The 2000s: A New Beginning
"Hollywood Singing and Dancing" is a thirteen-part series that takes you on the set of some of the most beloved movie musicals of all time. Memorable interviews with stars and people behind the scenes bring tinseltown to life. Starting in the silent era, the series moves through Hollywood's toe-tapping golden years, the iconoclastic 70s and 80s, and ends at the start of the 21st century.
♪ Come on, babe, why don't we paint the town? ♪
♪ And all that jazz
White: I think musicals are an integral part of filmmaking,
and people should nowadays give 'em more attention.
Some of the most beautiful showcase of talent
takes place in musicals.
It's interesting when you work in this form
that every movie seems to carry
the weight of the genre on its back
because people for some reason always seem to,
when a movie isn't successful,
say okay, they're dead again.
Rooney: I hope that the new generations will get a flavor
to want to see good American entertainment.
♪ And all
The first decade of the 21st century
has happily seen a resurgence of the Hollywood musical.
Hip-hop and freestyle dance are new additions
to the rich canvas of the genre.
Latin rhythms, pop tunes, and new takes on old standards
continue to sound from the screen.
Hollywood is once again transforming Broadway
into celluloid magic, a stream that runs both ways.
Broadway is also drawing inspiration
from the silver screen.
It seems that the razzle dazzle of the Hollywood musical
has found a place in the 21st century.
Director Baz Luhrmann is quoted as saying,
"My singular mission has been to find a way
"of making the musical cinema work again
"for this time and this place."
Ironically, his foundation
for making the musical work today
is the Belle Epoque of 19th-century France.
Some time ago we were in Paris, researching "La Bohème",
and we did a lot of research on the birth of Bohemianism,
and the journey of that from the 1840s
and the commercialization of it around 1899
and indeed the birth of the Moulin Rouge.
Shirley: The Moulin Rouge has long been linked
to a revolution in dance.
The can-can and the women who performed it
represented a literal freedom of movement--
both physically and socially.
The high kicks and splits
were considered shocking and very unladylike,
which was part of what made them popular.
♪ The Moulin Rouge
Shirley: While the backdrop of the film is Paris 1899,
the text of the film is a veritable catalog
of 20th-century popular culture--
especially when it relates to love.
We try and quote as many references
from culture and popular culture as we can
to help you understand the story in the musical.
I thought the people were fantastic.
I didn't know that Ewan McGregor
and Nicole Kidman could do that.
Oh my God, what an idea,
and what wonderful performances they gave.
And what a difficult, difficult shoot
that must have been, technically.
Shirley: Even old masters of the musical
took to "Moulin Rouge!"
"Singin' in the Rain's" director Stanley Donen
is quoted as saying,
"Baz changes our notion of rhythm.
"He changes our notion of pace.
"Every moment is a showstopper, and 'Moulin Rouge!' wins."
Condon: I was fascinated by
what Baz Luhrmann did in "Moulin Rouge!"
because you have that basic question,
how will you get an audience to accept the fact
that people are breaking out into song?
Now, this is something that I think,
there was a contract between the audience and the movies
that lasted until probably the end of the '60s,
where a certain kind of artificiality was accepted,
and this convention of people breaking into song
was something that people just accepted too.
But when the movies became more realistic,
when the French New Wave really influenced Hollywood
and movies suddenly went out onto the street,
these conventions started to really fall apart.
But on this movie, he let audiences
laugh at the convention, you know?
There's this moment where it seems silly,
and then, having eased you in,
then he lets you, you know,
watch people sing love songs to each other.
Shirley: Luhrmann not only samples
the language of pop music and opera,
but also classic moments of musical film.
There are moments in there that I think are just fabulous.
When they start pulling songs in from other musicals
and totally mixing periods up and so on.
Warren: I thought "Moulin Rouge!" was fantastic.
The way it was shot and edited was so very modern
and utilized so many modern techniques
as well as sensibility.
And I think as a result, it was a great amalgamation
of everything that worked before, it works now,
and is also probably going to work in the future.
All the great musicals that we remember today
and still keep poppin' up on television
were successful because they were not only
good films and a lot of great music,
but the whole family could go enjoy it together.
♪ It's been a hard day's night
Shirley: In the 1950s and '60s,
the rock musical created a fissure in the notion
that there was a single kind of musical
that would delight the whole family.
♪ Open up your mind
♪ Let your body soar
♪ Arms and legs entwined ♪
♪ Cry more, more, more
Shirley: 40 years later,
the musical genre remains fragmented,
often combining song and dance
with elements of other film types.
♪ Smoke the marijuana
♪ Sail the sea of sin ♪
♪ Reach a hot nirvana
♪ Tremble from within ♪
♪ Serve your appetite
♪ Plan to stay the night ♪
♪ I am standing
♪ At temptation's door
♪ I have never
♪ Felt this way before ♪
♪ Join the wonder dance
Shirley: The "Corpse Bride" was another tour de force
of Tim Burton's very sweet
but spooky take on the macabre musical.
As with his previous hit, "Nightmare Before Christmas",
all of the action was performed with stop-action puppetry.
