It’s time to play the casting game again, dreaming of musicals this time. The parameters I used were to select a small group of my favorite musical theatre performers and then try to come up with vehicles which employ their talents. This is a ritual with which I am familiar from years of working with a repertory company in community and educational theatre; you’ve got the actors; choose the show! My personal dream company would include Aaron Tveit, Matthew Morrison, Hugh Jackman, Norbert Leo Butz, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kristin Chenoweth, Samantha Barks, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and for film musicals Johnny Depp and Amanda Seyfried. Since these are only partially conceived ensembles, I will welcome your help in filling in the blanks with your favorites!
The Fantasticks: Hugh Jackman as El Gallo – he’s got the expansive voice and presence; Aaron Tveit as Matt and Celia Keenan-Bolger as Luisa –they made a sweet pair in Saved and both can project “kids next door.”
Guys and Dolls: Norbert Leo Butz as Nathan Detroit – he is the perfect Damon Runyonesque tough guy with a keen sense of swing; Matthew Morrison as Sky Masterson – he’s recorded Lucky Be A Lady, and he surely can dance the role; Kristin Chenoweth as Adelaide – blond, big voiced, and street wise.
South Pacific: Brian Stokes Mitchell as Emile de Becque – his lush bass-baritone is ideal for Some Enchanted Evening, and casting him would create a new angle on Nellie Forbush’s hesitation about race; Kristin Chenoweth as Nellie Forbush – toning down the bombshell and playing the vulnerable prairie girl with that powerhouse voice of hers; Aaron Tveit as Lt. Cable – his pure gold tenor and sensitive intensity should add both romance and bite to the role; and then, how about Norbert Leo Butz as Luther Billis?
Camelot: Hugh Jackman as Arthur – true, the king doesn’t require Jackman’s vocal chops, but it might be nice to hear those songs sung instead of spoken, and he is at an age where he should be able to play the tormented sovereign brilliantly and be believably British; Aaron Tveit as Lancelot – not only should he be able to give the knight, torn between love and friendship, the complexity he needs, but one can only dream about how glorious If Ever I Would Leave You and I Loved You Once in Silence would be or how charmingly self-absorbed he could make C’est moi (remember Fiyero). Casting Guenevere requires a lady with spine as well as vocal purity. Any ideas?
West Side Story: It’s hard to believe no one has yet decided to do a Broadway revival with Aaron Tveit as Tony –t he role fits him like a glove, and he has the vocal range and beauty as well as the sheer charisma as an actor and dancer; he recently sang a syncopated and seductive rendition of Something’s Coming at 54 Below and hit the final high A radiantly; Samantha Barks, if she can do the accent, as Anita – she would sure be smoky and dark voiced. Maria??
Then if we move to musicals on the big screen:
Carousel is already, in theory, in development with Hugh Jackman, who owns the rights, slated for Billy Bigelow. If you heard Jackman essay the role at Carnegie Hall in 2002, you know he’s born to sing it (on stage or on film), so let’s hope this gets made sooner than later; otherwise, in a few years we may be looking at Aaron Tveit for Billy – it’s a role he says he dreams about, and his 54 Below delivery of If I Loved You was meltingly romantic, beautifully phrased and sung, plus actor that he is, he will find the irresistible bad boy in Billy.
And here’s the final suggestion for a movie musical – one that is perhaps not as capricious as it may sound:
Phantom of the Opera: Amanda Seyfried as Christine – she has the coloratura range as well as the beauty and backbone; Johnny Depp as the Phantom – he gave a monumental dramatic and vocal performance as Sweeney Todd and how far removed is the haunted Phantom? Besides, he’ll love wearing the makeup and the mask!