Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
Bronx, New York, United States of America
December 13
Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact for more info.


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JANUARY 31, 2013 11:02PM

Movie Musicals That Should Be Rebooted

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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 maybe 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.

Those are my choices.  Any others?

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Xanadu? They did that one on broadway recently, in all it's rollerskating glory, didn't they?

But not Grease. That one needs to stay the same.
How about South Pacific
was LES MIZ dubbed in parts in editing room? answer your POV. re -
I recommend the sort-of sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment. It was campy (as Richard O'Brian's work always was) but it predicted TV evangelism, Oprah-style psychobabble, drug-pushing doctors and the stupidity of mobs. (The last undoubtedly came from O'Brian watching Rocky Horror live casts acting as mechanistically as puppets.) With the right visual cues and relations to our own stupidities - like an army of Limbaugh look-alikes - it would work.
I don't generally care for movie musicals. I think that sort of thing works far better on stage. Love Jesus Christ Superstar; not as a movie though. Even as a kid watching a Disney movie, I'd get irritated when the characters would spontaneously burst into song. Having said that, I adore Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney. Don't know if that could be remade, or if it should be.
I had no idea about Will Smith and Jay-Z's plan to bring Annie to the big screen. That would have been entertaining to see Willow as Annie, she could have whipped those curls! (Whip my Hair by Willow Smith)
There are two hilarious Danny Kaye musicals- "The Inspector General" and "The Court Jester" that need to be re-made.

They were on heavy rotation when I was like, 10, and they swing on that bizarre 50s/60s pendulum between "awesome" and "painfully corny". But the awesome wins the day!

Alllow me to do some linkin': from "Inspector General"- the Gypsy Drinking Song (

From "Court Jester" - the Pestle with the Vessel (
You can't really consider the early 80s TV production of Pippin a movie version. It was a filmed stage production, which by its nature is shot and performed in a very different way than something conceived as a "movie". That said, I agree that it would be cool to see a true film version of it.
Spake, good point. I still would love to see them remake it for the big screen. I'm going to see a new production of it off-Broadway in April -- fingers crossed.