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Today is the day of reckoning here on the Simon Morris blog. This week I call out the fakes by revealing five film stars who didn’t sing in their own musicals.
The Movie Musical Purist
Ever since a young Simon Morris saw West Side Story for the first time, I have appreciated a film star who can transition successfully into the world of movie musicals.
Yet I’m something of a purist. I’m not keen on fakes. In my opinion if a film star wishes to make the transition into the world of musical musicals they need to have the ability to belt out a score. I genuinely believe that when they let someone else sing their songs it detracts from the sincerity of the actor’s performance.
These Five Film Stars Didn’t Sing a Note
Which is why I’m taking this opportunity to let you know which performers were faking. Here are five film stars who didn’t sing in their own musicals…
- Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music: You may not know his name, but this is the man who played the character who sung one of The Sound of Music’s most famous tunes; Edelweiss. Turned out Christopher Plummer let a man by the name of Bill Lee do all the hard work!
- Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady: The iconic actress turned heads when she played the famous role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, yet her vocals didn’t appear on the production’s final cut. Numbers sung by Hepburn’s character such as ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ were dubbed instead with the vocals of Marni Nixon.
- Natalie Wood, West Side Story: This one broke my heart. The role of Maria is often praised as the one that shot Natalie Wood to stardom, however the most intriguing element of her performance wasn’t actually hers. Marni Nixon (again!) was hired to belt show stopping numbers such as ‘I Feel Pretty.’
- Deborah Kerr, The King and I: Deborah Kerr’s performance is what made me fall in love with classic movie musical, The King and I, yet her voice wasn’t the one behind such famous show tunes as ‘Getting to Know You.’ That honour went (again!!) to Hollywood’s most famous dubber, Marni Nixon.
- Yaya Dacosta, Whitney: At least Marni Nixon’s name didn’t crop up this This month saw the screening of biopic Whitney on US channel Lifetime; a movie musical dedicated to the life of Whitney Houston. Yet Yaya Dacosta didn’t have the pipes to belt out powerhouse Houston classics such as ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight.’ Houston’s former label-mate Deborah Cox was drafted in to provide the production’s killer vocals.
Gaze Behind the Looking Glass
If you’ve learned anything from this article (apart from the fact that Marni Nixon is everywhere), let it be one thing. Never take a performance for what it is. Gaze behind the looking glass if you want to gain a better understanding of your favourite movie musical.
No Wicked Rumour is Too Insignificant!
Wicked has a huge following. Take a young(ish) musical theatre enthusiast by the name of Simon Morris for example. I’ve been obsessed with this reimagining of the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West since it first opened on Broadway.
That’s why I continue to let you know what’s going on with the movie version of Wicked here on the Simon Morris blog. The rumours may seem as though they hit the headlines every day, and half the time they might not even be true, but there’s a small chance that one of them could be. The idea of the movie version of this most amazing of musical theatre productions is simply too amazing to let any potential information concerning its productions pass me by.
Stephen Daldry to Direct Wicked?
As such I felt that it was my duty to clue you guys in on the latest tid bit of Wicked information to hit the rumour mill. Supports suggest that Stephen Daldry is attached to direct the big screen adaptation of the story of Elphaba and Glinda.
Wicked producer Mark Platt spoke out about the potential collaboration in a recent interview with Film Divider. Platt said that “he’s been on for a year or two.” He spoke further about a potential 2016 release date for the film, saying: “2016 is the goal, but I don’t know whether we’ll make that goal or not. We will make the movie, but like I said, the bar is really high.”
The Man Who Brought Billy Elliot to the Big Screen
At this point I hear hands wringing. I bet you’re wondering to yourself, is Stephen Daldry right for this project? Wicked is such an amazing production. It needs the perfect director to do it the justice it deserves. I believe that Daldry could be the man for the job and here’s why.
He directed Billy Elliot. Both the stage and the screen version. I’m a big fan of Billy Elliot. The story of the boy who defied the odds to carve out a future in the world of dance is a modern musical theatre masterpiece, and I believe its film version was a triumph of modern cinema.
The Man for the Job?
So is Stephen Daldry the man for the job? Can he do Wicked justice? Who knows? Yet if his track record is anything to go by, then Stephen Daldry might just be the man who can do Wicked justice and bring the story of Elphaba and Glinda to swathes of new audiences around the world!
Sondheim’s Greatest Work
Often noted as the celebrated composer and lyricist’s greatest achievement, the fairy tale-laden story of a couple cursed to childlessness by an evil witch proves spellbinding every time you see it. Factor in all-star players such as Meryl Streep, James Corden and Emily Blunt and it looked as though one of the finest productions in movie musical history was set to grace silver screens all over the world.
Movie Goers Flock to See Into the Woods
Then the reviews came in. Saying they were lukewarm is putting it nicely. Whilst certain elements of the film – Streep’s acting for one – were praised, others were panned with a force I can only call resounding.
