis. So far, Hollywood hasn’t had a movie musical about a woman overcoming physical disabilities. Don’t be surprised to see it on the big screen someday after cleaning up at the Tonys.
Some of the best stage musicals with strong female leads are also coming back to Broadway. “Cabaret” is one with Michelle Williams an example of Hollywood moving to Broadway to find better work than they’re finding in movies. Williams will play a new version of Sally Bowles that could easily translate well to a new movie adaptation considering Williams’ A-list status is already proven. With the distance of 42 years since the classic movie adapt of “Cabaret”, you know it’s going to be on the drawing board.
Then there’s something unusual: “The Bridges of Madison County” turned into a musical. With Broadway vet Kelli O’Hara playing the role of Francesca, would Hollywood take a spin with creating a movie remake in musical form? Because Meryl Streep is still active, the chances are less likely.
Regardless, Hollywood and Broadway clearly have some kind of stronger symbiotic relationship going now. Both have equaled the playing field by giving each other plenty of media material and awards. Now they should equalize the problematic issue of gender equality that shouldn’t be just centralized to the stage.