Musicals are often thought of as a thing of the past. Films like West Side Story and Grease are considered classics among the movie world and were able to transcend time. Their popularity grew further over time and have made a stamp on pop culture. West Side Story went on to win 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture as well. Nowadays, the musical is strictly considered a Broadway thing and constant jokes about the Tony’s being a “gay man’s” Oscars.




When the new millennium hit though, there seemed to be a revival of the musical that continued to grow throughout the years. With the premiere of American Idol in 2002, music was back in the entertainment landscape. Idol became the most popular show in history and became a pop culture staple. Moulin Rouge! can be credited with bringing the musical back into mainstream film. It was released in 2001 and starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. It went on to be nomiated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture. The very next year, we saw maybe the greatest musical of all time Chicago. Chicago was a tour-de-force of acting, directing, and stage production. These aspects are usually not linked to the “cheesy nature” of the musical. The film was a huge success and audiences. It went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The film launched a new style of musical that was both serious and lively. It mixed real life with large stage productions and performances.

The trend of grand retellings of stage plays to film continued with The Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, and Rent. Hairspray was a huge success not only with critics but with fans also leading it gross over $200 million dollars worldwide. Not only was the musical becoming a box office success, but it was drawing bigger stars. Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! and Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street were only some of the big time actors to star in musicals.

What is attributed to the rise in the musical? Some focus can be put on the recession and the hard economic times. Critically acclaimed films like The Hurt Locker have not done well at the box office, while films like the uplifting Blind Side exceeded expectations. Musicals are also uplifting. They offer an escape from real life. Where else will people break out into song and spontaneous dance routines. Hairspray and Mamma Mia! are fun. They do not take a lot out of us. With the exception of film like Nine and Chicago, we can take our entire family to see these movies. There is no difficult dialogue and we do not have to connect the pieces like in a mystery. The box office industry usually booms in hard economic climates. The musical is a prime example of why. They are just a way to get away from the troubles of life and enjoy time at the theatre.

With the decade coming to and end, it does not seem like the musical will go away again any time soon. Glee is a huge success on Fox and has already inspired legions of fans only after one year. It draws a large audience from both young demographic and older viewers who like to see something different and new on television. 2009 also gave us Nine, the musical version of the classic 8 1/2. Nine added to the notion that a musical was the thing for every actor to do as the cast includes Daniel Day Lewis, Judy Dench, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, among others. Though the film did not perform strongly at the box office, it has Oscar buzz and momentum that can lead it to a Best Picture nomination. The musical is no longer exclusive to a certain demographic. It is now worldwide and studios are appealing to all audiences. It is more grown up and is presented in a sexy, stylish way that can appeal to adults. It looks like the musical has sung its way back into our culture and it is here to stay.