Yet now it appears as though the slew of lukewarm reviews hasn’t stopped movie goers from flocking to their local cinema to see the production for themselves. According to Reuters, speaking on the eve of the British premier of Into the Woods producers suggested that the film is due to hit the $100 million mark at the box office. Industry website Box Office Mojo also suggested that Into the Woods made more at the box office in its opening weekend than both Mamma Mia and Les Miserables.
“Reaching a Very, Very Broad Audience.”
Into the Woods producer Mark Platt spoke out on the film’s success at the box office. Platt said that “it’s been a great journey and from a business perspective we’re delighted that it is reaching a very, very broad audience.”
Platt went on to say: “As a little anecdote, I actually called Steve Sondheim and James Lapine (who wrote the book) the day after it opened on Christmas Day and was able to say to each of them that in that one day more people saw the film than experienced it in its two Broadway runs combined.”
Whetting the Public’s Appetite for Movie Musicals
Platt’s words show us what Into the Woods has done for the movie musical. It’s carried on the work Mamma Mia and Les Miserables started. It’s whetted the public’s appetite for the movie musical. After Into the Woods, the movie musical can go anyway it wants to next. The phenomenon of the block buster movie musical has been well and truly revived!
If you’re wondering whether to go and see the remake of Annie you’re in luck, as this week on the Simon Morris blog I ask; what did the critics have to say about Annie?
A Cultural Phenomenon
There were few movie musicals that appeared on a young Simon Morris’ television screen more in the heady days of childhood than classic 80’s production Annie.
It’s the ultimate feel-good film. If you’ve somehow missed out on the cultural phenomenon that is Annie, it tells the story of an orphan girl destined to a childhood in a dank, dreary orphanage. That is until she’s taken in a by a hard-nosed billionaire looking to get elected as New York’s next mayor and her life – along with his – changes forever.
Can a Remake Ever Live Up to its Predecessor?
You can see why I loved this movie. The original 80’s production was the kind of feel-good flick that could melt the ice around even the most frozen of hearts.
Therefore when I heard that a remake was set to hit silver screens around the world, I was eager to see whether it would live up to its predecessor. Starring the likes of Cameron Diaz as orphanage foster mother Miss Hannigan, and Jamie Fox as the billionaire, it looked like Annie was set to prove as big a movie musical as the 80’s original it drew inspiration from.
The Reviews are in. They’re Not Good
It was finally released a few weeks ago over the Christmas period. The reviews are now in and all I can really say is… they’re not good.
The Guardian titled its review ‘Pink, sparkly, radioactive waste,’ elaborating by noting that ‘boring musical numbers and hammy performances simply leave the viewer with a sugar rush of nausea.’ The Irish Times meanwhile, titled their’s ‘Great cast, shame about the movie,’ going on to write that ‘Annie, the 2014 movie, really doesn’t want to be Annie: it wants to be cool.’ The rest of the review suggests that clearly, they failed.
The Telegraph simply titled theirs ‘Cloying,’ before suggesting that ‘this is a peculiarly scared remake, which seems embarrassed by the songs (it replaces most of them with icky new R&B tracks) and repelled by its own sentiment.’ Practically every review reads the same.
If You’re Thinking of Seeing Annie, Think Again
If you’re thinking of going to see Annie, the consensus seems to suggest that you should think again. Instead, why don’t you break out your battered version of the original? If the critics are to be believed, it’d be a much better use of your time anyway.
If you’re thinking about going to see what many have dubbed ‘the movie musical of the year’ over the holidays read on, as this week on the Simon Morris Blog I ask; what are the critics saying about Into the Woods?
A Young(ish) Simon Morris’ Eyes Were Opened
I can remember the first time I was taken to see Into the Woods, back when it was nothing but a stage play in the West End. That night, a young(ish) Simon Morris’ eyes were opened up to a magical world of fairy-tales, all wrapped up in a fantastic score, out-of-this world scenery and a fascinating storyline.
If you still count yourself as one of the uninitiated, Into the Woods is a musical that employs the vehicle of fairy-tales to explore modern themes. It tells the story of the Baker and his Wife, as they strive to lift a curse of barrenness placed on them by a witch by walking head-first into the woods…
Into the Woods Finally Reaches the Silver Screen
It’s taken years, speculation and a lot of heartbreak on the part of certain fans (me), but Into the Woods has finally reached the silver screen. The film was hotly anticipated, with Hollywood legends such as Meryl Streep (the Witch), Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife) and Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) all coming together to lend the production a touch of tinsel-town magic.
It was released on Christmas Day in the US, and critics had the chance to view the film before the official release. So what did they say? It was a surprisingly mixed-bag. The general consensus seems to be that it doesn’t quite live up to the awesomeness that is Into the Woods on the Broadway stage.
What Did the Critics Say?
That seemed to be the point Ben Neutze came to in the Daily Review. Neutze noted: “Like almost every stage-to-screen movie musical that came before it, it doesn’t reach quite the same heights as it does on stage, but it would be a decent enough permanent record of the musical for its legions of fans (if one didn’t already exist).”
