Lin-Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt Take You Through 22 Classic Musicals in 12 Minutes

Watch­ing James Cor­den, Lin-Manuel Miran­da, and Emi­ly Blunt don­ning bad wigs to mug their way through a 12-minute salute to 22 movie musi­cal “clas­sics” is a bit rem­i­nis­cent of watch­ing the three most pop­u­lar coun­selors ham it up dur­ing an over­long sum­mer camp skit.

Their one-take per­for­mance was part of Role Call, a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the Late Late Show with James Cor­den. Usu­al­ly, this fan favorite is an excuse for Cor­den and a megas­tar guest—Tom Han­ks, Julia Roberts, Samuel L. Jack­son—to bum­ble through the most icon­ic moments of their career.

These kinds of larks are more fun for being a mess, and the live stu­dio audi­ence screams like besot­ted campers at every goofy quick change and wink­ing inside ref­er­ence. Blunt and Miran­da are def­i­nite­ly game, though one won­ders if they felt a bit cha­grinned that the film they are pro­mot­ing, Mary Pop­pins Returns, is giv­en pride of place­ment, while the orig­i­nal 1964 film star­ring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke is strange­ly absent.

As is Thor­ough­ly Mod­ern Mil­lie, Victor/Victoria, and even The Sound of Music.

Maybe Corden’s sav­ing up for a Julia Andrews-cen­tric Role Call.

What did make the cut points to how few orig­i­nal movie musi­cals there are to res­onate with mod­ern audi­ences.

Of the 22, over 2/3 start­ed out as Broad­way plays.

And “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from 2007’s Hair­spray was born of the 2002 stage adap­ta­tion, not the grit­ty 1988 orig­i­nal star­ring John Waters’ main­stay, Divine.

Is it wrong to hope that most view­ers hear­ing “Your Song” will think, Elton John! not Moulin Rouge”?

And Beau­ty and The Beast is per­haps not so much a movie musi­cal as a children’s fea­ture-length ani­ma­tion, so why not The Lit­tle Mer­maid, The Lion  King, or hell, Snow White or Pinoc­chio?

Alas, 1953’s Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blondes is as far back as this skit’s mem­o­ry goes, pre­sum­ably because the audi­ence has a greater like­li­hood of rec­og­niz­ing Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe than say, Howard Keel.

More inter­est­ing than the jokey horse­play with Into the Woods and The Mup­pet Movie is the choice to blithe­ly cast white actors in roles that were writ­ten for black women (Dream­girls, Lit­tle Shop of Hor­rors). I don’t think any­one would try to get away with that on Broad­way these days, even in in a spoofy char­i­ta­ble event like Broad­way Bares or East­er Bon­net… though if they did, get­ting Lin-Manuel Miran­da on board would be a very good idea.

As to why Hamil­ton isn’t one of the titles below … it’s not a movie musi­cal—yet!

Readers—what glar­ing omis­sions leap out at you?



La La Land

Beau­ty and the Beast

Guys and Dolls


Sin­gin’ in the Rain

Mary Pop­pins Returns

The Mup­pet Movie

The Wiz­ard of Oz 




Fid­dler on the Roof

Into the Woods 

Lit­tle Shop of Hor­rors

Les Mis­er­ables

Moulin Rouge 



Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blondes

Mama Mia

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hair: The Amer­i­can Trib­al Love-Rock Musi­cal Debuted on Broad­way 50 Years Ago: Watch Footage of the Cast Per­form­ing in 1968

David Bowie Dreamed of Turn­ing George Orwell’s 1984 Into a Musi­cal: Hear the Songs That Sur­vived the Aban­doned Project

Alexan­der Hamil­ton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poet­ry Evening

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this Jan­u­ary as host of  The­ater of the Apes book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


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