Well, 2021 hasn’t been a great one for theatre in… well, theatres so far but from the line up of film adaptations of stage musicals expected to come out this year, 2021 certainly is shaping up to brighter for theatre fans after all. So, let’s dive into the musical movies that we should be seeing on our screens very soon.
In The Heights – Expected UK release date: 25th June 2021
After being pushed back, the In The Heights movie is finally expected to hit the big screens this summer and I can’t wait. I adore the music from In The Heights and I can’t wait for all the new Lin Manuel Miranda fans who only know his work on Hamilton and Moana to see the big screen version of his other huge Broadway hit. The trailer is absolutely stunning for this movie and it looks like it’s going to be the perfect pop of colour and musical movie magic we need this summer.
Dear Evan Hansen – Expected UK release date: 24th September 2021
No trailers for this one yet but we should be seeing Dear Evan Hansen in cinemas this autumn. I have to say I’m not quite as excited for this one as In The Heights but I’m still curious to see how the show will be translated to the film medium. I’ve read that there are a few new characters and some switching around of the relationships of characters (Larry is now Connor and Zoe’s stepdad for some reason) so I’m definitely intrigued as to how this will play out.
West Side Story – Expected UK release date: 10th December 2021
Another one with a release moved back to 2021 to give it a splash in cinemas is Steven Spielberg’s take on this Broadway classic. With this one, I’m excited to see Rachel Zegler’s take on Maria and Ariana DeBose as Anita as well as seeing how Speilberg is going to make it his own. It’s an iconic show and there haven’t been many recent movie adaptations of classic musicals in recent years so it’s an interesting choice.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Expected UK release date: TBC
The only original British musical on this list and I’m so excited to see Max Harwood strutting about in those red heels as Jamie New. This one has also had it’s release date pushed back but as of right now, there hasn’t been a new date announced just yet. We all could do with a new proper feel-good movie musical so let’s hope it comes out soon!
Tick, Tick… Boom! – Expected UK release date: TBC
This is from Netflix’s now foray into musical theatre and features the directorial debut of Lin Manual Miranda. I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually listened to Tick, Tick… Boom! all the way through yet for two reasons. One, because it’s hard to get hold of the music (why is the cast recording not on Spotify?!) and two, because, after Rent, this is only other complete show from Jonathan Larson and as a huge Rent fan, it makes me sad to think once I’ve heard Tick, Tick… Boom! songs, that’s it. Saying that, I genuinely can’t wait to see the movie and I have high expectations for it. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Garfield in a musical, who knew he could sing?!
Which movie musical are you most excited to see this year? For me, In The Heights has the edge but I’m looking forward to all of them. Thanks for reading and bye for now!
Breaking news: I’ve found my new obsession. Since theatres across the UK have been shut for over a year now, I’ve not had much to say about musical theatre. Well, that was until I discovered my new favourite cast recording, The Mad Ones. And you should listen to it too.
The Mad Ones is a Kerrigan and Lowdermilk musical formerly called The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown. The show follows 18-year-old Sam as she tries to decide what to do with her life following the death of her best friend, Kelly. As Sam works through her memories and learns to fully come to terms with what happened, she is guided by Kelly in her imagination. The show also touches on Sam’s relationships with her mum and boyfriend too as she works through her grief and struggles to decide what her next step in life should be after graduating high school. That’s really all you need to know about the plot going into your first listen.
Though grief is a huge theme of the show and some songs are really packed with emotion, it’s not a downer at all. There’s plenty of comedy and lighter moments. I especially love the way the show presents friendship, especially teen female friendship. The people you grow up with shape your personality so much that when you spend more time apart after leaving school and entering adulthood, you almost learn to be yourself all over again without those people having as big an impact as they once had. For Sam, this is so much more intense after Kelly’s death. But, the process that Sam goes through with trying to find herself and learning to not just see her identity through comparisons to Kelly (“She was everything I’m not, my whole universe”) is really touching and shows just how intense and impactful friendship can be. The song Go Tonight, when Sam finally confronts all her emotions over losing Kelly is truly heartbreaking as she confesses the darker side of her grief, including her feelings of inferiority compared to Kelly and how she feels partially responsible for Kelly’s death.
