For those of you who haven’t heard, supposedly Robert Downey, Jr. is going to be making a musical at some point in the near future. The story, so far as we know, is about a pair of Broadway songwriters who take jobs at a theatre camp after their musical flops. The songs will be written by the team responsible for the award-winning musical Next to Normal.
Now then. It may surprise you to learn that I am actually of two minds about this. Yes, everyone knows I love RDJ. And musicals. Also, I think this sounds much more interesting/promising than yet another action-y sequel or an Apatowian comedy. However! I am not a fan (at all, really) of newer musicals, nor of RDJ’s singing, actually. It’s very affected, IMO. Despite that, I will say that I have long been interested/hopeful in the idea of him doing a musical, so I will certainly wait this out and see what comes of it.
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to do some thinking and compile a list of other movie stars that I’d like to see do some singing and/or dancing. I tried to match up the actor to a suitable musical, most of which are older, and don’t already have a true “classic” film version (with one exception). Here we go!
I know, I probably shouldn’t have started with him. But hear me out! Crowe is, in fact, a musician, has a really great singing voice (I think) and has done stage musicals in the past. Also, there was a story that went around a few years back about how, originally, the film production of Sweeney Todd was going to be Sam Mendes/Russell Crowe instead of Burton/Depp, and I have to admit that I am still haunted by the idea. I found Depp to be completely ineffectual, and his singing wasn’t even that good. BUT, if you want a commanding presence with acting chops and a capability for pure menace in every frame? One that can still exude the needed charisma? Look no further. As such, instead of a ST reboot, I’ve chosen another dark musical … nothing too light and fluffy for Mr. Crowe.
The show: The Threepenny Opera.
Threepenny, written by Kurt Weill, is about the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. The lead, Macheath (Mack the Knife), is an “amoral, antiheroic criminal,” but, he is charismatic and loved by many. His marriage to Polly Peachum angers her father, who uses his influence to have Mack arrested and sentenced to hang. While the musical has a “happy” ending, the whole thing is dark, gritty, and satirical. Crowe would bring an interesting characterization to the role, and I think the end result (properly handled) would be really magnetic and entertaining.
Since I don’t know anything about the aforementioned new project, but he’s totally on my list, I decided to just choose my own musical for RDJ to star in. In addition to having released an album and done some singing on various films, RDJ actually knows how to dance, at least a little. Again, I am not a fan of his singing, but he really does hearken back to the true triple threats – good-looking, able to sing, dance, and act fairly well … he’s a natural fit.
The show: Pal Joey.
The role of Pal Joey was originated on Broadway by Gene Kelly. He was essentially brought to Hollywood with the ultimate goal of making Pal Joey into a film, but that never materialized. A film was made, starring Frank Sinatra, but it wasn’t a huge hit, and so a remake would be just fine. Joey Evans is a dancer, night-club entertainer, and cad whose dream is to open his own club. The musical follows him as he meets the young and impressionable Linda and the older, more worldly (and wealthy) Vera, romances them both, attains his dreams and then loses everything. He ends the show as he began it: alone. RDJ as a shifty womanizer with dreams and tap shoes? Sign me up.
I guess I’m not a huge fan of Anne Hathaway. She’s fine. She is, however, a trained singer, and perhaps one of the most obvious choices knocking around Hollywood these days. If you watched the Oscar telecast last year, you’ll probably remember her brief song-and-dance bit with Hugh Jackman, and since she’s hosting the next Oscars herself, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of these talents very soon.
The show: Guys & Dolls.
This is the exception to the “doesn’t have a big film version” rule, mostly because Hathaway would be just spot-on perfect as the strait-laced missionary, Sarah Brown. I’d actually really love to see her do the “If I Were a Bell” number. If you don’t know the story, Guys and Dolls is about New York gamblers, Nathan Detroit and Skye Masterson, who have various trials and tribulations involving money and love. Detroit has had the same girlfriend for years who is constantly after him about marriage. Masterson is the young buck, who ends up betting Detroit that he can convince Sarah Brown to fly to Cuba with him. Throw in a struggling mission, a floating craps game, and the inevitable romance, and it’s a fun show. I would love to see a good update, and I think that Anne Hathaway would be perfect in it.
Yes, Kate can sing. If you’ve seen Sense & Sensibility (and if you haven’t, shame on you!) then you know this. She also has a Christmas hit across the pond, recorded for a film some years back. She obviously has the acting ability to excel in whatever she decides to do, and she’s had such a varied career that I feel like you could pick just about any role and she’d be fantastic in it. What I’d love to see her do is something really brassy and out-there, maybe even a bit vampy. There’s been talk of a Damn Yankees remake, so I toyed with that idea, but I opted for something different that would give her more of a starring role.
The show: Annie Get Your Gun.
A fictionalized account of the life of Annie Oakley, Annie Get Your Gun follows the courtship of Annie Oakley and Robert Butler as they travel the country and perform with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Annie is rough-and-tumble, and Robert wants a “genteel lady,” but they of course end up together. This show does also have a film version that was reasonably well-received, but it isn’t one that people remember these days, so I think it could stand to have a shiny new treatment. Plus, wouldn’t you love to see Kate riding a horse and sharp-shooting? She’d also do really well with the transitions between cowgirl and lady. Fun!
Another actor with incredible versatility, even at his young age, Jo-Go needs only to add a musical to his repertoire to have done nearly everything. In case you missed it, he hosted Saturday Night Live not so long ago, and chose, for his opening monologue, to recreate the incredible “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine from Singing in the Rain. Live. On stage. His performance obviously didn’t have the polish of the original (performed by the incomparable Donald O’Conner), but he acquitted himself quite admirably, considering. So, for him, something comedic, but requiring some acting skill as well.
The show: How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying.
How to Succeed … is a tongue-in-cheek story, set in the 50s, about a young man who starts out life as a window washer, but soon manages to scheme and schmooze his way to the top of a corporation. He also, of course, gets the girl. This show was revived not too long ago and starred Matthew Broderick, and is actually scheduled for a Broadway revival next year (starring Daniel Radcliffe [yes, really!]), so it’s ripe for a film version. I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be an excellent successor to Broderick’s brand of stammering-yet-calculated earnestness. I actually just saw a production of this recently, as well, and I think it could be really funny and enjoyable on the big screen.
So that’s my list. I love the old musicals, and I would really enjoy seeing some of today’s talent tackle those classic numbers. What do you think? Who would you like to see donning a pair of tap shoes or belting out a ballad?