A "West Side Story" Movie Is in the Works. Here's What We Know So Far.
We'll admit it: When we peruse Broadway's offerings each season, sometimes we bemoan the lack of original stories being portrayed onstage. Songbook musicals, revivals, or shows based on existing TV series or films have become a stronghold (and often a sure bet) for Broadway producers. But when a good redux comes along—like this season's surprisingly delightful SpongeBob SquarePants, based on the TV show of the same name—we can appreciate that.
Now, the silver screen has come knocking on Broadway's door for the reverse scenario: film adaptations of smash stage musicals. It's certainly nothing new, but right now there's a deluge of musicals that have nascent Hollywood dreams. The process can take years (and many stories die along the way), but there are a few exciting movies in the pipeline that we think have a pretty good chance of succeeding.
Many musicals have rumored movie adaptations in the works, but these six have had the most recent status updates.
West Side Story
With Steven Spielberg directing and a screenplay by Tony Kushner, we bet this project has legs. Another good sign: The team recently put out a casting call for the leads of Tony, Maria, Bernardo and Anita.
Our biggest question: Who will choreograph? Since Jerome Robbins' moves are so iconic, we hope much of the original choreography is retained. Someone will likely be brought in to make changes—small or large. Might it be Joshua Bergasse, who put his spin on Robbins' choreo for On the Town? Or maybe Justin Peck, who's making his inaugural Broadway move with this spring's Carousel?
Georgina Pazcoguin brought balletic finesse to Victoria on Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy CATS.
Practical cats, dramatical cats, pragmatical cats, fanatical cats. With CATS fresh off a successful Broadway revival, why not make another movie featuring these dance-savvy felines? Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to be on board. Earlier this month we learned that the famous composer has penned a new song for inclusion in the supposed film remake. Good news for dancers: It's a song for Victoria, the most balletic cat of them all. We'd love to see her character expanded.
A scene from Disney's Aladdin on Broadway. Via Aladdin.
Although this Aladdin is based off the 1992 animated movie, of all the musicals gunning for the big screen, it's the furthest along in the process. It's currently in production with a release date set for May 24, 2019. Plus, Big-Willie-style is all over this movie. Yes, Will Smith is playing the Genie. Along with the original singalong-worthy tunes, expect additions from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the award-winning duo behind Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman. Jamal Sims, of the Step Up franchise, is choreographing, so that hopefully means there will be plenty of dancing.
Come From Away
Come From Away continues to make waves on Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Polk & Co.
Finally! An original Broadway story. Christopher Ashley, who's been with Come From Away since its inception at La Jolla Playhouse, plans to direct the adaptation of the current hit musical. Not much information is available at this time, but we're excited to follow this movie's development.
In the Heights
Washington Heights got a major shout-out in the Broadway musical. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy In the Heights.
We'd love to see this one happen. As of October, though, plans had stalled. Quiara Alegría Hudes (who co-authored the book with Lin-Manuel Miranda) called for the Weinstein Co. to release the film's rights in the wake of harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein. Earlier in the process, Jay Z had been named as a producer.
The 2009 West End production featured Matthew Bourne's choreography.
The classic musical might become a movie once again, but this time, with Ice Cube as the crooked Fagin, who runs a ring of child pickpocketers. Hamilton director Thomas Kail will direct, and way back in 2014, Matthew Bourne was mentioned as choreographer. Can you imagine the rich, fantastical numbers he'd create? Consider us sold.
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Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.
The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.
What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
The heart of his message: Be generous.