One small part of the story that really gets me is Sam trying to recall the specifics of her last interaction with Kelly and struggling to pinpoint the details. Memories are so important in the grieving process but they’re also so fragile. I think the way the show explores Sam piecing together her memories of Kelly and all that’s happened since she died is such a unique but realistic take on grieving.
I also love the small, intimate vibe of the recording. The whole show only requires four people, which reminds me of the likes of Next to Normal. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and ultimately, I think I miss smaller shows like this the most since theatres have been closed. Don’t get me wrong, I love a big West End show as much as the next Wicked or Les Mis fan, but there’s something special about these smaller-scale productions in off-West End and off-Broadway venues. That’s not to say that I don’t believe this show has a place on the West End or Broadway, I just think it would suit a smaller, more intimate venue more.
The three songs I’ve been listening to the most are The Mad Ones, Go Tonight and Run Away with Me. And, I mean, these songs aren’t just beautiful and emotional, they’re also serious earworms!
Thanks for reading and if you haven’t listened to The Mad Ones yet, get on it! Bye for now!
If you haven’t heard of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, let me tell you the bizarrely uplifting backstory of this show. Back in August, TikToker Em Jaccs posted a short video singing a song she had made up for an imaginary Ratatouille muscial. And, yes, by Ratatouille, I do mean the Disney Pixar film about the rat who becomes a top Parisian chef by whipping up some damn fine ratatouille for a snooty food critic. As more people saw Em’s catchy video, other TikTokers started creating their own songs for this completely hypthetical Ratatouille musical. Then, it grew even more. Soon enough, the non-existent show had choreography, a full set design, a logo and more. It had everything except from, you know, being an actual real-life musical. Well, that was until recently.
A virtual and socially distanced version of the show was made to raise for money for The Actors Fund with full versions of each of the songs created for the musical on TikTok and it was available to stream at the start of this month. It was directed by Six’s Lucy Moss and starred Tituss Burgess with some pretty cool guest stars, including Adam Lambert and Mean Girls and Emily in Paris star, Ashley Park. I bought a ticket not really knowing what to expect. I don’t use TikTok much so I only knew about this whole thing from following plenty of theatre accounts on other social channels.
But, honestly, I loved it. Sure, the live stream clearly had its restrictions. It was short and a lot of the storytelling relied on Remy’s narration but the production did a great job at embracing its TikTok origins. And, those songs are so catchy! It’s beginning might not necessarily sound like start of the next big Broadway hit but seriously, between the thriving pre-existing legion of fans and these genuinely brilliant songs, Disney would be really missing a trick to not pursue this project further. So, come on, Disney, maybe at least release a concept album because I need to be able to listen to The Rat’s Way of Life whenever I need my eardrums blessing!
I LOVED the cast so much, I thought they were all spot on. Tituss Burgess is a star who needs more recognition for his stunning vocals and although I was initially surprised at his casting choice, I’m now completely convinced that he’s perfect for our favourite Little Chef. Adam Lambert and Wayne Brady were brilliant as Remy’s brother and father and I especially appreciated how Wayne went hard with the whole rat-theme. Hell, he even came with his own trash props for his big solo! Andrew Barth Feldman IS Linguini. I have no idea how they managed to get a casting spot-on but he looks nearly identical to the animated character and his performance was beautifully over the top in the best possible way. The last cast member I want to shout about, although I really did love them all was Ashley Park, she totally nailed her solo song and the speed at which she sang in a French accent deserved an applause.
I love that this fun project brought so many people together online, especially at a time when there really isn’t a lot of new theatre out there. It’s inspiring in a truly weird way. I mean, I’m getting deep and sentimental about a musical about rats here(!), but, really it is so heart-warming to see the theatre fandom community come together to bring this show to life. I’m really glad the show paid tribute to and reimbursed all the contributing TikTokers involved (to my knowledge). I really hope to see more from Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical in the future and who knows maybe we’ll even have more TikTok musicals!
What did you think of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and what movie would you love to see turned into the next TikTok musical? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now!
Christmas bells are ringing! It’s December 24th, (and nearly!) 9pm Eastern Standard Time, which means it’s a great time to talk about one of my favourite musicals of all time, Rent. I watched a production of Rent online recently by the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and it genuinely was a brilliant production. It still kept the 90s vibe but had some very clever staging choices to keep it feeling fresh. The cast were also brilliant. But, it got me thinking about Rent’s place in contemporary theatre as it is very much a 90s show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it got me wondering, does Rent really stand the test of time?