This 1930s style farce of matrimony and deceit
was scored by Danny Elfman.
A modern-day Henry Mancini,
Elfman had composed scores and soundtracks
for countless films from "Batman" to "Good Will Hunting".
Elfman originally rose to fame
as one of the founders of the band Oingo Boingo
and has had his most successful film collaborations
with director Tim Burton.
A favorite of children and adults alike,
Tim Burton's adaptation of the Roald Dahl book
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
uses the original lyrics that Dahl wrote.
The music, on the other hand, is pure Danny Elfman.
One of the challenges of adapting the Dahl books
has always been the strange workforce in Wonka's factory.
The 1971 film used little people from all over Europe.
♪ Oompa loompa
Shirley: In this modern adaptation,
the challenge was met by technology and a single actor.
All 165 Oompa Loompas were played by actor Deep Roy.
In the 21st century,
some independent films have delivered
instant musical favorites and modern cult classics.
♪ It's turkey lurkey time
♪ Tom turkey ran away but he just came home ♪
Shirley: "Camp" took
the 2003 Sundance Film Festival by storm.
Loosely based on director Todd Graff's
fond memories of his days at theater camp,
this film took a risky approach to an already risky genre.
The cast were all non-union actors,
none of whom had ever been on television
or in a movie before.
It was the combination of two factors.
First of all, I could not have afforded to make the movie
using union actors.
It just would have been too expensive for us.
And secondly, I think I got realer and fresher performances
than I would have from kids that know how to cry on a dime,
but I don't believe the tears.
Shirley: "Camp" is about kids
who do not fit in with mainstream teen life
but discover a home at theater camp.
Graff: The musical numbers start out very campy,
and as these kids can relax and aren't afraid
of getting the crap beat out of them as they do
ten months of the year in their normal schools,
they become more kid-like,
and the score becomes more contemporary,
so that by the end of the movie, the songs are actually
only contemporary, sorta pop rock.
Shirley: Another thing that "Camp" had going for it
was the involvement of Stephen Sondheim.
I always knew when I was writing it
that I wanted it to build
to the appearance of Stephen Sondheim,
because he's kind of the pantheon in musical theater.
And so I wrote it, and I really kinda
painted myself into a corner,
because I told everybody, yeah, I can get Sondheim,
lying through my teeth 'cause I'd never met him.
And so I started writing him letters.
And he finally agreed to read the script and said,
"You have my permission
"to use any of my songs in your movie.
"But," he said, "I have absolutely no interest
in being an actor in it."
Right before we started prep,
right before we started rehearsals,
I wrote him a long letter and I said,
"This is my do-or-die letter, Steve.
If you say no, it's not going to get made."
And he wrote me back and he said, "Okay,
"but we're only going to shoot one night,"
and he had conditions,
all of which were totally reasonable.
Meanwhile, when it came time to actually shoot,
he was fantastic.
Shirley: Another film turning up
on cult favorite lists is "Idlewild",
starring OutKast's lead men Andre 3000 and Big Boi.
This Prohibition-era gangster musical
is alternately violent, charming, and innovative.
♪ But what about repentance ♪
Very different from the kind of thing
that one might identify as a musical, but I loved it, yeah.
Shirley: The creators studied period films,
but also infused a modern sensibility
into the music and dancing.
I loved "Idlewild", with the costumes and the period,
but the music was so modern that the two kind of clashed.
"Idlewild", visually stunning,
Overstimulation in a good way.
Devine: The cuckoo clocks
and the notes coming alive on the page,
the animation, I thought that was unique.
It was just so unusual, so many great things in it.
Shirley: "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was the first
and largest phenomenon of the cult classic films.
♪ Time is fleeting
Shirley: Another film with a devout following
is John Cameron Mitchell's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch".
Hedwig, which is a far more
serious film than Rocky Horror...
certainly has some things in common
like a drag queen for a lead character,
but Hedwig plumbs very deeply into ideas of identity,
and sexuality, and self-acceptance,
Shirley: Based on John Cameron Mitchell's
Off-Broadway show of the same name,
the film expands the stage show
and utilizes the power of cinema
with animated segments and rock video-like elements.
"Hedwig" had as much humor as it had pathos
and is destined for long-term cult-classic status.
♪ I've seen it all
Shirley: "Dancer in the Dark"
may be one of the more unusual musicals.
Directed by Lars von Trier,
it features the music of pop singer Bjork.
Her character, Selma, kills a neighbor that has stolen money
she has scrimped together for her son's surgery.
I love "Dancer in the Dark".
It's just bizarre.
I love that number on the train.
I though that was phenomenal.
And I think Bjork is singular.
It's obviously a very sort of different kind of musical.
It's a very dark musical,
and all the numbers take place, however, in Bjork's mind,
because in someone's mind, you can have the license
to have people sing and dance.
Shirley: One of the highlights is
a cameo by Joel Grey.
Grey: I love the character that was developed.
And when they asked me to do it,
I had no idea what it was gonna be-- do to,
but I said I want to do it.
