A couple of days ago, I wrote about Broadway musicals that were being developed for the big movie screen. Lo and behold, that same day I read the news that Will Smith and Jay-Z were proceeding with their plans to update Annie as a major motion picture. A contemporary version of the little orphan girl during the Great Depression who ends up adopted by the gazillionaire Daddy Warbucks and meets President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be a drastic departure from its roots. Jay-Z's hip-hop version of the show's song "Hard Knock Life" was a huge hit, so maybe he and Smith have some other great remix tracks in mind that would present the story in a fresh new way, but it's definitely a risk. When the project was first announced, Willow, the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, was rumored to be in line to star, but now they will probably go with someone younger, since Willow would be a teenager when production begins. The thought of rebooting and reimagining the story made me think of other movie musicals that could use some updating.
Some movie musicals, obviously, are timeless, or so set in their time period that it would be a travesty to remake them, or pointless to try to modernize it. Examples include The Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, The Music Man, Oliver!, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, etc. Don't touch those. Leave them alone. Some others, on the other hand, can definitely be filmed again -- bigger and better than before.
The Wiz - Sidney Lumet's 1978 version of the Oz story had a talented cast (Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor), but it feels really cheesy now. It would be interesting to see what a new director could do with the material today.
Jesus Christ Superstar - Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is one of my favorites, but the movie version directed by Norman Jewison was mediocre at best. I think a truly contemporary remake might bring this story to life on the big screen, just as it's been done a number of times on the stage.
The Who's Tommy - Ken Russell's 1975 movie adaptation was psychodelic, fitting the decade of its release, but I want to see it reimagined for the silver screen with today's sensibilities. Pinball machines might not be as popular as they once were, but that's a minor concern. A modern day remake could still be amazing.
Godspell - The recent Broadway revival made me imagine the possibilities for this Stephen Schwartz musical. The 1973 film version starring Victor Garber is totally dated now. Let's put it in new hands and see what a contemporary creative team can visualize.
Pippin - Another Schwartz musical that could use some dusting off is this terrific little story, originally filmed in 1981 as a TV movie starring Ben Vereen, William Katt, Martha Raye, and Chita Rivera. I still think it hasn't been produced to its full potential.
Damn Yankees - This is one of the musicals already rumored to be remade as a motion picture. While the 1958 flick, starring Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon, had its fun moments, it is screaming for a reboot. Set it in today's era and the possibilities are endless.