The Hollywood hills are alive… with the sound of musicals.
It’s been a bumper year for musical adaptations on the big screen.
We’ve had In The Heights, based on the stage show from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who gave the world Hamilton.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a coming-of-age movie about a teen dreaming of becoming a drag queen, is currently available on Amazon Prime.
Dear Evan Hansen, the movie adaptation of the hit US stage show, arrives on UK screens later this month.
And finally, the big one, Steven Spielberg’s eagerly awaited stab at West Side Story, hits cinemas in December.
Delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new West Side Story’s release will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the original film.
The 1961 West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, is a classic reworking of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name.
Exactly six decades after the film’s release on 18 October, 1961, there is no better time to look back on the greatest movies based on musicals.
1. West Side Story (1961)
It’s the story of Tony and Maria and the Sharks versus the Jets as Romeo & Juliet lands on the Upper West Side of 1950s New York, all soundtracked by wonderful songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Even Spielberg will have to go some to match this.
Best song: America
2. Grease (1978)
The movie became such a phenomenon it’s easy to forget that Grease was on the stage before the screen. The performances (John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John throw everything they have into Danny and Sandy) are brill and the music is irresistible, even if (whisper it) Grease 2 is just as good.
Best song: Summer Nights
3. Guys and Dolls (1955)
Someone had the bright idea to hire renowned crooner Frank Sinatra for a musical adaptation and make mumbling Marlon Brando do most of the singing, but somehow it works brilliantly.
Best song: Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat
4. The Sound of Music (1965)
Personally, I prefer Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, in a movie based on a book series not a musical, to her work as Maria von Trapp, but there’s no denying the power of this terrific tale of nuns and Nazis.
Best song: Do-Re-Mi
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Every comedian of the 1980s – Rick Moranis, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Jim Belushi and Bill Murray – turns up in this dark comedy, but the show is stolen by Steve Martin’s deranged dentist, who ends up as plant food for the murderous Audrey II.
Best song: Dentist!
6. Oliver! (1968)
Please, sir… can we have some more of this grim and great movie musical that brought Fagin, Bill Sikes and the Artful Dodger to the big screen.
Best song: Oom-Pah-Pah
7. Cabaret (1972)
Liza Minnelli sizzles as Sally Bowles in Bob Fosse’s absolute classic, set in the seedy surroundings of 1930s Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub.
Best song: Willkommen
8. My Fair Lady (1964)
The original stage production, itself based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, featured Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle, but Audrey Hepburn took the role for the movie, perhaps the most unlikely cockney flower-seller in film history. She was dubbed for the songs by Marni Nixon.
Best song: I Could Have Danced All Night
9. Les Misérables (2012)
Do you hear the people sing? Not above the warblings of some of Hollywood’s finest. Musicals veteran Hugh Jackman does Jean Valjean justice and Anne Hathaway walked off with an Oscar despite being in the film for about 10 minutes and Russell Crowe… well, he tries his heart out.
Best song: Who Am I?
10. Mamma Mia! (2008)
If Russell Crowe’s singing style was slightly unpolished, he’s Andrea Bocelli compared to Pierce Brosnan belting out Abba’s SOS, a musical cry for help if ever there was one. But it doesn’t matter, the film is so much fun any actual musical talent from its cast is deemed totally unnecessary.
Best song: Dancing Queen
Watch: Stephen Sondheim teases ‘surprises’ in new West Side Story