A Movie that is more Musical than Movie?
October 13, 2020 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm new to the musicals genre. Many of the book musicals I want to see are no longer being performed live. I just watched Mel Brook's "The Producers" movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. It preceded and was the inspiration for Mel Brooks' 2000 "The Producers" book musical. And that led to the movie, "The Producers" in the spirit of the musical.

That movie has what some other movies produced from musicals seems to lack, which is the integration of song, dance and book. It's at least similar to what I'd see if I was in a theater. I recently saw "Hamilton" on Disney+ and it was the actual stage version. What musicals are actual videotaped stage versions I can view? Or which musicals are like The Producers movie of a musical of a movie? Where can I find a list of them and do they tend to be in a library or from the old CBS Playhouse 90 or on YouTube?
posted by CollectiveMind to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway is a composite of the closing performance and some other portions filmed shortly before it. It's much better than the film adaptation directed by Chris Columbus.
posted by likedoomsday at 6:48 PM on October 13

Into the Woods, the 1991 recording not the 2014 movie.

You may also be interested in BroadwayHD.
posted by rakaidan at 6:50 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

There are excellent filmed stage productions of both Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd that are miles better than the films made of either show. Both of them are pretty accessible - I found both of them to rent on amazon, for example.
posted by darchildre at 6:50 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Cats (1998)
posted by theodolite at 7:10 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

What musicals are actual videotaped stage versions I can view?

You may not find as many of these; I'll explain why in a minute.

Or which musicals are like The Producers movie of a musical of a movie?

The 50s and 60s were the golden era of this kind of film. Oklahoma! and West Side Story come to mind; basically, if it's a musical you've heard of, if there's a movie of it from the 50s or 60s, idds are it'll be like the Producers movie of a musical. (They aren't always musical-of-a-movie-of-a-musical; sometimes they just start with an existing musical.) You could just search for the term "movie musical".

Now as for the videotaped stage versions - those may be a little difficult to find DVDs of unless you're watching something that was on PBS or something. That's because the actors' union has pretty tight control over videotaping stage productions - which makes sense if you look at it from their perspective; the success of a live musical depends on having audiences continue to show up to see it, and if people can just stay home and stream the stage version on TV, they won't go to the theater to see it live, and the actors end up getting screwed. This doesn't mean it doesn't happen at all, though - usually, though, it involves a bit of contract negotiation between the actors union and the producers and the cast and some extra money may end up getting paid to the actors or something like that. Or, the guy who wants to film it has to agree to wait until the show's final performance to film it. Or they agree that they won't sell it, and it will only be available to show in schools or on PBS or something.

Hamilton is so successful, and people are so eager to come see it anyway, that it was a safe bet that people would still come see it even with a taped version being available, so the producers of Hamilton made that negotiation. Even then, they sat on it for a few years before they released it. With another show, Passing Strange, Spike Lee was the guy who wanted to film it - and he agreed to wait and film the final performance. (It's worth seeing, if you can find it - not like your ordinary musical, but there is a song that I guarantee will have you on your feet and grooving along with it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

Regarding Pro shots (professionally shot theatrical productions), EmpressCallipygos has it exactly right. If you would like a more detailed explanation, Kat Steele did an excellent video about it earlier this year after the Hamilton pro shot came out: Why we CAN’T stream every Broadway show
posted by Lokheed at 7:34 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, and Linda Ronstadt is an adaptation of a 1980 stage production by Joseph Papp. According to Wikipedia, "The original Broadway cast reprised their roles in the film, except that Lansbury replaced Estelle Parsons as Ruth."

It is very campy, looks like a stage production, and if I'm remembering correctly the fourth wall gets demolished in the finale.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:34 PM on October 13 [5 favorites]

Rocky Horror Picture Show hews fairly close to the stage version.
posted by jordemort at 7:42 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

You might like the musical movie Hairspray -- which started first as a non-musical movie, became a Broadway musical, and then the musical was made into a musical movie.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:53 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

There are three different legit filmed versions of Company, and if you watch enough clips of Raul Esparza or Neil Patrick Harris singing "Being Alive" on YouTube, the algorithm won't stop recommending them.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:00 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Or which musicals are like The Producers movie of a musical of a movie?

The Muppet Movie probably isn't what you're looking for, but does largely fit this description.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:27 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Try Little Shop of Horrors! The movie musical is adapted from the stage musical which is adapted from a movie. Totally campy and fun. It looks to be streaming on HBO.
posted by wsquared at 10:26 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

You might have more luck looking in Europe and Asia. French and Dutch original musicals are usually published on DVD (Notre Dame de Paris is a classic and I'm a big fan of 3 Musketiers), and Japanese musical shops are a treasure trove. Some successful UK productions get cinema-streamed live shows which occasionally show up on Youtube and elsewhere - the Rocky Horror anniversary was Special, Kinky Boots was spectacular.

