MOVIE-CUM-MUSICAL MADNESSÂ… The runaway success of Mel Brooks‘ The Producers and John Waters’ Hairspray has ushered in the trend of turning Hollywood movies into Broadway musicals. The most high-profile movie-cum-musical of the moment? Legally Blonde. That’s right, Elle Woods is set to conquer Broadway just as perkily as she did Harvard and Capitol Hill in the movies. Legally Blonde – The Musical is more than two years away from hitting the stage, according to the New York Times, since the music and lyrics are just now being written. Casting is still unknown, though it seems unlikely that Reese Witherspoon will reprise the role of Woods — we don’t even know if she can sing, for starters. But wouldn’t it be a hoot if she did?
Also being converted into a Broadway musical is The Color Purple. Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel first inspired filmmaker Steven Spielberg in 1995. Now, it’s inspired producer Scott Sanders (Elaine Stritch at Liberty) to adapt it for the stage. The score is being composed from scratch, which in its way is too bad, considering they could have just adapted Quincy Jones‘ exceptional movie score. Then again, with pop songwriters Brenda Russell ("Get Here"), Allee Willis (the Friends theme) and Stephen Bray ("Papa Don’t Preach") doing the honors, the score should be plenty noteworthy on its own. The musical is scheduled to premiere this September in Atlanta before a planned move to Broadway.
And finally, Billy Elliot: The Musical will open next spring in London. Elton John has written the score, and all those behind the 2000 critically lauded film will return, including director Stephen Daldry and writer (and now lyricist) Lee HallÂ…
HOLLYWOOD SALUTES MUSIC LEGENDSÂ… Two iconic pop music stars are getting the Hollywood biopic treatment. First up, Ray Charles, who died last month. Ray, due in October, will trace Charles’ life in much the same fashion as De-Lovely traces the life of Cole Porter, through the songwriter’s own songs and lyrics. One example, according to Billboard: Charles’ hit "Hit the Road Jack" will play during a scene in which Ray has a fight with his mistress Margie. Billboard says the film, directed and co-written by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman), is already garnering Oscar buzz for the actor who plays Ray. And who is that? Why it’s Jamie Foxx, the budding singer who — did you know? — composed several songs featured in the football movie Any Given Sunday. Foxx did much of his own singing in the film, according to Billboard, though Charles, before he died, re-recorded many of his classic songs to appear on the film’s soundtrack.
Next year, Alecia Moore — that’s Pink to you and me — will star as Janis Joplin in the grandly named biopic, The Gospel According to Janis, from director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World). “[Pink] can sing Janis with her heart and soul without it being pure mimicry. It’s something very raw and immediate," Spheeris told Rolling StoneÂ…
Best of INXS
REALITY IN EXCESS, OR INXSÂ… Rockists of America, fight back! Rockists, those folks who disdain if not outright hate R&B and perky pop — they’re the people who led the backlash against boy bands and Britney last decade, and proclaimed "death to disco" decades before that — are now gearing up for an American Idol-inspired backlash. Rock Star is reality TV producer Mark Burnett‘s answer to American Idol. The creator of Survivor and The Apprentice, Burnett will launch this show on CBS next year, in which viewers will help select a lead singer for the Australian band INXS, which has been without a singer since Michael Hutchence died in 1997. Of course, INXS was as influenced by American pop as American rock, so the show has considerable appeal to us non-rockists too. The winner will record a new album and tour around the world with the band, which hasn’t had a hit single or album in well over a decade — so the pressure is on the band, not just the new singer, to make this workÂ…
GRAMMY’S DANCE RECOGNITIONÂ… Dance music has only been officially recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — the Grammys — since 1997. And the singles-oriented genre has been recognized only for its singles at the preeminent awards show — that is, until next year, or rather this year. Organizers have announced the addition of a new category, best electronic/dance album, to debut at the 47th annual Grammys. Who might be the nominees for the inaugural edition of the award? Well, if it releases its next album before the 2004 Grammy cutoff, September 30, New Order. The band is prepping the next album to be as dance-oriented as was its original output in the ’80s, and not at all like its recent guitar-heavy efforts, according to Rolling Stone. Even if that doesn’t happen though, Kylie Minogue‘s Body Language will be a stellar contender for the crownÂ…