♪ To touch me
Shirley: Films that feature dancing without singing
have been around for a long time.
Kenrick: A "dancical" is not the same thing as a musical.
After all, no one in the film ever really sings.
Shirley: "Shall We Dance", starring Richard Gere,
Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon,
is a remake of the 1996 Japanese film of the same name,
neither of which bear any resemblance
to the 1937 Astaire-Rogers film, also called "Shall We Dance".
I had a lot of fun doing this quick step.
It was very Fred Astaire kind of thing, this quick step.
Pure joy because it's just running.
Your feet are moving so fast,
and you're running with a partner, and it's--
something kind of amazing about that.
The ballroom dancing is really hard.
It's different than any other thing I've ever done,
even salsa dancing, which is a partner dance.
It's still very technical.
It has a lot of technique to it
and a lot of parameters that you have to dance within,
and so it was tough for me.
Shirley: The 2007 box-office smash "Stomp the Yard"
crosses hip-hop with steppin'.
Packer: Stepping is derived from African tribal dance.
And it has been usurped by contemporary
African-American fraternity and sorority organizations
as a way to demonstrate their prowess and unity
and to compete against each other.
One of the things that we did during preproduction
was we put all our fraternity members
in the film through a six-week boot camp,
stepping boot camp, if you will.
We also wanted to divide them
into their two fictional fraternities,
so that when they had their step battles,
which took place on screen,
there was real, authentic rivalry there that was created.
[ Rhythmic stomping ]
White: The one thing I noticed in the way dance films
in the past had been captured and filmed
was a lot of times the perspective
was from the audience.
Even in classics like "West Side Story",
there's always a certain distance in wider shots.
So with this I kind of decided to study how
sort of martial arts movies had been shot
and also sports movies.
And I decided to try and apply those techniques
to shoot this film.
The idea was to really try and get the audience
to participate and feel like they're part of the dancing.
I think the movie leaves people
feeling positive and inspired.
It's not necessarily something that happens very often,
that you see people clap at the end of the movie,
and laugh, and just come out in such a good mood,
and I think that this film does that.
Shirley: In "Take the Lead", ballroom dancing
helps teens in detention gain self esteem
and take more responsibility for their lives.
"Take the Lead" is not only a dance film,
it's also loosely based on the real program
started by Pierre Dulaine
in the New York City school system.
♪ Night and day
Shirley: The biopic is nothing new.
However, Hollywood has had a history
of sheltering its renowned subjects.
When Cary Grant made a movie
about Cole Porter in 1946 called "Night and Day",
it was so highly criticized not at the time, but later,
for not being a more honest depiction of Cole Porter,
who was a man married to a woman
ten years older than he was, he was homosexual.
In the films that were depicting
the life of a real person,
they very religiously avoided
anything like the person's actual life story.
♪ It's divine, dear, it's da-veen, dear ♪
Shirley: In "De-Lovely",
Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd play Cole and Linda Porter.
Winkler: Well, I think the most important aspect of the story
is that it's the telling
of one of the great loves of the 20th century.
Cole and Linda Porter had an amazing relationship.
They lived for one another, supported one another.
Shirley: However, Cole Porter
and his relationship with Linda was very complex.
He was a man of many contradictions--
he was gay, married to the same woman
for 38 years, and madly in love with her.
♪ Are you my life to be
Here was a love story
that did not have the typical
underpinnings of sexual attraction,
which is the basic ingredient
for any Hollywood movie love story,
that it made you question what is love,
which is a question that Cole Porter is asking
through many of his songs.
And that's sort of...
it becomes a meditation on the nature of love.
I think that they gave each other
something so essential and important,
and that he really didn't have a lot of confidence
in himself without Linda,
and I think the hallmark of that is,
as talented as he was, and however talented
were the people with whom he collaborated,
he never considered a song finished
until he showed it to Linda and got her opinion.
Shirley: The supporting cast included Allan Corduner
as lifelong friend Monty Woolley.
I am nothing like Monty Woolley physically.
I mean, really, remotely.
He was a sort of larger man and huge beard,
and he was very much a function in the film,
which was more to do with the fact
that he was the go-between Cole Porter and men.
Man: I wanted to tell you privately
how much all your attention did for me.
And "Night and Day"?
How much it means to me.
From here on, you two will have to improvise.
Corduner: The real Monty Woolley character
was minimally, I think, expressed.
And that's not a criticism, that's just the function
of what the character was in this film.
♪ You're the top
Shirley: "Night and Day" was an excuse
to showcase Porter's amazing songs.
On the other hand, "De-Lovely" utilizes
Porter's fabulous catalog of music to tell his own story.
♪ Let's misbehave
I think that Cole Porter's lyrics were so explicit,
couched in wit and style
and tremendously memorable melodies.
But they were so explicit
about what he was going through in his life
that the lyrics actually
support the narrative and advance the plot.
And they're things that we could be saying
if they weren't being so beautifully sung.
He wrote 900 songs,
so we were able to pick out those songs that really had
something to do with the story we were telling.
