Everything You Need to Know about the Movie Musicals of 2021

Everything to Know About the Movie Musicals of 2021

Let’s call 2021 the year of the movie musical, with at least four premiering this September. Broadway shows such as tick, tick…BOOM!, Dear Evan Hansen, and West Side Story are being reimagined for the screen, giving audiences a fresh take on beloved stories.

“We’re getting movie musicals again — that’s epic!” says West Side Story star Paloma Garcia-Lee of the recent resurgence. The Moulin Rouge! dancer with six Broadway shows on her résumé hopes “this opens the door for us to tell stories in bigger capacities and not just on Broadway.”

“These iconic pieces are getting this fresh coat of paint,” she says. “Movie musicals are getting their time in the spotlight, and so are triple treats. Now we are seeing, for example, [The Prom actress, singer, and dancer] Ariana DeBose, and the rest of us. We are not just dancers: We are multiplatform storytellers.”

“The fact that these two major movies [Heights and Story] with Latinos are happening and being the center of it all is really incredible,” Carlos Gonzalez, who appears in In the Heights, West Side Story, and tick, tick…BOOM!, said in 2019.

Here’s everything you need to know about the movie musicals headed our way.

In the Heights

Director Jon M. Chu looked to some of his favorite movie musicals as source material for In the Heights. Meet Me in St. Louis inspired him with themes about “what you make of home” and “about community.” Royal Wedding, the 1951 film starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, inspired a scene in which a building is flipped onto its side, turning a fire escape into a ballroom floor.

Anthony Ramos (Hamilton) plays Usnavi, a role that was originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda on stage. So many other recognizable actors are also in the film, including Leslie Grace as Nina; Melissa Barrera (Vida) as Vanessa; Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as Benny; Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn99) as Carla; Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) as Daniela; and Olga Merediz as Abuela, the role she originated on Broadway. Dasha Polanco (Orange Is the New Black) plays Cuca, a character created for the film. Miranda, who started writing the music for the show when he was in college, plays Piragüero, selling flavored icies in the neighborhood.

The movie was filmed during summer 2019 in various locations around New York City, and on some days, just two blocks away from where West Side Story was filmed. The screenplay is by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who also wrote the musical’s book.

The Warner Bros. movie musical, based on the Tony Award–winning Broadway show is now playing in theatres and on HBO Max.


Cinderella heads for the ball again. This live-action film stars Camila Cabello in her acting debut. Billy Porter plays Fab G, Cinderella’s Fairy Godparent; Idina Menzel plays Cinderella’s stepmother; Nicholas Galitzine is the prince; Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver are the king and queen; John Mulaney and James Corden play footmen/mice, and Missy Elliot is the town crier. Idina Menzel and Cabello wrote and will sing original songs.

“This new version … is the most empowering version of a Cinderella story that you could ever imagine. And that’s all I can say,” raves Porter about the updated screenplay by Kay Cannon, who also directed.

Production on the movie was halted due to the pandemic and picked back up again last summer. Originally set to premiere in theatres this summer, Cinderella will now premiere on Amazon Prime September 3rd. “I’m excited that we can now offer a wider audience around the world an opportunity to see our movie safely with their loved ones,” Cannon said on Twitter.

Everyone’s Talking About Jamie

This might be the next teen cult favorite, as everyone’s talking about, well, Jamie. People caught on to the music after listening to the concept album, which came out in 2017. Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is based on the musical of the same name that originally debuted on London’s West End that year. The musical is inspired by the true story featured in a 2011 documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The movie follows a 16-year-old (Max Harwood) from England as he becomes a drag queen despite his father’s disdain.

Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is directed by Jonathan Butterell, with a screenplay by Tom MacRae. MacRae also wrote the lyrics to accompany music by Dan Gillespie Sells.

A release for Disney’s 20th Century Studios was set for February 26 after being pushed back from 2020, though it has been delayed again. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will now launch on Amazon Prime Video September 17.

Dear Evan Hansen

September is going to be a good month, and here’s why: Ben Platt is reviving his Tony Award–winning role as Evan Hansen in the Universal Pictures movie musical adaptation.

A trailer for the film shows Platt in Evan Hansen’s signature striped shirt, cast that’s signed “Connor,” and big, curly hair. Julianne Moore plays Evan’s mother, Heidi; Amy Adams plays Connor Murphy’s mom; Kaitlyn Dever is Zoe Murphy; and Amandla Stenberg is Alana Beck.

The movie is based on the Tony-winning musical about a teen with social anxiety who gets tangled in a series of lies. It features Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Grammy- and Tony-winning music and lyrics. Book writer Steven Levenson adapts his work for the screenplay; Stephen Chbosky directs. Platt’s dad, Marc Platt, serves as coexecutive producer.

Dear Evan Hansen is set to be released September 24.

Come From Away

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical will be available to watch from home, streaming on AppleTV+ this September. Based on true events, Come From Away tells a touching story in the wake of September 11, 2001. Thirty-eight planes carrying more than 6,500 passengers were rerouted and stranded in the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland. The people who lived there opened not only their homes to international strangers, but their hearts. To create the musical, Canadian writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein collected hundreds of hours of interviews that turned into this 100-minute production.

