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EVERYONE SAID THE MOVIE MUSICAL WAS A THING OF THE PAST...BUT SUDDENLY ALL THE STARS ARE SINGING & DANCING

An unexpected avalanche of musicals continues with Beyonce Knowles in "Cadillac Records." Her turn as a good bad girl should send you out singing a happy/sad rhythm & blues tune. Browse below for details on this and other current and upcoming musicals. --GUY FLATLEY

CADILLAC RECORDS: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Beyonce Knowles, Cedric the Entertainer, Mos Def, Eamonn Walker, Gabrielle Union, Norman Reedus, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Tammy Blanchard, Jay O. Sanders, Eric Bogosian (Written and directed by Darnell Martin; TriStar Pictures) Chess Records, the Chicago label that first gave voice to some of the world’s top rhythm and blues greats, is paid tribute in this big-screen biopic written and directed by Darnell Martin, the woman behind various episodes of Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, ER and The L Word. Adrien Brody plays Leonard Chess, the company’s co-founder and the man who helped the legendary Etta James (Beyonce Knowles) kick a harrowing drug habit. Jeffrey Wright takes on the role of Muddy Waters, Moss Def is Chuck Berry and Cedric the Entertainer plays Willie Dixon. In a recent New York Times article by Alan Light, Beyonce Knowles described meeting 70-year-old Etta James shortly after completing “Cadillac Records.” “She’s honest and no-nonsense,” said the 27-year-old Knowles. “I know that in some interviews she was like, ‘I don’t know if she can play me.’ But when I met her, she said, ‘You are a bad girl,’ and I know that’s the ultimate compliment from her.” Click here to read the entire New York Times article. Now Playing

 

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Jamie Bower, Jayne Wisener, Laura Michelle Kelly, Ed Sanders, Michael N. Harbour, Peter Bowles, Anthony Head, Ian Burford (Directed by Tim Burton; Written by John Logan; DreamWorks and Paramount) From “Edward Scissorhands” to “Ed Wood,” Johnny Depp and his favorite director, Tim Burton, have never been afraid to come across as creepy. Even so, it’s a jolt to learn that their sixth collaboration will be “Sweeney Todd,” the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical (now enjoying a successful Broadway revival) about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, an ex-con who slashes the throats of his customers in order to supply ingredients for the succulent pies to be baked and sold by his equally demonic mate (Helena Bonham Carter, whose casting surely had nothing to do with the fact that she is the mom of Billy-Ray Burton, son of the film's director). Sing out, Johnny! Now Playing

 

ENCHANTED: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Lima, Jeff Bennett (Directed by Kevin Lima; Written by Bill Kelly; Walt Disney Pictures) Part Snow White, part Cinderella, a perky animated princess named Giselle trips down a well and pops up in Manhattan, where she hooks up with a handsome single father (Patrick Dempsey). No longer a drawn figure, Giselle is now played by Amy Adams, who was nominated as Best Supporting Actress of 2005 for her performance in “Junebug” and is a strong bet for a Best Actress nomination for her work here. In her New York Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote, “Ms. Adams proves to be an irresistibly watchable screen presence and a felicitous physical comedian, with a gestural performance and an emotional register that alternately bring to mind the madcap genius of Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball.” And, oh yes, did I mention that "Enchanted" is a musical, with several songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz? Here's what Variety's Todd McCarthy had to say about one of the team's more ambitious numbers: "Most striking, however, is a prolonged production number, 'That's How You Know,' that moves through many sections of Central Park and employs dozens or more musicians, dancers and backgrounders. It's hard to think of a traditional musical number done on such a scale since the '60s, so it's startling to behold. Like the rest of the film, the sequence reaches far back into the past for its inspiration and manages to make it feel like something new again." Now Playing

LA VIE EN ROSE: Marion Cotillard, Gerard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marc Barbé, Caroline Sihol, Catherine Allegret (Directed by Olivier Dahan; Written by Olivier Dahan and Isabelle Sobelman; Picturehouse Entertainment) Everybody loved Edith Piaf, except Piaf herself. An insecure, impoverished Parisian who suffered a brutal childhood dominated by her brothel-managing grandmother, Piaf blossomed into the most idolized, heartbreaking chanteuse in the history of France. Yet she died young, the victim of booze, drugs and her own emotional fragility. Playing Piaf, Marion Cotillard is already being talked about as a contender for an Oscar as Best Actress of 2007. Now Playing

