Based on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story takes place on New York’s Upper West Side, where rival gangs swear revenge, Puerto Rican beauties celebrate “America”, and unhappy love blossoms. There is a huge selection of movie musicals to sing along to before Disney’s ‘West Side Story’ releases December 10, including other Sondheim shows.
These movie musicals have plenty of dance breaks, amazing soundtracks, and stories that range from the sci-fi horror of space man-eating plants to the mundane horror of messy breakups.
Disney has a long history of movie musicals, but one of their lesser-known productions is News, a story of the abused Manhattan newspaper vendors. When the publisher of the newspaper they sell raises prices, the newspaper vendors go on strike and a catchy dance act ensues as they rally newspaper vendors across New York City, battling strikebreaker tactics and a vengeful orphanage director.
News has gained a cult following since its catastrophic release, with a Broadway adaptation. Starring a youngster Christian bale in the lead role, and the music of Alan Menken – who also composed (in collaboration with Howard ashman) music for Disney classics such as The little Mermaid and The beauty and the Beast – it’s great fun all around.
Into the woods (2014)
Another classic from Sondheim, In the woods is a twisted tale of fairy-tale characters whose wishes lead them to the woods where wolves and adulterous princes hide. The Baker (James Corden) and the baker’s wife (Emily Blunt) tie the stories together in their quest for a child after a witch (Meryl Streep) cursed the Baker’s father.
Lyrically and thematically dense, the film opts in favor of a lighter tone than the Broadway musical, softening some of the darker moments while retaining its dark humor. Each of the characters ventures into the woods, for a child, or a festival, or to sell their cow, but they quickly learn to be careful what you wish.
Les Miserables (2012)
Adapted to cinema in particular in 2012, Wretched is arguably one of the greatest French novels of all time. After the life of Jean Valjean, a convict who finds redemption and who has a second chance to live, he is relentlessly pursued by the legalist Javert. Along with one of the best soundtracks to sing, the story of the film also offers a condensed but no less moving tale of The set, with love – both unrequited and forbidden – a tragedy and a revolution. As West Side Story, more than a few tears can be shed, but it is well worth the emotional turmoil.
The last five years (2014)
Anna kendrick and Jeremy jordan star in this film about the beginning and the end of a marriage, told by each of their characters in a different order. The last five years is played almost entirely in song, alternating between Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), as they reflect on why and how their relationship fell apart. Despite the wit and exuberant energy of most songs juxtaposed against a dark subject, the tone of The last five years is difficult to define. The cinematography is not particularly inventive and the color palette too austere. It’s worth noting that the movie ditched the source material in many ways, but the chemistry between Kendrick and Jordan recovers the adaptation, and it’s a refreshing antidote for anyone who accidentally ingested too many sickly, sweet romance comedies.
Sweeney Todd: The Barber Demon of Fleet Street (2007)
Tim burton and Sondheim are a match made in heaven. Sondheim’s delightfully macabre soundtrack perfectly complements Burton’s imagination bringing Fleet Street to life. Their imaginations are almost the only thing alive in this darker and sordid London, where Sweeney and her lover chop customers into meat pies while Sweeney seeks a chance to get revenge on the lewd judge Turpin. Sweeney todd has a fantastic score, Johnny depp and Helene Bonham Carter like the murderous duo, and a heavy dose of the macabre. Filled with twists and turns, this is the dark musical you never thought you wanted.
In the heights (2021)
Another musical set in Manhattan – this time in Washington Heights – In the heights tells the story of the Latinx and Hispanic community navigating their own future and the changes in their beloved neighborhood. The music and dance sequences are extremely fun, with a charming cast playing romantic youngsters, chatty hairdressers, and those with big dreams trying to ‘get by’. The song “No Me Diga” perfectly sums up the energy of the film: playful, intelligent, with an excellent staging that gives the scenes as much personality as the actors. Lin Manuel Miranda expressed his love for the Hispanic diasporas, and In the heights is built on his own experiences as the son of Puerto Rican immigrants. The film is intimate and inviting; absolutely a wellness feature.
While we are in an empire state of mind, To rent must be mentioned. A brutal exploration of the East Village during the AIDS epidemic, the film follows several “bohemians,” New Yorkers making art, love, and the best they can with their lives. The film is a candid exploration of drug addiction, sexuality, the AIDS crisis, housing insecurity, and the ways people negotiate to find love and community despite their struggles. Heartbreaking and exhilarating, some characters are more developed than others and To rent can sometimes seem a little lost in itself. But there’s a reason the musical remains a culturally important work of art. To rent is a testament to the queer people lost at such a tragic time.
The Ball (2020)
Step aside Candid, Prom gives ‘glitter and be gay’ a whole new meaning. Prom is full of references to musical theater, so this might not be everyone’s proverbial cup of tea. But there are sweet songs and Meryl Streep playing a self-centered diva, as well as a positive LGBT + message. A young girl is banned from taking her girlfriend to prom by local homophobes, so the stranded Broadway stars make sending her to prom their new role.
Prom it’s charming, it’s cliché, and it falls back on too many stereotypes to be particularly naive, but Jo ellen pellman shines as the breakout star playing Emma, the lesbian who fights for her and the inclusion of her girlfriend. More, Ariana DeBose, like his girlfriend, drew attention to the positive choice of filmmakers to specifically choose queer actors for queer roles.
One of the most popular musicals, Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) ends up in jail after his plans to be successful in showbiz go wrong Chicago. Sent to Murderess’ Row where she joins the prisoners in fishnets instead of overalls, Roxie ends up conspiring with a fellow inmate (and idol) to manipulate the press to secure their acquittal. The cinematography uses flashy cut scenes as a tribute to the original production, along with plenty of jazz hands, slaps and sultry hip movements. Chicago is less emotionally grounded, instead playing its dark, vaudeville-style humor with over-the-top twists and dance moves, but it remains one of the best musicals – both on and off the Broadway stage. .
The Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Three doo-wop singers functioning as a Greek choir chair “Skid Row” in New York City, home to a geek florist in love with her coworker, her sadistic dentist boyfriend and a Venus fly trap with a fondness for human blood. Just as campy as this motley collection of characters suggests, Little shop of horrors is a delightful horror comedy. It’s shot on a stage built for the movie and uses puppets like the original production, but this reinforces the quirky charm of the original production. Without forgetting that the music is Howard ashman and Alain menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), and it’s just as eye-catching as their most recognizable Disney classics.
NEXT: Steven Spielberg Explains Why ‘West Side Story’ Was His Dream Project
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