I heard a quote recently from Alan Jay Lerner
saying that a lot of great love songs
have been written by a lot of great composers,
but only Porter could write passion.
And that made such sense to me,
because if you see the movie and you hear those love songs,
there is, I mean, yeah, he could write wit
and sophistication, et cetera,
but when it came to the passionate love song,
where there's real yearning, and real obsession,
and real pain, and real confusion,
it's there, he did it.
Shirley: Pop icons and Hollywood heroes
are no longer sheltered from public exposure
the way they once were.
Biopics reflect this new reality.
In "Ray", Jamie Foxx portrays music legend Ray Charles.
Foxx: I knew I knew how to play,
but at the same time that pressure of being able to play
this man who everybody knows-- young kids, seasoned people,
everybody from all over the world knows who Ray Charles is,
so you definitely have to say to yourself
I got to be right, I have to be perfect.
Shirley: While the film chronicles his rise to fame
and his success in many genres of music,
it also deals with his womanizing and heroin addiction.
Another popular entertainer
who struggled with drugs was Johnny Cash.
"Walk the Line" chronicles his youth in Arkansas
to breakthrough successes with Sun Records
and finally, a tumultuous romance with June Carter.
Reese Witherspoon received the Best Actress Oscar
for her portrayal of June Carter Cash.
I think the way that musicals
survive today are the biopics.
The fact of doing "Walk the Line",
so you've got some great music in that,
and you've got "Ray", which has got some great music,
and you've got "Coal Miner's Daughter" and others.
Movies like that have been done forever,
and it does now certainly help the movie musical,
or help music in movies still be relevant and be used well.
♪ Beyond the sea
♪ Somewhere waitin' for me
♪ My lover stands on golden sands ♪
♪ And watches the ships
♪ That go sailin'
Shirley: Even those who never struggled with personal demons
sometimes have surprising life stories.
Born with a heart condition
that wasn't supposed to allow him to live past adolescence,
Bobby Darin's story may seem
like a magical tale of success and good luck.
Boone: Bobby Darin was in a hurry.
He had said he wanted to be a legend
by the time he was 30, and he made it.
♪ I got rhythm
♪ I got music
♪ I got my girl, who could ask for anything more? ♪
Shirley: The film "Beyond the Sea"
showed his relentless drive and meteoric rise,
as well as Darin's love affair with actress Sandra Dee.
♪ And I know
♪ Beyond a doubt
♪ My heart will lead me there soon ♪
Shirley: A big Bobby Darin fan for many years,
Kevin Spacey wanted to portray Darin on the screen.
Spacey even went so far as to sing all of the songs
and put out a soundtrack of covers to accompany the film.
Wow, I was so excited to see a whole bunch of dancers,
good dancers, on the streets with Kevin.
It was exciting to watch that.
♪ And I know
♪ Beyond a doubt
♪ My heart will lead me there soon ♪
♪ We'll meet, I know we'll meet ♪
♪ Beyond the shore
♪ We're going to kiss just as before ♪
♪ And happy we'll be beyond the sea ♪
♪ And never again I'll go sailin' ♪
We have to go now.
I have an interview.
Movies mark success in a variety of ways.
Box office returns, reviews,
and the respect of industry professionals.
It had been almost 35 years since a musical
had won the Oscar for Best Picture.
But in 2002,
a movie musical was released
which not only made over $300 million,
it also received rave reviews and won six Oscars
including Best Picture.
The Hollywood musical came roaring back with "Chicago".
♪ Come on, babe, why don't we paint the town? ♪
♪ And all that jazz
♪ I'm gonna rouge my knees
♪ And roll my stockings down ♪
♪ And all that jazz
♪ Start the car, I know a whoopee spot ♪
♪ Where the gin is cold but the piano's hot ♪
♪ It's just a noisy hall where there's a nightly brawl ♪
♪ And all
I thought "Chicago" was phenomenal.
♪ And all that jazz
♪ Hot cha
Brilliant. What a treat.
♪ And all that jazz
Kander: Direction, the screenplay,
the cast was just phenomenal.
Shirley: "Chicago" may be the quintessential musical
of the 20th century.
It burst on the silver screen in 2002,
but the saga began in 1924.
Belle Brown Overbeck Gaertner,
more commonly known as Belva, was a cabaret singer.
Claiming to be too drunk to remember anything,
Mrs. Gaertner was arrested for the murder of her lover
after he was found shot to death in her car.
Beulah May Annan also shot her lover, Harry Kalstedt.
She told her husband and the police
that he had tried to make love to her.
Later she admitted that they had been having an affair,
but claimed that there was a scuffle
where they both reached for the gun.
It was so great to go back to the original articles
that Maurine Dallas Watkins had written
about the two murderesses
who were the inspiration for Roxie and Velma.
And then obviously the original play,
which is still very funny.
Shirley: "The Tribune's" coverage turned
Annan and Gaertner into front-page celebrities.
"Tribune" readers ate it up.
Zellweger: It's very interesting to me,
'cause it is so relevant today, especially today,
with the media influx and all that's going on
and our fascination with celebrity and how cheap it is.
