Hollywood’s attempts at putting theatre related shows on screen have had varying degrees of success (Smash and Rise, yes I’m referring to you). The latest attempt to catch my attention was the 2016 film, ‘Opening Night’, which is now available to stream on Netflix.
I’m surprised it seemingly passed under many peoples’ radar, as it wasn’t that bad. It’s essentially a love letter to the bizarre world of musicals and Broadway and isn’t afraid to poke fun at what the industry has become. It features an interesting mix of Broadway and Hollywood names such as Taye Diggs (Set It Up, Rent) and Anna Heche (Six Days Seven Nights). There are one or two dodgy sexual harassment jokes which doesn’t fly so well in the times that we’re in (one character pretends to be a physiotherapist to touch another man’s balls). But overall, it’s pretty passable entertainment that may put a smile on the faces of a few adult musical theatre fans.
So it’s opening night of the show ‘One Hit Wonderland’ the musical which in yet another new twist on Juke Box musicals has a score mostly composed of One Hit Wonders. My favourite number however was the title song, ‘One Hit Wonderland’ which has all the stereotypically cheesy dance moves and costumes that you’d expect. None other than J.C. Chasez is stunt casted in the main role, playing himself as the ‘other’ N’SYNC guy. J.C. is battling with the fact that he’s never had more than one hit. But even the fact that he had a solo career is new news to me.
In the film, we mostly follow failed Broadway actor turned stage manager, Nick played by Topher Grace of ‘That’s So 70s Show’ fame. Following his experience in a big Broadway flop, he’s developed a love-hate relationship with the theatre world and a testing relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chloe played by Alona Tal. As Stage Manager, Nick has the impossible task of managing the multiple crises that emerge whilst backstage on Broadway.
The risk with having a film set entirely during the one night and one location is that in packing in multiple plot lines and in setting up different gags, it comes off at times as slightly unbelievable. Also, as it is set predominately backstage, it does make you wonder how are all these conversations taking place, isn’t someone meant to be on stage? But in looking past that, it’s flamboyant, comedic and nicely weaves in moments where characters burst into song on-stage as well as off-stage.
I’m surprised that ‘Opening Night’ was produced by Topher Grace himself even though he’s confessed not to be such a big fan of musicals. The film is able to capture the tense and chaotic atmosphere of working backstage and beyond all the jokes, there’s a message somewhere in there about following your heart. The big finale is an interesting twist, but it did make me question, would everyone really just stay in their seats and not have left the theatre by now?
Considering the few options of musical options sadly on available on Netflix (don’t get me started on this!), this is one I wouldn’t mind recommending.