Musicals and the Movies: Upcoming Screenings and Talks in NYC
By Troy Segal
The new revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, opening hot on the heels of the film version—which received Oscar nominations for Costume Design and Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)—got us thinking about musicals and the movies and how the relationship has changed. Once, the stage show came first, and a film incarnation followed. Although that still happens (Into the Woods), for last few years it seems musicals have been getting their inspiration from the silver screen. Herewith, our picks for the best upcoming screenings and talks on the theme of musicals and musicalized movies.
Roundabout Theatre’s revival of Into the Woods (Jan. 22-March 22), has reconceived the fractured-fairy tale musical (which originally opened in a lavish production in 1987) for an intimate, Off-Broadway presentation, with minimal stylized props and costumes and actors playing multiple roles—and instruments. After the March 7 matinee, there’s a talkback with the cast about the scaled-down approach.
The movie revival house Film Forum is hosting a special Sunday morning series for children (so those growing up with streaming video on tablets can appreciate film the original way: on the big screen). On Feb. 15, it’s showing the musical An American in Paris, starring and choreographed by Gene Kelly. In the current custom of the times, a stage version is set to open on Broadway this spring. March 8 brings a screening of The Music Man, a cinematic—yet surprisingly faithful—version of the long-running show, with Robert Preston recreating his performance as a slick-talking salesman.
One of the more unusual movie musicals ever made was 1981’s Pennies from Heaven. Set during the Great Depression, it featured live actors—Steve Martin, Christopher Walken and Bernadette Peters—lip-syncing to the original recordings of 1930s songs (so sometimes a girlish voice came out of a male throat, and vice versa). The Museum of the Moving Image is screening this interesting experiment Feb. 28 & March 1.
In several Pennies from Heaven numbers, Steve and Bernadette pay homage to the dance routines of classic-film couple Fred (Astaire) and Ginger (Rogers). You can see the real thing—in glamorous black-and-white—in showings of two of the best Rogers-Astaire flicks, Top Hat (Feb. 4-6), and Follow the Fleet (Feb. 11-13), both boasting beautiful Irving Berlin scores, at the Museum of Modern Art.
The track record of stage musicals based on non-musical films is mixed. Given its rave review in The New York Times, the recently opened Honeymoon in Vegas (based on the 1992 movie) may well beat the odds. Hear from stars Tony Danza and Rob McClure (Chaplin), as well as the backstage creative team, explaining how what happens in Vegas ends up on Broadway. 92nd Street Y, March 15.
An older screen-to-stage-show is also lending the Y the stars of its new production, set to begin performances in February. On April 6, Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth (Promises, Promises) and Golden Globe winner Peter Gallagher chat about their careers and their current gig in the revival of On the Twentieth Century, a 1978 musical based on a 1930s screwball comedy, and one of the last efforts of the songwriting team Comden & Green.
Get a backstage glimpse of the workings of Broadway productions—including such current or recent musicals as Kinky Boots, American Idiot and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—via a series of candid photographs. The Broadway Revealed: Photographs by Stephen Joseph Behind the Theater Curtain exhibit also includes a display of costumes and props. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, thru Jan. 31.