Oscar victory may revive musicals

— Now that "Chicago" has been crowned with the best-picture Oscar and continues to draw droves to theaters, Hollywood stars and producers say they're eager to revive the long-dormant musical.

Many argued, however, that new projects should be chosen carefully -- lest moviegoers grow fatigued of the genre again.

The path to victory for "Chicago" was cleared last year by Baz Luhrmann's frenetic pop-song romance "Moulin Rouge," which brought the musical back into style with critics and became the first live-action musical to earn a best-picture Oscar nomination in 22 years. The last musical to win was 1968's "Oliver!"

Martin Richards, who co-produced the original Broadway version of "Chicago" and spent more than 28 years trying to bring it to the screen, said his Oscar gives new momentum to other film-musical aspirations.

"There are two that I would like to do," he said backstage Sunday.

Among his dream projects is "Sweeney Todd," the Stephen Sondheim musical thriller about the murderous "demon barber of Fleet Street," a Victorian era barber who slits the throats of his London customers while his partner in crime disposes of the bodies by baking them into her meat pies.

Richards' other interest is an adaptation of the stage show "The Life," about gritty happenings in New York's Times Square.

But Richards warned that Hollywood shouldn't dilute the public's newfound enthusiasm for musicals by flooding cineplexes with hackneyed song and dance.

"I just hope that they don't do one musical after another just because it's the flavor of the week," he said.

Besides its six Oscars, "Chicago" is likely to motivate studios with its box-office success, having so far collected about $134 million.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won a supporting actress Oscar for her role in "Chicago" as a jazz star who fears losing her fame more than facing a murder charge, said she'd love to do it again but echoed Richards' plea for restraint.

"Let's not have one every other month, but I would love to do another one just to have the ball I did on this movie," she said.

Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" revived the Western in 1992 and went on to win the best-picture Academy Award.

It was followed by "Geronimo: An American Legend," and "Tombstone" (both 1993) until low-grade follow-ups like "Bad Girls" (1994) and "Posse" (1993) turned audiences off the genre again.


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