Shirley: Shortly after Annan and Gaertner were acquitted,
Miss Watkins moved to New York,
where she wrote the play "Chicago".
Then, as now, Hollywood didn't want
to pass up a good story.
In 1927, Cecil B. DeMille supervised
the silent film directed by Frank Urson.
In 1942, Ginger Rogers played the first Roxie
with showbiz ambitions.
Condon: You know, the one thing that's extraordinary
about "Chicago" is that it's always had a relevance
in every decade in which it's performed.
Obviously in the '20s, it was about real murderesses
and part of why it took so long to become a musical
was that Maurine Dallas Watkins became ashamed of that.
And after the Roxie Hart movie,
she wouldn't let anybody perform it anymore.
She decided that it had celebrated sinners
and that it wasn't something she wanted to be a part of it.
Shirley: In 1973, Bob Fosse was able
to secure the rights to turn the play into a musical.
Fosse asked the accomplished composing team
of John Kander and Fred Ebb to handle the music.
Kander: He and I wrote all kinds of musicals.
A lot of them were very political by accident.
A lot of them were very dark.
Shirley: On June 3rd, 1975,
the show opened with Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart,
Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly,
and Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn.
Zadan: When "Chicago" opened on Broadway originally,
Gwen Verdon, shortly after they opened,
got a feather from one of the costumes stuck in her throat.
And she had to have an operation.
And Fred was in L.A., and he said, "It's gonna close,
"we're going to close without Gwen.
We can't make it."
And I said, "I'll do it."
He said, "Well, we have to ask Fosse."
Fosse got me on the phone, and he said,
"Well, I don't know, it may be tough for Gwen to come back,
because you've got quite a name."
I said, "Thanks to you."
And Liza came up with the idea
don't advertise me, don't bill me.
And instead, treat me like an understudy.
So every night, they would say,
"Ladies and gentlemen,
"Gwen Verdon is unable to perform this evening."
And people would go "oh!"
And they'd say, "At tonight's performance,
"the role of Roxie Hart will be played by Liza Minnelli."
And people went, "What?"
And they stayed, so they didn't lose money.
People started to love the show.
Liza left, Gwen came back in, and the show was a hit.
Shirley: The show took home several Tony Awards
and ran for 936 performances,
which once again made it very attractive to Hollywood.
I'd loved "Chicago" my whole life.
It was one of the first Broadway shows I ever saw.
And I lived the album
and saw the show millions of times on stage.
And my fear was that someone was going to go ahead
and take a musical and mess it up again,
and everyone would say musicals don't work on film.
It's really great to see someone like Rob Marshall
bring such a classic from the stage to film
in a way that really wins audiences over.
If you find yourself saying,
"Well, I'm not a fan of musicals,"
you're still gonna like this movie.
Rob Marshall did an absolutely brilliant thing
and something very simple.
Roxie Hart is watching a performance by Velma Kelly,
and suddenly, at the end of a song called "All That Jazz",
she goes from being a watcher into being the star,
just on the word "jazz".
That helps the audience know that from then on,
everything that we see is kind of through Roxie's eyes.
Renee was always the person I hoped could do it,
because it's exactly the actor that I wanted.
I wanted exactly that fragile, vulnerable,
wannabe with great depth.
Rob wanted everyone to come and meet with him
and sing for him 'cause he was very insistent
upon all of us doing our own singing and dancing,
and he wanted this to be a real authentic movie in that way.
So we started the detective work
of finding out who had musicals in their background, you know?
Catherine Zeta-Jones was the first one cast.
It was very obvious to me that she had done stage work,
she had starred in "42nd Street" in London.
She was anxious to do a musical, she made that clear.
And I'd seen her work,
and I was really impressed with all of it.
There had been so much talk about "Chicago",
and obviously my ears were pricked up immediately
when it came around to my attention.
And then I thought, you know what,
I'm not going to put my heart in this,
because I didn't have to think twice about doing this role.
I'm going to wait until I'm up there on the first day.
And it was so interesting and exciting
to see all the puzzles come together
and all the casting choices.
When we sat down
and did that table read together for the first time
and went around, read this whole script,
and everyone had to sing their numbers when it came time,
we knew we were all right.
It was like wow.
Zadan: People were criticizing us
nonstop before the movie came out.
They said how dare you, basically,
hire these nonmusical people to star in "Chicago"?
And that anger, of course,
stopped the day we opened the movie,
and people saw the movie, and they went, "oh."
I'm a star.
And the audience loves me.
And I love them.
And they love me for lovin' them,
and I love them for lovin' me.
And we love each other.
And that's 'cause none of us got enough love in our childhoods.
And that's showbiz...
♪ She's givin' up her humdrum life ♪
♪ I'm going to be
Sing it. ♪ Roxie
♪ She made a scandal and a start ♪
♪ And Sophie Tucker'll shit, I know ♪
♪ To see her name get billed below ♪
♪ Roxie Hart
Meron: My favorite number
in "Chicago" is actually "Roxie".
This woman who is convicted of murder
becomes so self-absorbed that in her mind,
she sees herself as this big star in this spangly dress.
