What Icons Would You Like to See Musicalized On Stage? Playbill Readers Pick Their Favorites

By Playbill Staff
January 16, 2012

Nearly 30 years ago, the life of blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe served as inspiration for the short-lived 1983 Broadway musical Marilyn. Beginning in February, the new NBC series "Smash" will center on another group of writers attempting to bring a hit Marilyn musical to the Great White Way.



Throughout Broadway's history, a host of real-life icons, from the political and entertainment arenas, have inspired musical writers: think Fiorello!, Barnum, Sunday in the Park With George, George M!, Mack and Mabel and Gypsy.

This year Evita and Jesus Chirst Superstar  are returning to Broadway, while Jersey Boys and Million Dollar Quartet are still entertaining New York audiences, and Broadway is awaiting the new Hugh Jackman musical vehicle Houdini.

Playbill.com polled our readers as to which icons they think would make dynamic subjects for a new musical, and who they would want to write the show. Some readers even threw in ideal casting choices.

Here are some reader responses followed by our own commentary:

Debbie McIntyre: I would love to see a musical about Lena Horne with Alicia Keys as the lead! The late Hollywood and Broadway star appeared in such films as "Cabin in the Sky" and "Stormy Weather," and earned a Tony Award nomination for Jamaica, as well as a Special Tony for her heralded 333-performance concert run of "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music." The Brookyn-born performer's off-stage life as a Civil Rights activist would bring a richness to the story of one of the most influential African American women in entertainment. With Alicia Keys making her Broadway producing debut with Stick Fly, maybe she'll decide to inhabit Lena down the road.

Che Guevara

Christopher Hammel: Che by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice used Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara to provide Brechtian commentary on their tale of the political rise of Eva Peron. Tony Award-winning In the Heights writer Miranda would bring solid melody, beats and passion to a musical about the Argentine native who was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution. "Oh what an idea, oh what a show!"

Stephen Schwartz
photo by Jeremy Daniel

James Mason: S4. Two one-act musicals with Stephen Schwartz & Stephen Sondheim writing about each other. Okay – this is a good one. Can we please incorporate a mash-up of "Meadowlark" and "The Miller's Son" as an encore? Two living composer-lyricists, with uniquely distinct styles writing about one-another just sounds like fun on and off stage. Maybe John Doyle can direct, since we'll need actor-musicians to play "the Stephens."

Julia Child

Chip Byers: A new musical about Julia Child. (Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty). This just smells like a good idea. From her days in France to her work on PBS, beloved chef Julia Child lived a delicious life that was reflected in her writings and her candid manner on screen. Tony winners Ahrens and Flaherty (Ragtime, A Man of No Importance) are a great pair to bring period flair and an emotionally-fueled score to a musical about Julia. Can we set it in her studio kitchen and do the whole thing via flashback?! Maybe Meryl Streep's available...

George W. Bush

Javier Alfonso: George W. Bush. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The Emmy Award-winning "South Park" writers proved their Broadway musical mettle with the Tony-winning hit The Book of Mormon this year, and they've already skewered the former U.S. President in several "South Park" episodes. Picture nods to Evita's "Art of the Possible" with Dick Cheney, Best Little Whorehouse's "The Side Step," a patter song full of Bush's Texas colloquialisms – and – we could go further, but that's what Parker and Stone do best.

Madonna

Scott Eberle: Madonna using songs from her career. They could get the brilliant Jerry Mitchell to choreograph it. I think Madonna herself should write it. Eberle also suggests having Madge turn her "Material Girl" and "Vogue" music videos into full-out production numbers, charting her start in the East Village scene through her "Confessions On a Dance Floor" album. Although, why stop there? She's released "Hard Candy" since then and is already planning to drop her latest album "MDNA" this spring. This could be Priscilla meets Evita (literally). Maybe Lady Gaga will "strike a pose" and star in it.

Gene Kelly

Mark LeBlanc Peterson: Gene Kelly. Using songs from his career, and new material by Jeanine Tesori. Book written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Tesori's skills as a musical chameleon garnered the composer her second Best Original Score Tony Award nomination for Thoroughly Modern Millie, adding a host of flapper-era songs that were perfectly in tune with songs from the original film. Tesori and Lindsay-Abaire also collaborated on another Tony-nominated musical, Shrek. Sounds like an ideal team. Imagine re-creating Kelly's original dancing from "On the Town," "Singin' In the Rain" and "An American in Paris" on stage?! Our vote to fill Kelly's shoes: Tony Yazbeck!

Kurt Cobain

Beatriz Lucci: 27, The Musical, where the stories of all the genius and great artists who died at age 27 meet. Book, additional lyrics, arrangements and production by Andrew Lippa. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix are just a handful of musicians lost at the age of 27. Tony nominee Lippa took on an era of excess and debauchery in The Wild Party with its driving pop beat. Incorporating these musicians' hits with a fresh contributions by Lippa could make for a really cool show.

Harvey Milk

Keith Equality Potts: A musical about Harvey Milk written by The Story of My Life authors Neil Bartram and Brian Hill! An intimate chamber musical about the gay rights icon and first openly gay mayor of San Francisco could take a page or two from Dustin Lance Black's Academy Award-winning film "Milk." Everyone loves a story of a political figure's rise to prominence, especially someone with such a colorful life as Milk.

Elton John
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Billy Dixon: The Elton John Story! Starring Adam Lambert. Wonder if Adam Lambert can play the piano? If not – start taking lessons now! This is really great casting for the music icon, whose signature glasses and fashion flare are synonymous with his Grammy, Academy and Tony Award-winning songs. John's Billy Elliot collaborator, book writer Lee Hall, is said to be at work on a film of the musician's life. Maybe they can follow suit with the film of "Billy Elliot" and turn it into an international hit musical.