Entertainment One produced and financed a live filming of the musical this past May at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, featuring members from the Broadway cast. Filming the show also employed more than 220 people, many of whom had been out of work since the shutdown. RadicalMedia filmed the production, as they did for the filmed versions of Hamilton for Disney+ and David Byrne’s American Utopia for HBO.

Christopher Ashley directs; Kelly Devine choreographs. The Broadway production will resume performances starting September 21.

Diana: A New Musical

Some people just can’t get enough content about the People’s Princess. There’s the recent popularity of The Crown and the upcoming Spencer movie — and now add a musical to the mix!

The biopic of the Broadway musical about Princess Diana’s life isn’t waiting for theatres to reopen to have a royally grand premiere: The show will first air on Netflix October 1 before beginning performances on Broadway again November 2. Diana: A New Musical had begun performances March 2, 2020, before Broadway shows were shuttered due to the pandemic. In August, it was announced the cast was reuniting (after quarantining) to film the show without an audience inside the Longacre Theatre for Netflix. Diana stars Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles, and two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth.

So far, we’ve gotten to hear a few songs from the show (unless you were lucky enough to score a ticket for the first week of previews), including “If” and “Underestimated.” And we know Diana’s iconic style will be celebrated with de Waal’s several dozen epic costume changes.

After Come From Away, Diana marks the second musical that director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Kelly Devine are collaborating on for film. Music and lyrics are by David Bryan, and the book and lyrics are by Joe DiPietro.

West Side Story

Something’s coming, and we’ve all waited an extra year for it: Nineteen-year-old Rachel Zegler plays Maria opposite Ansel Elgort’s Tony in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated adaptation of West Side Story. The cast features a roster of Broadway stars, including Ariana DeBose (Anita), Brian D’Arcy James (Officer Krupke), and David Alvarez (Bernardo). Michael Faist (Dear Evan Hansen) is Riff to Paloma Garcia-Lee’s (Moulin Rouge!) Graziella.

Screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels in America) has adapted the original Arthur Laurents–Stephen Sondheim–Leonard Bernstein 1957 musical and added new scenes, dialogue, and characters. Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film, plays Valentina, Doc’s widow. Another new character is Fausta, Maria’s dress-shop boss, played by Andrea Burns (On Your Feet!).

Straying from the 1961 film, this time the Sharks will be played by Latinos. “I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” Spielberg said in a press release.

The movie was filmed during the summer of 2019 in NYC’s Washington Heights and Brooklyn, and in parts of New Jersey, including Newark and Paterson. Broadway’s original Anita, Chita Rivera, visited the set one day for lunch with the Shark girls — one of whom is Yesenia Ayala, who played Anita in Broadway’s 2020 revival of the musical. Of the sisterhood of Anitas, Ayala notes that DeBose’s name will now forever be synonymous alongside Rivera’s and Moreno’s. “Watching her do her own spin and take on it was beautiful,” she said in 2019 of DeBose’s portrayal.

New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck choreographed, paying tribute to Jerome Robbins but not solely relying on the original material. And several ensemble members in the film say the most inspiring person to them on set was Spielberg. “There was a lot of love he spilled all over the dancers,” Burns said of Spielberg in 2020. “Dancers often get the short stick of everything and work the hardest. They are the stars really of this movie, and to see them beloved and cherished so much by Steven Spielberg was beautiful.”

West Side Story premieres in theatres December 10.

tick, tick…BOOM!

Lin-Manuel Miranda starts his directorial debut with a bang: tick, tick…BOOM! stars Andrew Garfield in his first singing role. Garfield revealed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert that Miranda learned he could sing through their mutual massage therapist.

“Andrew’s someone who’s never been in a musical. The other day, we’re in rehearsal, and he stops me and goes, ‘I just have to say, I love doing this,’” costar Robin de Jesús said in 2020 at the beginning of filming.

The show originally premiered Off-Broadway in 2001. It tells the autobiographical story of late Rent composer Jonathan Larson as he questions his creative aspirations while living in New York City during the early 1990s. Joshua Henry (The Wrong Man), Judith Light (Transparent), and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) join Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) and Alexandra Shipp (Shaft) in the cast. Jordan Fisher (Rent: Live), Lauren Marcus (Be More Chill), and Beth Malone (Fun Home) also appear in the film. Christopher Jackson revealed to Den of Geek that he has a cameo.

De Jesús (The Boys in the Band), who plays Michael, Jon’s best friend, revealed last year what it was like to join back up with Miranda. “It’s a bit of a reunion, with many of us from In the Heights, and there are new people too. They’re connected from other worlds too. So it does feel like a family function in that sense. To watch Lin, who’s always like a little kid, just be amazed by everyone — it’s so infectious. It’s so joyous.”

Dear Evan Hansen’s book writer, Steven Levenson, penned the screenplay, with music and lyrics by Larson. Filming had just started when the pandemic hit, so the cast and crew went back into production last summer and wrapped in late 2020.

tick, tick…BOOM! will premiere on Netflix and in select theatres this fall.

This feature was originally published in February 2021. It has since been updated to reflect newly announced dates and information.