POP POLITICSÂ… This Sunday, we can hope for some political agitation from musicians at the Capital Pride Festival pulpit. And pop stars of various stripes nationwide are falling in line — and sometimes falling all over themselves — to encourage young people to vote. Rock the Vote has already enlisted the Black Eyed Peas, Dixie Chicks, Maroon 5, Alanis Morissette, Jason Mraz and Michelle Branch to join with the organization and MTV on a five-month, 50-city bus tour beginning next week in L.A. The artists will perform or provide on-the-ground outreach, with the heaviest lifting coming in the fall, when the tour will visit college campuses. Eminem, meanwhile, is encouraging his fans to vote, but — surprise, surprise — he doesn’t come to the role of political advocate with a clean slate. The BBC reported that Eminem mistakenly thought he lost his right to vote after he received a two-year probation for carrying a concealed weapon. It turns out that convicted felons in Michigan can vote so long as they’re actually registered. Eminem is not. Even more disturbing, the Rock the Vote Weblog reported that at least three War on Terror detainees were "forced to listen to Eminem at deafening levels" in U.S. prison camps, and are considering legal recourse. Really, though, you don’t have to go to a U.S. prison camp for that kind of torture. Just head to your nearest suburban high schoolÂ…
‘PUFF’ POLITICSÂ… Eminem was speaking at a Hip-Hop Action Summit Network conference in Detroit, one of many being held around the country by the increasingly active network of Def-Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons. This includes a "March on New York" set for the first day of the Republican National Convention. In addition, hip-hop impresario and now Broadway actor Sean "P. Diddy/Puff Daddy" Combs is developing a new MTV show that aims to "grill President Bush and likely Democratic nominee John Kerry." The New York Post reported on Combs’ plans to "make Kerry and Bush squirm" by asking them unscripted questions from unscreened "real people" plucked off the streets. Whether he succeeds, his laudable goal is to encourage a record number of young people and minorities to voteÂ…
DAMMIT JANET UPDATEÂ… It’s been months since we’ve heard about Janet Jackson, her music or her right boob. Don’t expect that to change. First comes word that the video for her latest single, “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” was edited for the U.S., stripping out lesbian kisses and other provocations that Europeans can handle but apparently we can’t. Despite having arguably the worst year of her career, at least Jackson has managed to eek out some sales and limited airplay. JC Chasez, on the other hand, has been stripped of every opportunity. After his *NSync cohort Justin Timberlake exposed Janet’s boob on the SuperBowl, Chasez’s performance at the following week’s NFL Pro Bowl was canceled for fear he might not be at his most wholesome performing first single "Some Girls (Dance With Women)." Now he can’t get radio stations to play his ode-to-adolescence second single, "All Day Long I Dream About Sex." And MTV is reluctant to air the video, which tamely parodies porno movies. Jackson and Timberlake are again the culprits, since the Federal Communications Commission has so "terrified" broadcast outlets through fines for indecency. "It’s getting out of hand if you can’t even talk about sex," Chasez told Rolling StoneÂ…
BACKSTREET’S BACKÂ… *NSync is officially still together and will reportedly release a group album in the next year, but its boy band nemesis looks likely to beat them to the punch. Whether any one beats down doors trying to get the next Backstreet Boys album, due out this summer after a three-year hiatus, is another matter altogether. A tour will follow release in the fall. Unlike *NSync, only one Backstreeter has released a solo album, and Nick Carter achieved about the same level of success that Chasez is finding — which is to say, very limited. And he didn’t even have the "nipplegate" scandal as a legitimate excuseÂ…
PRIMETIME POPÂ… It may be suffering from poor ratings, but the second season of the WB’s Pepsi Smash shows marked improvement over the first. What, you haven’t heard about the primetime live music show? Well, last year’s performers where pretty much exclusively from the rap or heavy metal categories of music, and only Beyonce was much of a draw. This year, it’s a more diverse lot, taking in alt-rock and even straightforward pop, most notably from up-and-coming acts that deserve wider attention. Tonight sees performances from Maroon 5, Alanis Morissette, Blink 182 and Joss Stone. Coming up: the Swedish rockers The Hives (June 24), Maria Mena (July 8) and John Mayer (July 15). Even Morrissey is scheduled to perform in a later episode. If all that’s not compelling enough, this season also features a hottie host, Nick ZanoÂ… Next summer will see yet another primetime music show — and not just any primetime music show, but a return of American Bandstand, complete with an apparently ageless Dick Clark as host. Details are still being worked out on how the revival will differ from the original 30-year ABC series, including whether it will even air on ABC. But American Idol‘s Simon Fuller is partnering with Dick Clark Productions for the effort, so it could be promising…