Is it TOO 90s?
Ah, the days before smartphones and social media, when people communicated mostly through phone calls and meeting up in person (something fairly rare in 2020, at least!). When I watch or listen to Rent, there are aspects of the story that do feel a bit dated but in the grand scheme of things, the 90s weren’t that long ago. They haven’t crept into the 40-year cycle yet so Rent doesn’t feel old enough to be thought of as a historical piece. However, no one watches Shakespeare and is surprised when they throw in a few “thees” and “thous”, yet when we hear 90s slang in a musical, there’s something weirdly dated about it.
But, isn’t that dated feeling a part of the show’s charm? Ultimately, the story works because it’s set during the AIDS Crisis and at a time when American counterculture was starting to reject the hyper-commercialism of the time. By which I mean, it is a story intrinsically linked to the 80s/90s. The Bohemian lifestyle celebrated by the characters and lifted straight from the show’s source material, nineteenth century opera La Bohème, sees the characters choosing poverty and a life of uncertainty over giving in to the “yuppie” lifestyle. They choose art over career, instant gratification over forward planning, though some of this attitude is also presented as being a reaction to the confirmation that they’ll die young from AIDS. It’s a sad show representing a sad time in modern history. It weaves in and out of social injustices and presents a diverse cast of well-meaning modern Bohemians. From addiction to illness and homelessness to relative poverty, the show explores themes that are are both timeless and strongly contemporaneous to the 90s.
It might not be as easy to relate to Rent now as it was back in the 90s when it first hit Broadway but the show didn’t close over there until 2009, a time pretty far beyond its supposed relevancy. I think one of things that ultimately led to Rent closing may have been the 2005 movie adaptation. There was definitely an attempt made to make the show more suitable for film e.g. some songs were turned into dialogue or removed completely, but the film ended up being criticised for feeling a bit old school and for featuring many of the Broadway actors in roles they originated. The response was that, only 11 years after the show first debuted, the film version already felt dated and the actors felt too old. The critics’ responses to the film mostly coming to the same conclusion, that Rent was past its time, may very well have indirectly led to the show closing just four years later.
However, this wasn’t be the last the stage would see of Rent so, what has been done to update the show since its original Broadway run?
Let’s Talk About Rent Remixed
Rent created a pretty unusual situation. By the mid-2000s, Rent was still a well-respected show (it’s still only one of nine musicals to have ever won the Pulitzer Prize). But, it was feeling dated and new productions were struggling to find a middle ground between embracing the 90s nostalgia and attempting to update the show for modern audiences. Unfortunately, it was from this conundrum that Rent Remixed was realised. This was a revised production that opened in 2007 in the West End. The music was stripped of its 90s grunge sound and instead replaced with more of a noughties pop vibe and the show was updated to the then present day. It was absolutely panned by critics and closed after five months.
I never saw Rent Remixed but from what I’ve heard, everything that was changed about it took away what made Jonathan Larson’s show so poignant and well-respected in the first place. The diversity, the tackling of taboo issues with a mix of boldness and sensitivity and the use of modern-sounding music in a musical was all fairly new in 1996 theatreland but, bizarrely because of the original production of Rent, none of these things would have felt nearly as noteworthy in 2007. In fact, whilst all of those things are still to be praised in modern musical theatre, by taking a musical that had all of those elements anyway and changing it in an attempt to be more commercial, doesn’t it kind of feel like you’re missing the point in taking the risk of being original in the first place?
So, does it matter that it’s dated?
Back to the subject at hand. There are a few issues with the 90s setting that perhaps do cause problems and some of this is down to the problematic aspects of Rent. It’s not a perfect musical by any means. And, while the liberal views of the characters may make them feel almost like proto-millennials, there are a few issues with representation, stereotyping and hypocritical attitudes that might make the show feel a little bit misguided in places to a modern audience. For example, Maureen is a character who has dated both men and women and is presented as promiscuous. Whilst this isn’t an issue in itself, it does play into a recurring negative stereotype in fiction that bi-and/or-pan-sexuality is synonymous with promiscuity. There are quite a few more examples of times in Rent where I, as a modern viewer, get caught between wanting to praise the show for being a pioneer of diversity at the point of its inception and cringing at certain parts of the show that would likely be changed were it a new show doing through workshops now.
