Over the last few months, Cats has been one of the most talked about movies, and most of the discussions have not been kind. People really hated Cats. Fortunately, for all those involved in the film, perception, reputation, and fan base can change over time. No one knows if Cats might be viewed as a masterpiece of madness in 20, 30, even 100 years from now. Anything is possible with the magic of the Jellicle Ball. Taking beloved Broadway shows like Cats to the big screen is always risky. Broadway fans and movie fans remain divided on whether movies like Les Miserables and Into the Woods were successful adaptations or production failures. When Wicked comes out next Christmas, we are sure the audience will have divided opinions on it.
A Wicked movie has been discussed for almost as long as the show has been on Broadway. For Wicked fans, it feels surreal that there will finally be a movie coming out in 2021. We are pinning all our hopes on Wicked not being a total disaster. Cats and Wicked almost have the same level of anxiety, hope, and anticipation surrounding them. Cats may have bombed big time, but Wicked can still learn a lot from the feline fiasco.
Blend A Cast Of Newcomers With Big Name Stars
In Cats, Francesca Hayward led the cast as Victoria. She’s a principal ballet dancer, but had no prior cinematic acting experience. Laurie Davidson plays Mr. Mistoffelees. He also had very limited on-screen acting experience prior to Cats. His biggest role was playing William Shakespeare in the short-lived series Will. Robbie Fairchild plays Munkustrap, another critical role in the Cats film. He is also a principal ballet dancer and Tony nominated actor for his role in An American in Paris. Like Francesca Hayward and Laurie Davidson, Robbie Fairchild’s screen credits are limited. Tom Hooper balanced using newcomers in lead roles with a ton of famous people, including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, and Idris Elba.
It’s been a long debated topic of whether movies of Broadway shows should cast big name actors or use the original Broadway cast. The movie Rent took the route of sticking with the original cast for the most part. Unfortunately, the box office numbers didn’t support this choice. Les Miserables, Mama Mia!, and Grease are three of the best Box office performing Broadway musical adaptations of all time. These films took the path of hiring big stars with a few lesser-known actors in important roles. This helped these movies appeal to moviegoers who wanted to support their favorite actors, and to those who wanted to see how the movie held up to the original musical.
In a perfect world, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth would play Elphaba and Glinda in a Wicked movie. However, the chances of that seem slim, though not impossible. Hollywood loves casting young actors, and the storyline of Wicked fits this criteria anyway. It starts with Glinda and Elphaba meeting in college, so unless the movie gets a major makeover, we’re not likely to see Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in these roles. We could see them in other roles, but the movie will likely cast two young big name actresses or musicians for these two lead characters. We hope that director Stephen Daldry either picks two women who have the vocal abilities to defy gravity or the courage to cast two cinematic newcomers who can hit those high notes. If Stephen Daldry hires two newcomers, then he can easily fill the rest of the cast with big Hollywood names.
Include New Music
We want to hear the entire Wicked soundtrack on the big screen. Give us all of it, everything from “No One Mourns the Wicked” to “For Good.” We also would like a new song or two added specifically for the movie adaptation. One of the few things Cats did well was allowing Taylor Swift to pen a new song for the movie with Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Beautiful Ghosts” is a great song, and it even received a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Original Song. “Beautiful Ghosts” added some depth and content to Cats that helped highlight characters. It also added context to their narratives. Wicked could add a new song to help flesh out moments, characters, and give some more layers to Wicked’s story. Additionally, new music brings extra excitement and anticipation for the film.
Fix The Visual Effects Before The Film’s Release
Cats let the VFX fans down big time. The CGI would have been comical if it wasn’t used in a film with such a huge budget. Instead, it became more of a “how did this happen?” moment for the entire world. Tom Hooper admitted that he rushed to finish the film. We hope that in the future, film directors allow themselves enough time to properly edit and reshoot scenes if necessary. We know the confining nature of the studio system probably doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. However, hopefully people will look at Cats as a teachable moment. We hope studios will be more open to moving films around, if necessary, to allow the director to actually fix the issues before its release. No one wants an expensive movie to flop.
In creating the world of Oz, Wicked is going to need quite a bit of VFX, or at least very good set designs. Wicked comes out in about 21 months, so that should be enough time, if casting decisions are made soon and filming begins at least around summer, for Wicked to master the visual effects before the film’s release.
Use Practical Costumes And Makeup
Cats' other big visual problems were the strange costume and makeup choices. It just did not work. It was neither feline nor human enough to make it believable that these people were playing cats. It didn’t even have the same allure of the original stage costumes. The costumes in Wicked are very beautiful but simple enough that it shouldn’t be too hard for a big studio, with award winning costume and makeup designers, to duplicate. Part of the draw of Wicked is the production value, from set to costumes. If they mess this up, the film is doomed from the start.
Embrace The Mockery
We’re going to go see the Wizard and ask him to make sure no one messes the Wicked film up. However, if things completely go off the handle and we have another musical film disaster, we hope that the team behind it embraces the mockery. Tom Hooper didn’t seem especially offended by all the Cats criticism. He even said some of the commentary was entertaining. Rebel Wilson and James Corden dressed in their Cats costumes for a skit mocking the film and awarding VFX.
James Corden has pretty much been on a mock Cats campaign since the film came out. He made a whole skit about “Cats School” featuring some of the cast, the director, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. He even claimed that he hadn’t seen the film. Recently, during his “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts,” segment with Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber asked him on a scale of 1 to 10 how much he regretted being in the movie Cats. James Corden said that he enjoyed doing the movie, so didn’t regret it, but he gave it between a 4 and 5. We’re not sure how Tom Hooper and the rest of the cast feel about his constant mocking of Cats, but James Corden being in on the joke gives a little lightheartedness to the Cats train wreck. Hopefully Wicked won't face the same challenges, but if it does, goodness knows, perhaps they too can find some humor in the situation.
Cats will be available to buy or rent on April 7. Wicked the movie hits theaters on December 22, 2021.