It's her idea of what a star is.
She's not a star. She's in prison.
Yes, they're murderesses,
but by God, are they great broads.
♪ You can live the life you like ♪
Kenrick: "Chicago" gave musical film
a genuine chance at a new lease on life.
Here was, thanks to Rob Marshall,
a film that made use of contemporary editing techniques
that took a very theatrical piece of work
and completely rethought it in cinematic terms.
This was brilliant.
♪ But oh, it's heaven
Bandleader: Okay, you babes of jazz, let's pick up the pace.
Let's make the parties longer, let's make the skirts shorter.
Let's all go to hell in a fast car and keep it hot.
Marshall: I have to say, the great thing about working on
"Chicago" was that everybody was scared, you know?
Nobody was sitting back going, "Oh, we got a hit."
Everybody was scared out of their mind.
It was my first feature film.
It was Richard and Renee were singing, really,
for the first time on film.
Catherine hadn't done it for years.
Latifah, I mean, we were all nervous about it.
And we never expected what happened, believe me.
And out of nowhere,
for the first time in 34 or 35 years,
suddenly a musical wins the Academy Award for Best Film.
♪ That's hot
Shirley: "Chicago" is not the only Broadway sensation
that has required rethinking
when being translated from stage to screen.
Badham: A movie audience taste is somewhat different
from a theater audience taste.
A play, for example, is a very verbal kind of thing.
Movies are very visual.
So often in adapting a play, you'll wind up cutting out
huge, huge, huge hunks of dialogue that's in the play.
Shirley: Andrew Lloyd Webber's
"Phantom of the Opera" was beautifully shot
but failed to be the smash hit that it was on the stage.
Stage work is stage work. Screen work is screen work.
And nary the twain have ever met successfully.
They must each be done in their own way.
Shirley: "The Fantasticks" was a movie
that took a small theatrical show
and opened it up to the wide spaces of film
without losing the intimacy of the play.
The cast was topped with Joel Grey.
Michael Ritchie was so in love with "The Fantasticks"
that it was always in his mind somewhere,
"If I could only do that."
When I first saw "The Fantasticks" in 1960,
which was a week after it opened,
I fell in love with it,
but I wasn't at that point a movie director.
So I didn't imagine that this
would even be an opportunity for me.
But as the years went by
and I kept seeing it again and again,
I saw the potential of a movie in it.
And I was very lucky that others had not had
a vision that could easily transform
such a unique stage vehicle into the big screen.
Grey: I didn't really understand his vision
to open it up in the way that he did.
To take this little, tiny show
and put it in Cinemascope.
And it was beautiful.
I mean, the visuals were really fantastic.
We have not tinkered with the music at all.
In expanding this to the screen, of course,
we have tinkered with the dialogue quite a bit.
And the carnival, which you see here,
doesn't exist in the play,
but it becomes a place for El Gallo to exist.
In the play, Jonathon Morris' character has no place.
He's a kind of theater narrator.
So here now, he's a kind of magician
who runs this magical carnival out in the middle of nowhere
in the specific '20s of America.
The play is nonspecific.
you are afforded to be an observer.
In theater, you're more inclined to be an active part.
Shirley: The film "Rent" is based on Jonathan Larson's
Tony Award-winning Broadway show of the same name.
In an almost operatic turn of events,
Larson died of an undiagnosed aneurysm
before the Broadway show premiered.
His family has helped the show
navigate the tricky waters from stage to screen.
We think it's a phenomenal product,
and we're so excited,
and I think we put it in the best hands possible,
and the essence of "Rent" has been maintained,
and my brother would be very, very proud and excited.
Shirley: Despite the film's somewhat eccentric characters,
their hope, enthusiasm, and caring for one another
has inspired stage and screen audiences.
Rapp: There's something about being young,
being in the face of incredibly challenging circumstances,
and yet finding a way to love one another,
to find hope, to struggle on,
to transcend your circumstances.
I think that that's something that anyone
of any walk of life can identify with.
Shirley: The bohos of "Rent" struggled with prejudice,
AIDS, and the need to create.
Similarly, "Dreamgirls" tells the story
of African-American singers trying to overcome racism
and find their true voices.
I love this film, because it's rare you have
the types of films that you can bring your kids,
your grandmothers, everyone, no matter what age,
no matter what race, no matter what sex.
They're all going to love this movie.
Shirley: "Dreamgirls", like "Chicago" before it,
took a successful Broadway show
and rethought it for the cinema.
Bill Condon, who wrote the script for "Chicago",
wrote and directed the film.
David Geffen has been, you know,
maybe four or five times over the last 20 years,
he's developed different scripts and it just didn't work.
And finally Bill Condon,
he hooked up with Bill Condon, and they nailed it.
"Dreamgirls" is a highly emotional musical
with book songs.
With songs that spring out of the narrative,
that happen in reality.
The play itself, and the musical itself,
had its essentials,
and it worked so well on the stage.
But in order to kind of translate that
into another medium,
you had to expand it and give it more depth,
and I think what he does so brilliantly is did that.