MAMMA MIA!: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Hemi Yeroham (Directed by Phyllida Lloyd; Written by Catherine Johnson; Universal) We’re all aware that Meryl Streep can do anything--in any medium and with whatever accent is required. So we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear that she will sing out, loud and clear, in the movie version of the smash ABBA-loaded musical “Mamma Mia!”. If you’ve seen the show, you know the mama she’ll be playing is the proud mother of a bride-to-be. You also know that she’s never revealed the identity of the man to whom she owes her motherhood and that her daughter, determined to come face to face with dad, has invited the three most likely sires to her wedding on a Greek isle. (Could daddy be the cool architect played by Pierce Brosnan?) The big question is, can Meryl put over a song? If you had the pleasure of hearing her warble in “Postcards From the Edge” or “A Prairie Home Companion,” you know the answer is an emphatic yes. And once she gets “Mama Mia” out of the way, let’s hope she moves on to “Gypsy,” “Wonderful Town,” “Mame,” "Applause" and “Pal Joey.” Now Playing

ONCE: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova (Written and directed by John Carney; Fox Searchlight) A soulful, folk-singing, guitar-playing Dubliner who dreams of becoming a big-time recording artist makes a living by toiling in his dad’s repair shop. One day, he mends the ailing vacuum cleaner of an attractive, outspoken customer who, as it turns out, is a citizen of the Czech Republic, a single mom, a classically trained pianist, and an aspiring songwriter. Soon the two are making music, and a bit more, together. But will they ever record a song that propels them to superstardom? This Irish sleeper has audiences, and even critics, singing its praises. Here’s what A. O. Scott said in The New York Times: “The formula is simple: two people, a few instruments, 88 minutes and not a single false note... A good song—even a bad one heard at the right moment—can cast a glow of enchantment over ordinary circumstances. ‘Once’ understands this everyday pop magic about as well as any movie I can think of, and communicates it so easily and honestly that you are likely to want to see it again.” Now Playing

MUSIC AND LYRICS: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett, Aasif Mandvi, Campbell Scott, Jason Antoon, Matthew Morrison (Written and directed by Marc Lawrence; Warner Bros.) A seedily surviving pop music star of the 80s (Hugh Grant) is picked by a currently reigning diva--and former fan of his--(Haley Bennett) to come up with a song for the two of them to sing at Madison Square Garden. In desperation, he zeroes in on his drab but seemingly musical “plant lady” (Drew Barrymore). Will they become this century’s Comden and Green? Not likely. Now Playing

NINE: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench (Directed by Rob Marshall; Written by Michael Tolkin; Weinstein Company) Who could forget “8 1⁄2,” the stunning 1963 film in which Marcello Mastroianni, under the direction of Federico Fellini, played a Felliniesque director who made more women than movies? Certainly, composer Maury Yeston and dramatist Arthur Kopit could not erase this classic from their memories. That’s why, in 1982, they came up with a Broadway musicalization of it starring the late, great Raul Julia as the womanizing auteur on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The show, called “Nine,” was successfully revived in 2003, showcasing the song-and-dance skills of Antonio Banderas. And now, here comes the movie version of the hit musical, directed by Rob Marshall, who gave us “Chicago,” and starring Daniel Day Lewis, one of the few actors now working who could be ranked alongside Marcello Mastroianni. Penelope Cruz plays his mistress, Marion Cotillard, who triumphed as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose,” is his shortchanged wife, Nicole Kidman is an actress who greatly inspires him, Kate Hudson is a fashion reporter who intrigues him, and Sophia Loren will undobtedly haunt him and us as the ghost of his Mama. Opens 11/25/09