Ultimately, how I feel about Rent feels like a microcosm for how I feel about modern political correctness and cancel/call-out culture. I think these things are important but we all get things wrong sometimes and that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. Rent gets some things wrong but when it first appeared on Broadway back in the 90s, it was the first of its kind and actively tried to promote diversity and have something to say. Rent’s not perfect but it tried. We should be able to appreciate that. Sure, the show’s a bit dated and doesn’t always feel totally politically correct but I think we can forgive that for all the things it got right and for all the shows that it paved the way for.
The Hope Mill’s production really renewed my love for Rent. And, hey, as 90s nostalgia is due to come back more and more over the next decade, maybe we’ll be seeing a little bit more of Rent love on the horizon.
Hello! Welcome to the first in my Musings on Musicals, this is a new post series where I will be sharing my thoughts on everything musical theatre-related. It’s basically the content I was doing before I had my year hiatus but under a flashy new name that gives it it’s own special category. To kick this new series off, I wanted to share my absolute favourite shows. And, I mean these are my all-time favourites, not just current favourites.
Now, it would be impossible for me to actually put them into a list so I’ve instead picked my top nine and put them into tiers – everyone loves a good tier ranking system don’t they? So, tier one includes my top three absolute favourite musicals but I can’t put them in a 123 order so just know that I love all three of those equally. Tier Two is the my next three favourites which although I completely adore, just don’t quite make it to tier one and again, within their tier, they aren’t in any particular order and so on. I hope this makes sense, it did in my head!
Hamilton – Some say it’s overrated, I say we don’t talk about it enough for my liking. I really do think Hamilton is the best musical ever written. It’s achingly smart and the impact it has made, not only on theatre, but in modern pop culture is an incredible feat.
Rent – This is the musical that catapulted me from musical fan to super-fan. I think I’ll write a whole post about it when I’m feeling sentimental but the first time I encountered Rent was when I watched the film and I cried at four different moments. Rent is a total marmite show, you either love it or hate it and I completely adore it.
Les Miserables – This is another show that really got me into musicals and, well, it’s just a classic, isn’t it? This is a show that all my family love and we used to play the songs on long car journeys. For me, this show is greater than just my love of theatre, it’s also a part of my childhood and reminds me of family memories.
Bare: A Pop Opera – It’s the style of the music – to me more rock than “pop” – and the heartbreaking story that I really love with this one. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever related to a song from a show so much as Nadia’s A Quiet Night At Home. I wish more people knew this show because it deserves so much more love.
Come From Away – I always think of Come From Away as a musical hug. I’ve seen it twice in the West End and can’t wait to see it again once theatres reopen. I can’t help but smile listening to this amazing true story and Me and the Sky is one of my favourite songs.
Jesus Christ Superstar – I’m slightly ashamed that this is the oldest musical on this list as it’s only from 1970 but I’m usually more of a contemporary musical gal. There’s something about this show that I love though. It’s thought-provoking with amazing songs and I couldn’t tell you the amount of times we’ve watched the Glenn Carter version in my house.
Once On This Island – This is a really recent favourite as I only listened to it this year but it has grown so much on me from multiple listens – I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t move up a tier in time. This show is just gorgeous.
In The Heights – Weirdly, when figuring out this list, I was a bit surprised I found myself putting In The Heights this high but I can’t not put it here because it really is one of my favourites. I can’t wait for film next year so that I can rewatch the story whenever I want and more people can discover In The Heights.
The Last 5 Years – Again, I didn’t really expect to put this here and I was actually between this and Bat Boy which I’ve bumped down a tier. It’s the lyrics that I love most of all with The Last 5 Years, especially in songs like Nobody Needs To Know.
Whistle Down the Wind – Although Whistle Down the Wind isn’t an especially high-ranking favourite for me anymore, it was my first ever favourite musical so I think it needs an honourable mention. After seeing a production as a kid I fell in love with the show and it was the first musical I bought to play on my portable CD player.
Bat Boy – As I said earlier, this show nearly made it to tier three but I’ve moved it to honourable mentions instead. I love Bat Boy and it’s my favourite funny musical.
Dear Evan Hansen – It’s here because I felt weird not putting it somewhere, I love Dear Evan Hansen and You Will Be Found is a song that easily brings a tear to my eye.
What are your favourite musicals? Let me know in the comments!