Theater fans can watch the 2017 Oscars just like sports views view the World Series. Three examples:
1. If Lin-Manuel Miranda wins an Oscar tonight for his song “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana (which he’ll also be performing on the broadcast), he will be just the 13th person ever to win competitive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards, and only the third (after Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch) to win an EGOT plus a Pulitzer.
2. If Denzel Washington and Viola Davis win the Oscars for their roles in the 2016 film Fences, they will be the tenth and 11th performers to win both Tonys and Oscars for the same role. They both won the Tony Award in the 2010 Broadway production of August Wilson’s play. (The first to win both was Jose Ferrer for the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac)
3. If Emma Stone and Michelle Williams win in their respective Oscar categories (best actress and best supporting actress), that will mean two Oscar winners who both starred on Broadway as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
The connection between Broadway and Hollywood is always dizzying, but it seems especially dazzling at this year’s Oscars.
2017 Oscar Nominated Performers With Broadway Pedigrees
Nine of the 20 actors nominated for Oscars this year have performed on Broadway. Here is the breakdown:
Actor in a Leading Role
Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge (Death of a Salesman 2012)
Denzel Washington for Fences (Checkmates 1988, Julius Caesar 2005, Fences 2010, A Raisin in the Sun 2014)
Actress in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman for Jackie (The Diary of Anne Frank, 1997)
Emma Stone for La La Land (Cabaret, 2015)
Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins (Trelawny of the “Wells”, 1975; A Memory of Two Mondays/27 Wagons Full of Cotton, 1976; Secret Service, 1976; The Cherry Orchard, 1977; Happy End, 1977)
Actor in a Supporting Role
Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals (Grace 2012, Long Day’s Journey Into Night 2016)
Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis for Fences (Seven Guitars 1996, King Hedley II 2001, Fences 2010)
Nicole Kidman for Lion (The Blue Room, 1998)
Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea (Cabaret 2014, Blackbird 2016)
2017 Oscar Nominated Actor Currently Performing on a New York Stage
Lucas Hedges, nominated for best supporting actor for Manchester by the Sea, is currently starring in Yen Off-Broadway.
2017 Oscar Nominated Songwriters
Lin-Manuel Miranda is not the only musical theater composer nominated this year for an Oscar for a song. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen) are nominated as lyricists for “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” both in La La Land.
Stage to Screen — to the Oscars . . .
Two of the best-film nominees, Fences by August Wilson and Moonlight, are adaptations of plays by August Wilson and Tarell Alvin McCraney, both of whom are Oscar-nominated this year (Wilson posthumously) for adapted screenplay.
The list of films adapted from plays goes back to before the Oscars existed, even before the Hollywood studios were built. As early as 1900, the great theater actress Sarah Bernhardt appeared in a two-minute movie version of Hamlet, playing the title character, and in 1912, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth I in a screen adaptation of a play that marked the first full-length commercial film shown in America; the producer rented the Lyceum, then and now a Broadway theatre, in order to lend class to the new art form. Fifteen years later, in 1927, The Jazz Singer, often credited as the first talkie (some historians dispute this designation), was indisputably the first movie musical to be based on a Broadway show. The most beloved include Best Picture winners West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and Chicago. Some of the least beloved — alas, not Best Picture nominees — include A Chorus Line and The Producers (which is a movie musical based on a Broadway musical that was based on a movie).
The adaptations have not been limited to musicals. Two of the three films nominated for the very first Oscar for Best Picture, in 1928, were adapted from Broadway plays. (The winner, Wings, was not.)
. . . And From Screen (to Oscar) — to the Stage
It took a few decades for theater and film adaptations to go in both directions. It wasn’t until 1970 that a Broadway show based on a movie won the Tony for best musical. Fittingly, the musical was Applause, inspired by All About Eve. Now every major Hollywood studio has a theatrical division, looking to create shows for Broadway, and every Broadway season includes a number of musicals that are based on movies — or that use the same name, basic story, and source material (such as a book or a play) as a well-known movie.
Looking just at this season’s openings , there are seven shows on Broadway based on (or “inspired by” or with the same name and story as) a movie: Holiday Inn, A Bronx Tale, Sunset Boulevard, Amelie, Groundhog Day, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anastasia. Five more still running on Broadway opened in previous seasons: Aladdin, Kinky Boots, School of Rock, The Lion King, Waitress.
Unique Stage to Screen to Oscars Story
The Salesman, a film from Iran by Asghar Farhadi nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of Emad and Rana, a young couple from Tehran performing in a local theater’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.