IDLEWILD: Andre Benjamin, Antwan A. Patton, Paula Patton, Terrence Howard, Malinda Williams, Macy Gray, Ben Vereen, Ving Rhames, Faizon Love, Patti LaBelle, Bill Nunn, Cicely Tyson, Bruce Bruce (Written and directed by Bryan Barber; Universal Pictures and HBO Films) R&B, jazz, blues and gangsta rap are just a few of the musical forms employed by video director Bryan Barber in his big screen debut. Set in thirties Georgia, “Idlewild” features Andre Benjamin and Antwan A. Patton, dynamic stars of the hip-hop group OutKast, as a budding undertaker and bootlegger, respectively. But most of the time, you’ll find them cutting up in Church, a noisy, rowdy speakeasy in danger of being taken over by unsavory characters--none more unsavory than the lethal Trumpy, a super-thug played by Terrence Howard, Oscar-nominated last year for his dynamite performance in “Hustle & Flow.” Praise the Lord and pass the popcorn! Now Playing

I’M NOT THERE: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michelle Williams (Directed by Todd Haynes; The Weinstein Company) Did you ever have the feeling that there’s something baffling, if not downright bizarre, about legendary music man Bob Dylan? Well, the mystery may soon be cleared up in this brazen biopic. Who's been handed the task of acting (and singing) like Dylan in all of his shifting complexity? As it turns out, it took at least five men and one woman to rise to the challenge: Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin and, yes, a notably curly-locked Cate Blanchett. The women in Dylan’s life are played by Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michelle Williams. Director Todd Haynes, who worked wonders with Julianne Moore in “Safe” and “Far From Heaven,” will undoubtedly keep all of these heavyweight performers blowin’ eloquently in the wind. Now Playing

DREAMGIRLS: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Hinton Battle, Sharon Leal, Danny Glover, Loretta Devine, John Lithgow (Written and directed by Bill Condon; DreamWorks/Paramount) A trio of R&B singers from Chicago enter a competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and eventually achieve fame as mainstream pop artists--but at a high emotional price. Though he does not play a member of the trio, Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx is top-billed as the girls’ fast-talking, not-totally-trustworthy manager. Written and directed by Bill Condon, who penned the screenplay for "Chicago," this adaptation of the 1981 Broadway blockbuster will also treat us to the sight and sound of Eddie Murphy (above, with all three Dreamgirls) as James “Thunder” Jones, a red-hot king of pop. Now Playing

ROMANCE & CIGARETTES: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Barbara Sukowa, Elaine Stritch, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris (Written and directed by John Turturro; MGM/UA) Nick Murder (James Gandolfini) is a shrewd, cocky, blue-collar kind of guy from Queens who knows his way around all the boroughs of his hometown. He also knows his way around a brazen British redhead named Tula (Kate Winslet), a secret his wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon) discovers when she reads a poem he has written in praise of the lusty lady. That’s when the fireworks--and a whole lot of racy singing and dancing that would have shocked the socks off Sinatra, Garland and Kelly--begin in this strictly 21st-century musical comedy. (In truth, the music is not actually from this century; it's from the second half of the 20th century--which is a good thing, since it includes songs by Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck.) To read Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Susan Sarandon, click here; for Guy's 1980 interview with Christopher Walken, click here. Now Playing

HAIRSPRAY: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken, Nikki Blonsky, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron (Directed by Adam Shankman; Written by Leslie Dixon; New Line) There is nothing like a dame, especially when she’s played by John Travolta. The dude who once made women quiver when he went into his dance in “Saturday Night Fever” is sure to swivel and even sing as he takes on the role of Edna Turnblad in this adaptation of the hit musical based on John Waters’ 1988 cult film. Edna, played by the fabulously cross-dressing Divine in the original movie and by Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway show, is an ambitious 1960s mom trying to ease Tracy, her plump, perky daughter, through her troubled teens. The kid is played by newcomer Nikki Blonsky; Queen Latifah will strut her stuff as Motormouth Maybelle; and, believe it or not, Michelle Pfeiffer, who proved she could really sing in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” will belt out a hot number or two as Velma Von Tussle, the menacing producer of a TV dance show on which Tracy is dying to perform. For Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with John Travolta, click here; to see what else Travolta is up to these days, click here and browse the Tpage of STAR TURNS; for Queen Latifah's upcoming movies, click here and browse the L page of STAR TURNS. Now Playing

