Tony-nominated director Jason Moore (Avenue Q, Shrek) makes the leap to the big screen when his college “a cappella” comedy Pitch Perfect hits select theaters this weekend (before wide release on October 5). [Full disclosure: In college, Jason cast me as “The Young Fool” in his production of Big River…but I won’t hold that against him.]
I caught a preview showing of the film last week and I think Moore’s got a hit on his hands (and the early “sneak” release suggests that the studio thinks he does, too). In a way, it’s the perfect combination of his earlier work — mixing the sweet/sour snark of Q with the young adult vibe of his TV days (directing episodes of Dawson’s Creek and more) — not to mention a pulse-quickening sense of music theater (ably supported by arrangements from, among others, Next to Normal‘s Tom Kitt). The film mines huge laughs from its oddball supporting characters while Anna Kendrick brings a low key cool to the lead role. I think casting the Tony and Oscar nominee was Moore’s smartest move; she grounds what may be predictable about the story and never lets it tip over into camp.
And the musical sequence are a blast. Just check out the infectious fun in this clip, as rival singing groups “rumble” in a deserted lot like glee club jets and sharks…
So where does Moore go now? Could he be like two recent Broadway to Hollywood successes, who similarly played to their theatrical strengths in their film debuts? Cue the video…
Leaping from the London theater scene to the big screen, Stephen Daldry kicked off his movie career with the gritty but crowd pleasing dance-infused Billy Elliot. I love how he trust the power of editing in this clip; he doesn’t settle for the “point a camera at a proscenium” style that bedevils some Broadway heavy hitters who try their hand at film (The Producers, anyone?). Daldry followed up on this first film with a remarkable, uninterrupted string of Oscar magnets (The Hours, The Reader)…not to mention a stage version of his debut film that, to my mind, was one of the best directed musicals in a long, long time. Next up, he’s in talks to direct the movie adaptation of Wicked.
Following multiple Tony nominations as a director and choreographer, Rob Marshall nabbed a Best Picture Oscar for Chicago his first time at bat (though some might quibble that his TV version of Annie was his real debut behind the camera.) While certainly owing a debt to Bob Fosse and not straying far from the comfort zone of a stage world, his adaptation of the Kander and Ebb classic is an undeniably entertaining return to movie musical pizzazz. Since then he’s had ups (at least the box office of Pirates of the Caribbean 4) and downs (Nine) but Marshall remains a serious player. Check out his major deal with Disney, including an adaptation of…please God get this right…Into the Woods.
OK, so Moore’s Pitch Perfect may not be headed for the Oscars like these two debuts, but he’s off to a good start with his charming, at times rowdy, treat. Can’t wait to see where he goes next.