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
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
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.
John Karanski is a lucky man!
Most glaring omission? Grease
No Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers?