- OnStage Washington D.C. Columnist
If you’re a performer like me, there’s nothing you love more than a well done movie musical. Movie Musicals can be an incredible piece of art or just another failed film, no one knows which until the finished product is put before the public. The one thing that can lift a musical film over the edge is the casting. Casting for musical films can be very stressful because you have to take many things into account that aren’t usually factors in a regular casting process.
For example you must ask questions like “Can this actor sing/dance well?”, “Can they believably portray a beloved character from a classic musical convincingly?” “Will they be taken seriously once they burst out into song?”, and so on and so forth. Some of the best casting choices ever made came from casting roles in movie musicals. These actors and casting directors can sometimes be overlooked due to the industry not always taking movie musicals as seriously as other films, even they deserve just as much respect. If not more.
So, today I thought I would share my opinions on the 10 best male casting decisions from movie musicals. Keep in mind; I’m not ranking the films, just the performances mentioned. I’m taking into account the success of the role, the lasting impact of the character, the believability in an adapted role to that of it’s original and the irreplaceably of an actor in a role, adapted or original.
Honorable Mention: Adam Pascal in Rent
This one is a little unfair as he did originate the role for the stage and then just transferred to the screen, like most of the cast. However, this performance can’t be over looked, he totally embodies the character of Rodger and gives the part everything he’s got and manages to outshine his cast mates, which in a film with this much star power is impressive.
10. Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
This role was absolutely perfect for Murphy, he was able to show his quick tongued humor and jazzy vocals as James Early in this film. While most casting directors would have overlooked Murphy for usually only being known as the “funny guy” and for not having many vocal credits up to that point, Eddy was given the role in this film. The film took him all the way to the Academy Awards, receiving his first nomination for an Oscar.
9. John Cameron Mitchell in Headwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig is one of the more divisive musicals I’ve come across, most people either like or they don’t. I personally am not a huge fan of the musical, however I recognize a great performance when I see one. This role really calls for severe dedication from its protagonist and Mitchell delivers it, making Hedwig a staple in the movie musical genre.
8. Ryan Gosling in La La Land
While many may argue Emma Stone gave a superior performance in the film, I must say I feel like you could replace Stone and still have a solid film. However you could not replace Gosling, this part is just tailor made for him. Sebastian allows him to show off every angle of his talents, including drama, comedy, music, dance, etc. Also I bet when you think of La La Land you almost immediately think of Goslings big number, not Emma’s.
7. Sacha Baron Cohen in Les Misérables
This will probably be the one you disagree with the most but I feel it was an astonishingly great casting choice. Every part of Cohen’s demeanor screams this role, be it his tall lanky body or crazy facial hair, he just fits. His sinister and comedic vocals also fit the character perfectly, making a small part become one of the most memorable in the film. He is the master of the house.
6. Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
While TRHPS definitely has its controversy, one thing that isn’t controversial is that Tim Curry makes this film. I can’t even begin to place another face or voice on Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and I’m guessing you couldn’t either. I feel this show/film could not have turned into the cult classic it is now without Curry and his interpretation of the role. It’s his most famous part and for good reason.
5. Rick Moranis from Little Shop of Horrors
Like Murphy, Rick Moranis didn’t really scream movie musical actor at first glance, but he was able to fit into this role beautifully. He definitely looked the part, and turned out had some impressive vocals as well. When I picture Seymour in my brain is Rick who shows up, every time. He conveys the central themes of loneliness, greed and lust fantastically throughout the show.
4. Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music
There are few movie musicals as well liked and decorated as The Sound of Music, and with good reason. This film is iconic, not only for its music and historical depictions, but also for its amazing cast. Holding your own against Julie Andrews is no east task, but Plummer manages to go toe to toe with her on vocals and acting. I watch this film every year and every year I am still inspired by Plummer and his work on this movie musical.
3. Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
This one should be no surprise. Wonka is one of the most beloved and in my opinion, complex, characters in cinema history. Like others on this list, Gene Wilder could have been easy not to cast in this role, as The Producers was his only other major credit but thank goodness he got the part and was able to give off one of the greatest screen performances of all time. While I enjoy Johnny Depp’s take on the character, nothing can compete with Wilder. May he rest in peace.
2. Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain
Similar to Curry, Singin’ in the Rain owes all its success to Kelly. He is the definition of an iconic movie musical actor. It was between the two Genes for me for the number 2 spot on the list and what put Kelly over the edge was his dance skills. The man could move. Singin’ in the Rain is usually number 1 on almost every best movie musical countdown and Kelly is the major reason why. May he rest in peace.
1. The Male Cast in Chicago
This is kind of cheating but in my opinion Chicago is the best cast movie musical, not necessarily the best movie itself but the whole thing was perfectly cast. John C. Riley gave an Academy Award nominated performance as Amos and really captured his whole character and songs perfectly. Richard Gere also gave a marvelous performance as Billy Flynn, giving perhaps the most entertaining performance in the whole. Even Taye Diggs stood out, without ever singing.
So there’s my list. I hope you agree with some of my pics and I’d love to hear you’re picks as well so feel free to comment and share! Also keep an eye out for my 10 Best Female Casting Choices in Movie Musicals, which will be out next week!