Bill, the director, when we had our first meeting,
he told me he wasn't sure if I could play young Deena,
because people have such an idea of who I am as a celebrity,
and they wouldn't believe it.
So this was a learning experience,
and it was excellent.
I feel like I didn't recognize myself at all onscreen.
♪ Cadillac, Cadillac
♪ Got me a Cadillac car
In this movie, I went back to the classic
backstage musicals of the 1950s.
Movies like "Singin' in the Rain",
"The Bandwagon", "A Star Is Born".
I'd show the movies to the design team,
and the cinematographer,
and everyone working behind the scenes.
We'd all marvel at the use of color, the use of camera,
and just the way that all those things
served to tell the story.
♪ Lookin' for the man
Condon: You take a scene like
"The Man That Got Away" in "A Star Is Born",
which became the model for a club scene
that we did in "Dreamgirls".
It was all about using those saturated colors.
I read somewhere, I thought it was a pretty astute comment,
that every musical since the "Cabaret" movie
has been set in Weimar, Germany.
Whether it was literally set there or not,
there's that color and there's that sense
of the tawdriness of show business.
And "Dreamgirls" really is something quite different.
It celebrates all the spangles, all the golds, and the reds.
It's a completely different color palette,
and it is sort of, I think,
going back to an earlier generation of musicals.
Shirley: Show business may not be tawdry in "Dreamgirls",
but it is ruthless.
These girls are breaking a color barrier.
They're trying to move from the R&B charts
to the mainstream pop charts.
That takes determination, hard choices, and sacrifice.
It's a history lesson
about what blacks went through in that time.
And those characters that we portrayed
are composite characters.
To give an example,
James "Thunder" Early is not one person.
He's not just James Brown.
He is compiled of all of those soul singers.
The Little Richards, the Rufus Thomas,
Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding.
I believe it's about following the dreams,
and I believe it's once they got their dreams,
once they thought whatever their dream was came true,
some of 'em didn't plan on
how to deal with the dream once it's here.
I think that's what makes the movie work on
so many different levels is because not only
do you have this musical,
but you have the drama underneath it
of these guys and their struggle to
not only get money and fame,
but get their independence and their self-knowledge.
To me, ultimately, that show and the movie
is about people who are marginalized in some way
who want their voices to be heard.
And in pursuing that dream,
each one comes to the point where you have to ask
am I changing my voice too much?
Is it my voice that's being heard?
♪ And I am telling you
♪ I'm not going
♪ You're the best man
♪ I'll ever know
White: Jennifer Hudson had me in tears.
The strength of her performance, to me, just made the movie.
Hats off to her for steppin' up in there,
because I think she knew
that this was the one, and she did it.
♪ No, no, no, no way
♪ No, no, no, no way I'm livin' without you ♪
♪ I'm not livin' without you
♪ Not livin' without you ♪
♪ I don't want to be free
♪ I'm stayin'
♪ I'm stayin'
♪ And you, and you, and you
♪ You're gonna love me
Condon: I hope that "Dreamgirls"
leads to a series of African-American musicals,
because it does feel like
we have such a huge pool of talent right now to draw on,
and-- so I'm hopeful.
Shirley: Ever since "42nd Street",
the river of creative source has also run the other way.
Broadway is sometimes inspired by Hollywood.
Warren: I think that when any art form
can be a springboard for another art form to take it on,
it's a blessing for everybody.
Shirley: Sometimes, like prodigal sons,
these Broadway successes return to the big screen.
Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane
reprised their Broadway performances
for the 2005 movie version of the hit musical "The Producers".
Because the show was so successful,
I guess then there was talk of maybe it could be a movie.
but you never know about those things.
People talk, and then nothing ever happens.
So it was-- it's amazing
that it's only four or five years later
that it did really work out.
Shirley: John Waters' 1988 comedy "Hairspray"
also spawned a Broadway musical
and its subsequent Hollywood adaptation.
I don't think he realized what he was creating
when he created "Hairspray".
It wasn't your traditional movie musical to begin with.
It was more of a movie with a heavy-duty dance element,
and that dance was absolutely important
to what the film was about.
Shirley: The Broadway production opened
to rave reviews in 2002,
inspiring "Chicago" producers Zadan and Meron
to bring it back to the silver screen.
We felt that, if done properly,
the movie of "Hairspray" could be the next "Grease".
But beyond the commercial appeal of "Grease",
we thought that there was a lot more
undercurrent to "Hairspray",
because it had great themes of dealing with racial equality
and dealing with body image
and dealing with being the outsider trying to fit in
and the underdog being able to triumph.
Meron: John Travolta is the greatest star
of our generation in terms of musicals.
I mean, who could forget "Grease"?
I mean, he owns the genre,
and he has owned it ever since "Grease".
He didn't want it to be John Travolta in "Hairspray".
He said, "Go out and get me a great cast".
We then delivered him Michelle Pfeiffer,
and Queen Latifah,
and Chris Walken,
and many, many, many, many other stars,
so he was ecstatic.
