Broadway hits bound for big screens

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 17, 2004 | Publication: The Kansas City Star | Author: ROBERT TRUSSELL
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Warner Bros.
Gerard Butler won the title role in “Phantom.”

We can credit the Oscar-winning screen version of the delightfully cynical John Kander-Fred Ebb classic “Chicago” for Hollywood producers now associating the word “musical” with dollar signs.

In the humble opinion of this critic — an unabashed fan of the stage version of “Chicago” — the movie was, well, acceptable. It was competently made, beautifully photographed and more-or-less true to the spirit of the original. It was also annoyingly edited and miscast.

But quality isn't really the issue. The film's worldwide gross of $308 million is the issue. And that was enough to open the floodgates. According to Variety, the venerable showbiz journal, the following movies made from hit stage shows are done deals:

• “The Phantom of the Opera,” which began playing on Broadway almost 17 years ago, will open on screens in December after 16 years in development. Director Joel Schumacher got the job of turning Andrew Lloyd Webber's sung-through pop opera into a movie. Scottish actor Gerard Butler plays the phantom. Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Simon Callow and many others are in the mix.

• “Hairspray,” a stage show adapted from a 1988 John Waters movie, will now be the basis of a new movie. Jack O'Brien, who staged the Broadway show, will co-direct the film with Jerry Mitchell, who choreographed the stage show. The film marks each man's movie directing debut. Shooting will start next year.

• “The Producers,” a stage show adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks' own movie, will be a movie once again. Shooting will start in 2005 with original Broadway stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Veteran Broadway choreographer Susan Stroman will make her film directing debut.

In addition, numerous other movies are said to be in development or at least enjoying life as a figment of someone's imagination. Among them:

• “Rent,” Jonathan Larson's hipper-than-thou reworking of “La Boheme,” which was optioned by Miramax (“Chicago”) and Tribeca Films in 1996. The project is now at Warner Bros., the company releasing “Phantom.”

• “Sunset Boulevard,” which Variety describes as a “high priority” for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Films. The main task is convincing Paramount to remake a nonmusical film widely regarded as a quirky classic from a stage show that was, by Webber standards, less than a box-office bonanza.

• “Bombay Dreams,” a musical about Bollywood produced by Webber, said to be preparing to shoot in India.

• “Les Miserables,” which has been in various stages of development for years. Among the directors attached to the so-far nonexistent project were Alan Parker, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Bruce Beresford, Richard Attenborough and Oliver Stone.

• “Miss Saigon,” the reworking of “Madama Butterfly” set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Producer Cameron Mackintosh's group reports interest from people who want to film it for television, but Mackintosh is holding out for a theatrical film offer.

• “Sweeney Todd,” Stephen Sondheim's musical about the mass murderer known as the “Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” is said to be in “active development” with director Sam Mendes attached.

• “Damn Yankees” and “Guys and Dolls,” both in development at Miramax under the auspices of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, executive producers of “Chicago.”