Get Reel: Something 'Wicked' this way comes
Full disclosure time: I adore "The Wizard of Oz." Judy Garland's singing, Ray Bolger's dancing, Bert Lahr's roaring. What's not to love? Considering my affection for the 1939 film, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite musicals is "Wicked."
Based on the novel by Concord's Gregory Maguire with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, the musical premiered on Broadway in 2003 with Idina Menzel as Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) and Kristin Chenoweth as Galinda (later Glinda, aka the Good Witch).
Over the years, fans of "Wicked" may have wondered why there hasn't been a film version of this highly successful, Tony Award-winning musical. In the past, when musicals were more prevalent on the screen, a popular Broadway show typically made the transition to film. As movie audience appreciation for musicals waned at the end of the 1960s and the cost of filming musicals soared, it's not surprising that Hollywood has become wary of committing big bucks to big showcases.
The success of "Chicago" in 2002 helped prove that the movie musical with Broadway roots isn't dead, spawning numerous successors, most of them not particularly memorable. "Mamma Mia!" might have made millions, but does anyone actually pine for the vocal stylings of Pierce Brosnan?
However, there is good news yes, you can sing the chorus from "No One Mourns the Wicked" as a movie version of "Wicked" has been planned. Well, it will be good news if the film's producer or producers do right by the musical. Just don't expect immediate gratification as the IMDb Internet Movie Database says the film won't be released until 2014. The continued success of the musical on stage actually works against the rush for a film version. Don't put this cash cow in jeopardy. That said, the date could change.
Unfortunately, the longer it takes for the film version to get made the less likely it will be that producers will cast the two Broadways stars: Menzel and Chenoweth. If the film were being shot now, Menzel and Chenoweth should be the leading candidates for the lead roles in the film. Anyone who disagrees has brains made out of yellow brick.
However, Menzel turns 40 this year and Chenoweth is already 42. They might be considered too old to play their characters as the musical centers around the relationship of Elphaba and Galinda dating back to their schoolgirl days. I'm not a fan of having two actresses play each role one younger and one older. It dilutes the performance.
But even if Menzel and Chenoweth were in their 30s, they still might not get the lead roles. Neither actress is a household name and Hollywood likes casting household names when it's spending million of dollars. This "star factor" explains why a then relatively unknown Julie Andrews, who played "My Fair Lady's" Eliza Doolittle on Broadway, lost the film role to Audrey Hepburn.
Even though Hepburn didn't sing her part her singing voice was dubbed my Marni Nixon she was a star. And the move paid off. The film was a huge box office success and won the best picture Oscar in 1964. While Andrews received what some might call compensation by garnering the best actress Oscar the same year for "Mary Poppins," one can assume she was a tad disappointed not to land the film role of Eliza.
Call me a silly purist, but I think if you're going to cast someone in a musical they should be able to sing. To cut Hollywood some slack on this matter, it can be a challenge finding stars who can act and sing.
So let's play a game. It's called the casting game, not to be confused with the casting couch. Say you're hired as the producer of "Wicked" and you have to cast the two leads. Whom would you choose? Remember, if the musical flops, you'll end up working in a fast-food restaurant in Encino saying, "Would you like fries with that?"
I'll start the game. Assuming Menzel and Chenoweth are off the playing field and dubbings are verboten, my first choice for Elphaba would be Anne Hathaway. She brings the total package: She's a star, she can act, she can sing and she's only a sophomore. Sorry, excuse that sportscaster Keith Jackson moment. Anyway, she's only 28.
My first choice for Galinda would be Reese Witherspoon. She's almost as perfect as Hathaway. She's a star, she can act, she can sing and she's only 35. And who better to play a perky blonde than an actress who made a career out of playing a perky blonde? That would be Elle Woods in the "Legally Blonde" films.
The only question about Witherspoon is whether her voice is strong enough for the musical's demanding vocals. While she acquitted herself well as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," winning an Oscar in the process, Witherspoon has much more experience acting than singing. It's not easy to teach singing.
My second choice for Elphaba would be Catherine Zeta-Jones. Like Hathaway and Witherspoon, she's a star, she can act and she can sing as she proved in her Oscar-winning performance in "Chicago." Working against Zeta-Jones is her age. She's now 41. It does seem ridiculous to think of 41 as "old," but we're talking Hollywood here. It's a place where ageism is part of the immoral fabric. And the plastic surgeons are eternally grateful.
My second choice for Galinda would be Amy Adams. She doesn't have the star power of Hathaway, Witherspoon and Zeta-Jones, but she is on her way to superstardom, having already received multiple major award nominations. She can also act and sing as she demonstrated in "Enchanted." And she can definitely play perky. Just dye her hair blonde. What might be trickier to alter is her voice. Does it have enough oomph for Galinda? Adams does have a background in dinner theater so she might have the vocal chops.
Go to the Web and suggestions include Lea Michele, the 24-year-old singer/actress who has shot to stardom thanks to the TV show "Glee." She sounds like a very good choice. In the weird circumstances department, Menzel plays her mother on the show.
Pop singers such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears also receive online mentions. Whether they can act, however, is up for debate.
A colleague suggested Jennifer Hudson for Elphaba, and that would be an interesting choice. A black actress in green face? Why not?
We should note that as important as the two leads are, whether the musical displays any magic on the screen will likely depend on who the director is. For example, how will he or she visually construct "Defying Gravity"? If done properly, it should elicit applause from any audience with a pulse. And if no one gets misty-eyed at the end of "For Good," it's a crying shame.
Finally, if some studio no names shall be mentioned gets its hands on "Wicked" and decides to turn it into an animated film, I will not be a happy Munchkin. No good deed, indeed.
It's now time for TRIVIA.
Last month's tester: In this recent film, one of the villains is played by an actor who has the same last name as the character he plays? Name the film, the villain's full name and the actor's full name.
Answer: Barry Pepper played Lucky Ned Pepper in the 2010 remake of "True Grit."
No one answered the question correctly.
This month's tester: What former child actress played a supporting role in two films in back-to-back years in the 1970s that received a total of 14 Academy Award nominations? Name the actress and the two movies.
The first reader to answer the trivia question correctly will receive a glass jar of thoughtfulness from Kind Notes containing more than 30 mini-notes with inspirational messages in individual envelopes meant to be opened daily. The retail value is $36. For more information, visit www.kindnotes.com.
Trivia enthusiasts can call me at 508-626-4409 or email me at email@example.com.
Make sure you leave your name, address and number on my message machine or email so I can contact you if you answered the question correctly. The address is needed so winners can be mailed their prize. Callers should spell out their names slowly and clearly so their names will be spelled correctly in the column. Only one guess per household, please.
Answers will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10. Good luck!