For his feature film adaptation of Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood didn't take any risks when casting someone to belt out Frankie Valli's hits in that trademark falsetto: he chose John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony in 2006 for the role in the original Broadway production. For two other members of the Four Seasons he plucked from the first national tour.
Eastwood is far from the only director to populate a movie musical with actors that played the roles on stage. Here are some of the other stage stars that reprised roles:
Vivian Blaine in Guys and Dolls (1955)
Vivian Blaine was turned down for the role of ingenue Sarah Brown in the original production of Guys and Dolls, but eventually made it into the show as Miss Adelaide. Whereas the other leads were replaced in the movie by stars Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Jean Simmons, Blaine stayed.
Yul Brynner in The King and I (1956)
No one could deliver "etcetera etcetera etcetera" the way Yul could, hence he made the leap from stage and screen in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical about the King of Siam. He—like Rex Harrison and Joel Grey, also mentioned here—won the Tony and the Oscar for the same role.
Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston in Damn Yankees (1958)
Much of the original cast made the leap from Broadway to Hollywood with Damn Yankees. Joe Hardy—the younger, sexier version of the man who makes a deal with the devil to help the Washington Senators win the pennant—was the only lead character not played by the actor that had originated the role. But really, this is all about Gwen Verdon, who was the master of Bob Fosse choreography. (They later married.)
Juanita Hall in South Pacific (1958)
Though Juanita Hall played Bloody Mary on Broadway, her voiced was dubbed for the movie version of South Pacific, after Rodgers and Hammerstein didn't like the way her voice had changed, according to Turner Classic Movies. So the movie used the voice of Muriel Smith, who played the role in London.
Robert Preston in The Music Man (1962)
If you can imagine anyone else doing this role even halfway effectively then you are lying to yourself. The public image of Harold Hill will always be the man who embodied him on stage and screen: Robert Preston.
Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964)
Though perhaps not quite as indelible as a performance as Preston's—after all there were Henry Higginses before him in Shaw's play—Rex Harrison comes pretty close. The true crime of the movie is that original Broadway star Julie Andrews was passed over for Audrey Hepburn.
Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
Now that Mad Men has reminded us that Robert Morse is a song and dance man, it's hard to forget that his most famous role is J. Pierrepont Finch on both stage and screen. Rudy Vallee also came back as the striving Finch's boss.
Joel Grey in Cabaret (1972)
Much of the plot of Cabaret was reworked for the film version. Sally Bowles even became American to accommodate the casting of Liza Minnelli. But one element did remain from the Broadway production: Joel Grey's magnificent, impish take on the Emcee.
Victor Garber in Godspell (1973)
Now Victor Garber was not in the off-Broadway production of Godspell, which didn't make it to Broadway until after the movie was produced. He was in the Toronto production, which featured a more legendary cast that included Garber, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Andrea Martin and Eugene Levy. (Paul Shaffer was the musical director.) Members of the movie cast did make the leap from New York, but Garber was the most notable name.
Ellen Greene in Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Little Shop of Horrors was also not on Broadway in its original run, premiering Off-Off-Broadway and then simply Off-Broadway, but when it was made into the movie Ellen Greene, the original Audrey made the leap.
Most of the Cast in Rent (2005)
Though Rent originally opened on Broadway in 1996 and is about East Village youth, Chris Columbus decided to bring most of the original cast back 10 years later for the movie. They still had the pipes, but were of a slightly different vintage.
Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Gary Beach in The Producers (2005)
Susan Stroman and Mel Brooks had a smash hit Broadway musical with their adaptation of Brooks' 1968 film starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Broderick and Lane were tapped for the film version, as was Gary Beach as Springtime for Hitler director Roger De Bris. Unfortunately the movie was something of what Bialystock and Bloom were hoping for with their show: a flop.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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