There's of course the Phantom of the Opera Albert Hall performance (live, full show, translated to the Albert Hall stage so not quite the original stage tricks). The Greatest Showman is a movie-original, but done by a pro musicals team and a love letter to the genre with a very stage sensibility. Legally Blonde got a proshot that aired on MTV and last I checked was available on Youtube.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:29 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Seconding Pirates of Penzance! Kevin Kline knocks that one of of the park. You'll never look at Leap Day the same way again.

On the Gilbert & Sullivan line, Topsy-Turvy might also scratch that itch for you. It's not a musical, but it's a movie about the development of one of their most famous shows, The Mikado. There are a few songs, but most of the focus is on the backstage issues.

If you're a fan of The Producers and Zero Mostel, I'd also recommend A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum, which is a very stagey movie of a Broadway musical. Like Pirates, it's the source of innumerable catchphrases in my family. (Seven times round the seven hills of Rome!)

On the "filmed stage show" request, there are several anniversary concerts for Les Miserables where the actors are in costume and semi-acting in front of stationary mics. Any of these are much better than the 2012 movie musical.

As EmpressCallipygos says, many of the musicals from the 1945-1970 Golden Age have movie versions that are very stagey. "Roadshow musical" might be a good search term for this. PBS Great Performances is another good place to look for actual stage productions on film.
posted by basalganglia at 3:34 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

There have been musicals staged for TV from time to time. NBC has done them as televised live performances at Christmas for several years. They've done Sound of Music, Anna and the King of Siam, among others.

It's been done that way from time to time ever since the invention of TV. I remember Mary Martin in Peter Pan back in the 1950s. I suspect that if you could find it, kayvon CD, it would be unwatchable due to ancient B&W TV picture quality.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:39 AM on October 14

The Julie Andrews and Lesley Ann Warren versions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. (I was lucky enough to see the LAW version at the PaleyFest Center with a whole roomful of women who had grown up with the VHS tape, and LAW herself telling us how her husband found her crown on eBay and bought it for her birthday.)

Also, I believe the Mary Martin Peter Pan was taped more than once, including in color.
posted by elphaba at 6:16 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

What musicals are actual videotaped stage versions I can view?

posted by Lutoslawski at 6:51 AM on October 14 [3 favorites]

Colma ?

posted by james33 at 7:08 AM on October 14

There's a Pride and Prejudice musical streaming on Amazon. I enjoyed it.

I first saw it through Streaming Musicals. They have several other musicals available to rent/buy on their site & periodically do free livestreams of new ones.
posted by belladonna at 7:09 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

TV versions do seem to both feel more stagey AND hew closer to the original in terms of not changing dialogue or cutting songs than Hollywood versions. In addition to the Lesley Ann Warren Cinderella, ones that come to mind are the 2003 version of The Music Man and the 1995 Bye Bye Birdie (the 1963 version hardly has any of the songs!)
posted by lampoil at 7:09 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

What musicals are actual videotaped stage versions I can view?

There have been a lot more of these lately. A few I can think of:

Newsies, filmed in 2017, probably still on Disney+. Very enjoyable, with fantastic dancing.

Kinky Boots, the London cast, filmed in 2019.

Bandstand, 2015 off-Broadway production.

Kinky Boots and Bandstand were filmed and shown in movie theaters, they may be on some streaming services now.

PBS's Great Performances shows a lot of filmed stage musicals. She Loves Me, King and I, Carousel in the last few years, probably a lot more that I don't remember. Sometimes the re-show them, you have to keep an eye on their site, or on Broadway news. Playbill.com or Broadwayworld.com will usually have announcements.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:51 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]

Those vintage MGM Hollywood musicals have a lot to offer, even if there's some dialogue between the songs. Anything based on Rodgers & Hammerstein is worth a look.. Also, 'Oliver!' (1968) is really something.

(some of the later Mary Martin Peter Pan videos seem kinda?)
posted by ovvl at 6:50 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]

Also Shrek the Musical, on Netflix and (rentable on) Prime.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:03 AM on October 15

The PBS program Great Performances will occasionally show Broadway musicals, including Holiday Inn, Kinky Boots, and She Loves Me. (I'm pretty sure the EXCELLENT show Empress mentioned, Passing Strange, was shown on Great Performances.)

There's also a whole streaming service, Broadway HD, that offers most of the musicals that are available.

If you have a decent local library that's has either streaming materials or DVDs available for pickup, you should definitely check there (just search the catalog for "musical" or "musical theater" to see what they have) - many libraries do carry DVDs of things like this.

Finally, if you aren't averse to student and community productions, you might find a surprising amount of stuff on Youtube just by searching for titles of shows (say, using the list of Best Musical Tony awards as a starting point).
posted by kristi at 4:28 PM on October 19

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