Meanwhile, The Independent’s Geoffrey Macnab seemed to suggest that the first half was glaringly better than the second. Macnab wrote: “Into the Woods is a strangely patchy and episodic affair. Some of it is dazzling; some of it would barely pass muster in a provincial Christmas pantomime.” Ouch.
Yet of course, Streep’s performance as the Witch was almost universally praised. Of Streep’s performance, Joanna Crawley writes for Entertainmentwise: “It may be pretty much equal billing between the long list of principles but things really get going once Meryl turns up.”
It Has Meryl Streep in It!!
In other words, whilst the critics weren’t exactly flocking to shower Into the Woods with universal praise, it’s still a fantastic movie musical to go see this holidays. It has the modern movie musical legend that is Meryl Streep in it; what more do you need!
It’s about that time of the year again. Ever since I was a pint-sized version of the Simon Morris you see before you, I’d sit down with the family and indulge in a viewing of Groundhog Day whenever Christmas rolled around.
It’s the perfect feel good film. It’s Christmassy, there’s a lot of snow, there’s hijinks to be found around every corner, it has a fascinating concept, and it’s all wrapped up with that quintessential of Christmas movie stapes, a life lesson.
Musical Theatre Material?
In other words, I love Groundhog Day. Yet I’ve never really considered it musical theatre material. That’s why I was so shocked that according to Christian Post, a musical version of the Bill Murray flick is set to hit the stage.
Comedian Tim Minchin – who broke the news to the world via Twitter – is slated to act as the lyricist and composer for the project. Furthermore, according to Minchin’s Twitter account “Danny (Rubin) himself is writing the book… Matthew Warchus is directing.” The legend that is Steven Sondheim is also said to be attached to the production.
“Both Instantly Recognisable and Utterly Different.”
Meanwhile, Minchin took pains whilst breaking the news on Twitter to emphasise that the musical version of Groundhog Day will be “both instantly recognisable and utterly different.”
The comedian went on to write that “the 1993 Sony Pictures film was directed by Harold Ramis and starred Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, and is a true comedy classic.” However he also noted that “it would be impossible to try to translate the style and tone of the movie to stage … and even if it were possible, it wouldn’t interest me.”
Never Pays to Rip Off a Classic
In other words, he wants to keep the feel of Groundhog Day, but actually create a production that differs from it’s big screen forebear. Whilst I’ll reserve judgement until opening night, I feel that this is definitely the right approach for Minchin and company to take. It never pays to rip off a classic.
With the holiday season only a stone’s throw away, I wanted to help you get into the spirit this week here on the Simon Morris blog with five Disney movie musicals you should re-watch this Christmas.
All Warm and Tingly Inside
Growing up in the 90’s, a burgeoning musical theatre enthusiast – otherwise known as a young Simon Morris – could often be found sat in front of a slew of classic Disney movie musicals, especially at Christmas.
With their sweeping Broadway-esque scores, classic good vs. evil narratives, goofy animated characters and feel good vibe, Disney musicals are perfect for the holiday season. They make you feel all warm and tingly inside once the credits have rolled, and that’s exactly the kind of feeling you want whilst you’re in the midst of your favourite day of the year.
Start With These Five Disney Movie Musicals
Yet with so many classic Disney movie musicals to choose from, and Christmas destined to last only until the dawn of the 26th where do you start? If you want the perfect Yuletide musical experience, I’d suggest you start with the following five…
- Beauty and the Beast: A tale as old as time, if you want to leave your Christmas experience with tear tracks of joy running down your face, Beauty and the Beast is the Disney movie musical for you. Watching the Beast go from raving psycho to Prince Charming is certainly my definition of a Christmas miracle!
- The Little Mermaid: If you’re a Disney purist, you have no choice but to watch the film that kick-started the Disney movie musical revival back in 1989, The Little Mermaid, come Christmas day. With a love story like the one between Ariel and Eric, as well as classic tunes such as ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Part of That World,’ I defy you to not get into the Christmas spirit after a screening of The Little Mermaid!
- Snow White: I genuinely believe that you should devote some time in your hectic Disney movie musical watching schedule to appreciate the genre’s prolific pre-90’s era. The ultimate old school Disney movie musical, Snow White is just dark enough to take you on a rollercoaster ride this December 25th, whilst still leaving you feeling as though you’ve eaten way too much sugar once it’s time for that ride to come to an end.
- Hercules: The soundtrack to this one is just plain infectious. With tunes like ‘Zero to Hero,’ ‘Go the Distance’ and ‘I Won’t Say I’m in Love’ blaring from the TV whilst you’re preparing the Christmas bird, you’re sure to be in for a whale of a time!
- Frozen: Don’t underestimate the film that brought the Disney movie musical to the modern generation – Frozen is the perfect Christmas flick. All that snow and ice (especially that wicked ice palace) is enough to get you into the holiday spirit alone and let’s face it, it’s probably the closest we’re going to get to actual snow this December 25th!
Feel Good This Christmas
Christmas is about feeling good. What better way to get into the holiday spirit and leave yourself feeling all warm inside than dimming the lights, settling back on your sofa and switching on a classic Disney Musical!