Movie Article

The 'Chicago' Effect

Musicals dancing their way onto the big screen -- ''Rent,'' ''The Producers,'' and ''Romance & Cigarettes'' are just a few of the films slated to come out in the next year

Actors spontaneously bursting into song are always a tough sell at the movies, but ''Chicago'''s $170 mil domestic gross and six Oscars razzle-dazzled studios into pushing along a slew of musical projects. Now, we're not naive enough to declare that musicals are back (even with Sheryl Crow at the mike, ''De-Lovely'' is unlikely to have the masses belting Cole Porter). But a stream of more contemporary, Baz Luhrmann-esque musicals, some based on proven tales, are prepping to hit screens. (''Pippin''? Who knows. December's ''Phantom of the Opera''? Looks like a kitschfest. Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood adaptation ''Bride & Prejudice''? We're cautiously optimistic.) Here's the rest of the lineup:

RENT Jonathan Larson's 1996 Pulitzer-and Tony-winning rock version of ''La Boheme'' has had as many artists attached (Justin Timberlake? Spike Lee?!) as there are minutes in a year. With Chris Columbus directing, it has a new lease on life. Let's just hope the ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' director gives the AIDS drama the gravitas it needs. (2005)

ROMANCE & CIGARETTES The third film from writer-director John Turturro is a ''crazy fantastic'' musical, in the words of Kate Winslet. It follows a two-timing husband (James Gandolfini) as he's forced to choose between his beleaguered wife (Susan Sarandon) and his sultry mistress (Winslet). Following in tough guy Christopher Walken's footsteps, Gandolfini will be singing -- and dancing! (2005)

SOUTHLAND TALES For writer-director Richard Kelly, the natural follow-up to 2001's wacko ''Donnie Darko'' was this musical sci-fi-thriller-comedy about a three-day heat wave in L.A. in 2008. Kelly's ''musical designed for people who hate musicals'' has an eclectic cast that includes Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, and Janeane Garofalo, with original music by Moby (and, Kelly hopes, Trent Reznor). (2005)

THE PRODUCERS The first movie based on a musical that was based on a movie (there's more where that came from: ''Hairspray''), Mel Brooks' comic tale of two crooked Broadway financiers will reunite original costars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane with director Susan Stroman. And say ''Guten Tag!'' to newcomers Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman. (Christmas 2005)

Originally posted Jul 09, 2004 Published in issue #773 Jul 09, 2004 Order article reprints