EL CANTANTE: Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, John Ortiz, Ralph Mercado, Deirdre Lorenz, Tony Devon, Federico Castelluccio) (Directed by Leon Ichaso; Written by Leon Ichaso and David Darmsteder; Nuyorican Productions) Hector Lavoe, who was born in Puerto Rico and became an enormously popular singer after moving to New York City at the age of 17, was sometimes called the Bad Boy of Salsa. And for good reason. The Latin icon had a tough time dealing with success and was soon seeking relief in booze and hard drugs, a habit that caused him to arrive late--or not at all--for sold-out performances. But his fans always forgave him, because they identified so strongly with the music and the spirit of the man they called “La Voz” (“The Voice”). Neither the adoration of his fans nor the loving support of his wife Puchi, however, was enough to pull him through tragic times--his mother-in-law was murdered, his son was shot to death, his house burned down, and he himself toyed with suicide. Physically and emotionally drained, the 46-year-old Lavoe died in 1993, a victim of cardiac arrest and, possibly, AIDS-related complications. Pop performer Marc Anthony plays Lavoe, and his real-life wife, Jennifer Lopez, plays his beloved Puchi. But please don’t call them Antlope. Now Playing

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Martin Luther, Dana Fuchs, Cynthia Loebe, T. V. Carpio, Heather Janneck (Directed by Julie Taymor; Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais; Sony Pictures) Singing, dancing, doping, making love, declaring war on war--that’s the way rebellious youths expressed themselves in the sixties. And that’s what director Julie Taymor, who gave us “Frida,” will be delivering in this partly live-action, partly animated musical peppered with classic Beatles songs. Jim Sturgess plays a lad from Liverpool who journeys to the U.S. in search of his long-lost father. He may or may not find his dad, but he definitely does find a lovely American pacifist (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he joins in demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Let it be. Now Playing

CAROUSEL: Hugh Jackman (Fox 2000) “The Sound of Music” made a big, big noise at the 1963 box office. Despite Julie Andrews’ ravishing voice and perky spirit, however, the movie was basically a bore. That, alas, was also true of numerous other screen adaptations of Rodgers & Hammerstein hit musicals, including “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “Flower Drum Song.” And it was certainly true of “Carousel,” the 1956 Cinemascope snooze starring Gordon MacRae as Billy Bigelow, the macho carnival barker and thief who is given a one-day pass from purgatory in order to straighten out the lives of the wife and daughter he left behind. The good news here is that the handsome, boastful lug singing “If I Loved You” and “Soliloquy” will be Hugh Jackman, who triumphed in a 2000 Carnegie Hall concert version of “Carousel” honoring Rodgers & Hammerstein. Opening date to be announced

THE MAGIC FLUTE: Joseph Kaiser, Amy Carson, Rene Pape, Lyubov Petrova, Benjamin Jay Davis, Silvia Moi, Tom Randle, Ben Uttley, Gemma Arrowsmith, Francisco Bosch, Kenneth Branagh (Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Written by Stephen Fry; Peter Moores Foundation) Since Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dreamed up his operatic masterpiece “The Magic Flute” toward the end of the 18th century, he was not able to make his hero a First World War soldier engaged in a battle far more fantastic than he bargained for. But director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Stephen Fry have worked their own magic on Mozart in their adaptation of his opera, supplying him with grenades, poison gas and frantic nurses speeding about in ambulances. With the exception of Branagh, who has cast himself in a supporting role, the actors who burst into song here do it with their own glorious voices. Opening date to be announced

AMERICAN DARLINGS: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez (New Regency Films) This project has spent so much time in the planning stage that one fears it may never face the camera and sing and dance. That would be a pity, since Nicole and J. Lo were obviously born to play a couple of music-mad chicks determined to make it in the all-male, pre-World War II club scene. Lucky for the girls, Pearl Harbor happens along and things begin to open up for women musicians. But even then, Nicole and J. Lo are forced to depend on the kindness of numerous male strangers who've had experience playing in bands. Although Kidman was initially so keen on this project that she agreed to serve as its producer (along with "Chicago" producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron), she definitely faces a challenge in selling it to Joe Public. I figure the only way she and J. Lo can make it fly is to sign up Ben Affleck, B. Diddy, Marc Anthony, Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor and Keith Urban to play some of the boys in the band. To read about more upcoming Kidman pix, click here and browse the K page of STAR TURNS. Opening date to be announced