Yes, it’s another movie musical.
Disney has gotten together what seems like yet another dream team for their next musical endeavor. Deadline reports that Danny Strong, co-writer of The Butler and co-creator of Empire, will be scripting a new remake of Oliver!
Originally a Tony Award-winning stage musical, Oliver! was first adapted for the big screen with a 1968 version written by Vernon Harris and directed by Carol Reed. The musical itself was based on the Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist,” which has received plenty of onscreen treatments in its own right (most recently in 2005). The premise of Oliver! centers on the titular orphan boy who escapes the awful conditions of a workhouse only to fall into a ring of young criminals.
The 1968 film picked up several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Musical Adaptation Score, so Disney has a fair bit to live up to. Besides Strong, Thomas Kail has been recruited to helm the remake. He won the Tony Award for Best Direction for his work on Hamilton. And Ice Cube is expected to both produce and act in the movie. Deadline purports he has specifically targeted a musical of “Oliver Twist” for some time. Cube is producing through Cube Vision (alongside Jeff Kwatinetz) and is set to play the villainous Fagin, who leads the group of young thieves and influences children to earn a living through unscrupulous ways.
In addition to the more traditional hits that made Oliver! such a popular musical, Disney’s rendition will include hip-hop in its cross-genre soundtrack (not that it’s a new thing to combine rap and this exact musical). Cube and Kail’s involvement in the project definitely makes sense in this regard. Not only will it be fascinating to see how potential new songs fit into the existing track list, but also what a number like “Who Will Buy?” will end up looking like.
Disney truly seems to be pushing the envelope for this particular adaptation. The fact that it isn’t an original musical or anything like that isn’t lost on us. But taking tried-and-true stories like that of Oliver! and updating it for current audiences is the name of the game and fits in with the live-action musicals the studio has planned to inundate us with — including live-action versions of Mulan, Aladdin, and The Lion King, and the sequel Mary Poppins Returns.
On that note, we have to ask: does this Oliver! redo take the place of a live-action remake of Oliver and Company?