Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted by Jason Anderson
For "Gleeks" ready to venture beyond the cast's perky renditions of 'Bootylicious' and 'Don't Stop Believin',' we present some more song-and-dance spectaculars with an equally contemporary feel and appeal.
'Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' and 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer''s 'Once More With Feeling'
Neil Patrick Harris clinched his geek-icon status when he appeared as a would-be supervillain in Joss Whedon's silly yet surprisingly moving online series. 'Dr. Horrible' began as a way for some talented folks to kill time during the writers' strike but ended up as a much-cherished Emmy winner. (A sequel is in the works). Back in his days as the brains behind 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' Whedon established his bona fides in the form with 'Once More With Feeling,' an equally lovable episode in which a demon forced Buffy and gang to sing their hearts out.
More NPH! In the days between 'Doogie Howser M.D.' and 'Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,' Harris gained a formidable rep on Broadway, most stunningly in the double role of the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald in the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim's loopy revue about presidential assassins.
A one-hit wonder in the pop world (anyone remember 'Barely Breathing'?), Duncan Sheik reinvented himself as a Broadway composer when he wrote the music for this celebrated revamp of a German Expressionist play about the often scandalous habits of wayward fin-de-siecle youth. It takes real talent to make songs about incest, rape and suicide so hummable.
'South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut'
Trey Parker and Matt Stone's love of big production numbers was obvious as early as their pre-South Park effort, 'Cannibal: The Musical.' Wanting to do it right for their first big-budget screen venture, they enlisted composer Marc Shaiman to help create dirty-mouthed ditties like 'Uncle F---a' and the brilliant 'Blame Canada.'
The creators of 'Glee' owe a clear debt to Baz Luhrmann's lavish 2001 musical, which also repurposed familiar hits in surprising ways -- like the Police's 'Roxanne' done as a sleazy cabaret number. With its radical new approach, the movie ushered in a renaissance for the Hollywood musical -- without its impact, 'Chicago,' 'Dreamgirls,' 'Sweeney Todd' and now 'Nine' may have never hit multiplexes.
'Rock of Ages'
Built out of '80s rock anthems by the likes of Twisted Sister and Styx, this recent sensation is the latest example of the vogue for "jukebox musicals," which stitch together a show using popular songs. While they usually use the music of one artist -- ABBA in 'Mamma Mia!,' Queen in 'We Will Rock You,' Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in 'Jersey Boys' -- 'Rock of Ages' breaks the mould with all the fist-pumping fury you'd expect for a show that climaxes with a Journey song.
'The Threepenny Opera'
The granddaddy of every musical with a darker disposition, Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1928 hit revolutionized the form with its satirical tale of a vicious murderer, the same Mack the Knife who Frank Sinatra later sang about. Its influence on Tom Waits -- who tried his hand at theatrical works with 'Alice' and 'Blood Money' -- is incalculable and a recent Broadway revival starring Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper proved that Mack retains his edge.
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
To create one of the few rock musicals that actually rock, 'Hedwig' star and creator John Cameron Mitchell stripped away the camp value of predecessors like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' and got somewhere raw and true. This is the show that David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop would've made if they'd ever gone Broadway.
Mixing drama, comedy and songs much like the 'Glee' kids -- and like Dennis Potter did with earlier BBC faves like 'The Singing Detective' -- this British miniseries was a weird delight. David Morrissey played a struggling arcade owner in the titular English resort town while future 'Dr. Who' David Tennant starred as a police investigator. All of the characters shared a habit of breaking into renditions of everything from Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler' to the Smiths' 'The Boy With the Thorn in His Side.'
Turning popular film and TV shows into Broadway productions is another popular trend. But far nuttier than recent adaptations of 'Footloose,' 'Happy Days' and 'Dirty Dancing' is this hit revamp of a notorious flop: a 1980 roller-disco fantasia that originally starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. The result would've been an instant camp classic even if cast members didn't have to wear skates.