Four or five hours a day, he had to put on rubber
on his face, his neck, his body,
and then the fat suit.
And anyone who's done prosthetics
knows that it's painful.
You break out in rashes, it's very uncomfortable.
And John had to sing and dance in those prosthetics,
and sing and dance as good
as John Travolta could sing and dance.
At first glance, it looked like it was going to be difficult.
But then when I got used to it, it was easier.
And as I drilled it and practiced more,
that heavy suit became lighter,
and I wanted the illusion to be that it wasn't difficult.
John, you know, when we started,
he was very trim and very fit.
But then I understood why he was in such good shape,
'cause when you wear that big thing that he had on,
and it was heavy, it was cumbersome,
and hey, he was wearing high heels,
and you have to be very strong to do that.
Zadan: We had decided early on
that we were going to find a girl to play Tracy,
and it would be an unknown.
And Nikki Blonksy was scooping ice cream
at Coldstone Creamery.
And she had one time come in
to actually try and audition
for the Broadway production of "Hairspray",
and they rejected her,
because they said she was too young and inexperienced.
And what did she end up doing?
She ended up starring in the movie.
It was challenging, the notion of finding somebody
who was actually the right age,
who had all of the requirements for being her--
who was beautiful as well as being large and could sing.
And what blew me away was she loved her body,
and she loved the way it moved,
and she lo-- there was no shame
in what she did and how she felt,
and that is Tracy.
Oh my gosh, it was a dream come true.
It was everything I've ever wanted and more.
So it was the most amount of fun I think anybody could ever have.
Efron: She really is Tracy.
She is Tracy in every sense.
She's so self-confident and so happy
and so easy to get along with.
I think that's why everyone in this cast really,
you know, we love Nikki.
Shirley: Tracy's love interest was played by Zac Efron,
fresh from the Disney Channel
hit movie "High School Musical".
Efron: You step out of the makeup trailer
in the morning and you put your wardrobe on,
you feel like you've gone back in time.
And really, I think it helps your characters
when you have your pants fastened
all the way up here, you know, and your tie,
yet you're holding a binder, 'cause you're at school.
So I don't know, it's just different,
and it helped me a lot.
Musical comedy is a very specific mentality,
and you either own it or you don't.
You believe it.
You have to believe your own behavior, you know?
So I think it's a zone that those that know it,
love it, can go there.
Shankman: This is one where you can't really be ashamed.
You have to just run straight for it.
But it really helped that A, it was period,
and B, that it was--
like, had the same kind of energy as "Grease"
and the songs had a rock 'n' roll base.
The good news is the movie opens with Tracy singing.
Since there's no dialogue that precedes the song,
the audience is allowed to just get right into the movie.
♪ Oh, oh, oh, woke up today ♪
So it's unapologetic, and it's really in your face,
and it's really happy, and it's joy-filled,
and the music carries through that expression,
and Nikki kind of just seems like a person
who would just start breaking out into song,
so it just sort of works.
And once she does it, everybody else is allowed to do it.
And here's another example
of a musical that when you go in,
you're going to have the best time you've ever had.
But it does leave you thinking about
what the themes are and what it's trying to say.
What it says about integration,
what it says about people's attitudes toward body image.
So there are really important things
that are completely masqueraded
in this great big musical entertainment.
Because the movie is so fun and vibrant and alive,
it never takes itself too seriously
and doesn't push an issue down anyone's throat.
It kind of just handles it in a very fun way,
which I think is probably the best way to get it across,
especially with a broad audience.
Shirley: "Moulin Rouge!", "Dreamgirls", "Chicago",
and other contemporary musicals
prove that the genre is far from dead.
Condon: Movie musicals really happen
when there's a great flowering of talent,
and you can never explain the mystery
of why certain decades seem to bring forth
so many people who are so extraordinary.
I feel that we're living in one of those decades now.
Grey: Let's hope that in this next generation
there'll be a "Hard Day's Night",
maybe even a "Singin' in the Rain".
We don't know.
Life is harsh, and we need two hours
of relaxation, and dream, and beauty.
It's something that human nature needs.
Meron: To escape in a musical
is like visiting some great nirvana.
It's like the door in the "Wizard of Oz"
opening from a black-and-white world into color.
There's a great, rich legacy
that we, as Americans, gave the world,
in a large part because of musical film.
Our stars were the stars of every country in the world.
Our great songs were sung in every corner of the globe.
I'm really happy and proud
to have been part of the American musical.
Shirley: The form, the music,
and the style of the musical film of the future
will be as varied and wonderful
as the musicals of the past.
It will live on as long as we continue
to sing, dance, and dream.
More Episodes (13)
The 2000s: A New BeginningMarch 16, 2020
The 1980s & 1990s: Rebooting the MusicalMarch 09, 2020
Diversity Rocks the Movies: The 1970s Part 2March 02, 2020
Diversity Rocks the Movies: The 1970sFebruary 24, 2020
A Musical Metamorphosis: The 1960s PT. 2February 17, 2020
A Musical Metamorphosis: The 1960sFebruary 10, 2020