Hugh Jackman’s tap dancing in The Music Man is rubbing off on his bestie Ryan Reynolds. The Deadpool star is taking his star turn in the musical-theater spotlight in the new Broadway-inspired holiday film Spirited.
And for those of you rereading that first sentence: Yes, Reynolds, along with costar Will Ferrell, learned to tap dance for the joyously funny movie now streaming on Apple TV+.
“Early on we thought we wouldn’t include any tap because we might not have time to learn it properly. But [choreographer Chloe Arnold and her team] snuck it back in,” Reynolds said. “When you’re doing an action movie, you have to learn your moves as slowly as you can to eventually do it quickly. Dance is no different. You can’t really do it without putting in the time. Maybe we miss a step here or there, but you can tell we are two guys who really love it.”
“The little section you see in the movie is as much as I could pull off,” Ferrell said candidly on the red carpet of the premiere. The last time he tried to tap was in high school.
If you love Broadway, then you’ll definitely be in the holiday spirit for Spirited. It’s a full-fledged musical with tons of singing, dancing, and, of course, musical comedy. Broadway veterans including Patrick Page (Hadestown) and Joe Tippett (Waitress) costar. The story is a new take on Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol.
The movie reimagines the story through the ghosts’ perspective. Ferrell plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and Reynolds plays Ebenezer Scrooge, renamed Clint Briggs in this adaptation. It even features new songs by Academy Award–winning song writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the music for Dear Evan Hansen and the upcoming live-action Snow White.
The first song Pasek and Paul wrote for the film is Reynolds’s flashiest number, “Bringin’ Back Christmas.” “It’s a throwback to classic musical theater,” said Paul. “Think of Harold Hill from The Music Man meets the Rat Pack. Clint is a song-and-dance man trying to convince an entire auditorium to wage their own war on Christmas. It’s a big, hot, swinging number that shows he knows how to manipulate a crowd.”
Ferrell, who has sung on Saturday Night Live and in the 2005 film of The Producers, had no idea how much preparation it would take to get a musical off the ground.
“We had seven weeks of rehearsal. Between the vocal training, getting the songs down, the pre-records, dancing and singing on the same days, having enough time to stretch — there was no time for anything else. I’ve never stretched more than I have for this. And yet I’m no more limber than when I started,” Ferrell quipped. From the red carpet, he continued: “I have always either sung or danced in a strictly comedic way. This was kind of the first time where everything was done completely in earnest. The director, the music team, trusting us to be at the same level as everyone else that you would find in a Broadway musical.”
And just like in a Broadway musical, dozens of performers are featured in the film throughout the multiple big-scale production numbers. The screenplay, by Anders and John Morris, often pays cheeky homage to what typically happens in a classic movie musical.
For example, in one scene, as the music starts to play and the lighting changes, Patrick Page’s character of Marley says, “No, there is no need for a whole big number. No spotlight.” Of course, in musical-theater fashion, the song indeed continues. In another scene, a celebrity makes a cameo appearance and the actors on-screen adorably point it out. Perhaps a second after you, watching at home, call it out to the person sitting next to you.
It’s those moments peppered throughout that make you chuckle at the whimsicality this movie musical aims to spotlight. Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds certainly use all their humor, star quality, and – sure – let’s add tap dancing skills, to make this musical one to watch this season.
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