You Can’t Stop the Case

Welcome to the 60’s, Cassettes! Last week, we covered the 1962 musical film, The Music Man! This week, we’re heading to the 1960’s again, but through a film that came out in 2007. Or was it 1988? Discussing movies can get so confusing! 

In July of 2007, the hit Broadway musical Hairspray danced into theaters. It featured the effervescent Tracy Turnblad, a Baltimore teenager longing for her chance in the spotlight. The film boasted bright and bouncy musical numbers, coupled with issues of acceptance and overcoming racial bias. It was an absolute delight; a faithful adaptation with stellar performances from an all-star cast. Much like its Broadway predecessor, it was a critical and commercial success, showing people everywhere that it’s okay to be different. In fact, uniqueness should be celebrated.  

So, get out your cans of hair cement and get those do’s as high as they will go. It’s time to talk about Hairspray! 


  • In order to talk about Hairspray, we’re going to have to head back to the very beginning. Filmmaker John Waters has been producing independent films since he was a teenager in 1960’s Baltimore. Growing up in the area, he was familiar with a program called, “The Buddy Deane Show,” an American Bandstand style show that introduced new music and dance to at-home viewers. 
  • After writing an article about a reunion of the show’s cast, Waters was inspired to write a fictional story about Buddy Deane, set in 1960’s Baltimore, when the show aired. In every film Waters has made up to this point, he featured the actor Harris Milstead, better known by his stage name, Divine. After writing this new screenplay, he asked Divine to appear in the film, and for the first time, he would not have the starring role. 
  • Waters wanted a teenage girl for the lead role of Tracy Turnblad. He held an open call, and cast the then-unknown actress Rikki Lake for the part!
  • After securing other stars like Sonny Bono and Jerry Stiller, Hairspray opened in February of 1988. The film was a success, making John Waters and Rikki Lake a household name. They continued to work together for years afterward, most notably on the film, Crybaby. 
  • In the late 1990’s, producer Margo Lion rented the movie and felt like it was perfect for a musical adaptation. She called up John Waters, who was interested to see how Broadway would interpret his story. They both knew that screen to stage adaptations aren’t always successful, especially when the stage version tries too hard to be the film. Lion wanted to find a way to make a musical that could stand on its own, while still holding onto the heart and soul of the original.
  • Lion tapped composer and songwriter Marc Shaiman, who agreed to the project if his partner Scott Wittman could pen the lyrics. After their songs got John Waters’ stamp of approval, the team pushed forward, securing writer Thomas Meehan (who wrote the book for Annie) and director Rob Marshall (who was also working on the film Chicago at the time.) 
  • For the lead, Marshall (who would later be replaced by director Jack O’Brien) chose Marissa Jaret Winokur, who would go on to win a Tony for the role. In the spirit of the original, the producers decided that they should cast a man for the part of Edna Turnblad. They chose the legendary Harvey Fierstein, who continued on Divine’s legacy as well as anyone could. 
  • The musical opened to rave reviews, winning 8 Tony awards! After 5 years, the musical would be adapted to film, this time with Nikki Blonsky in the role. 

John Waters said of the 2007 film, “I’m proud that I thought up something in my bed in my crummy old apartment… that I certainly think will make Nikki a star,” says Waters, “the way the first movie made Ricki a star and the musical made Marissa a star.”


  • The “Corny Collins Show” in Baltimore is having auditions, and despite being overweight, Tracy Turnblad has her heart set on becoming one of the stars! Using some dance moves she learned from a new friend, Seaweed, she is able to earn a spot in the show and become an overnight sensation. Her father even helps keep her in the spotlight by selling Tracy branded merchandise at his joke shop! As Tracy navigates her new position in the group, she strives to change the popular structure set in place by using her platform to integrate “The Corny Collins Show.” 


  • After producing the wildly successful and heavily awarded Chicago, Craig Zadan and Niel Meron wanted to work on another musical. They had previously worked on projects like “Footloose,” “Gypsy,” and the 1997 Wonderful World of Disney CLASSIC “Cinderella.” 
  • Once the producers were tied to the project, they chose Adam Shankman to direct. Shankman had made films like, “The Wedding Planner” and “A Walk To Remember.” Shankman was not the project’s first pick, as the studio had first tried to get both Jack O’Brien and Rob Marshall, which didn’t work out due to scheduling conflicts. 
  • Adam Shankman has a personal connection to Hairspray. He knew the original songwriters, and was even around when they were writing the tunes for the Broadway show. He attended Hairspray’s opening night on Broadway as well. Because of this Shankman begged to be a part of the production, but was turned down. He was crushed. His agent convinced him to try again, and Shankman said he would only meet with the filmmakers if he was guaranteed to get it. Thankfully, the producers ultimately decided Shankman was perfect for the job. 
  • John Waters gave Shankman advice on how to direct the film. He told Collider about the exchange, saying that: “John Waters, when I first got the movie said, ‘I’m so excited for you, you’re such a fabulous choice for this.’ And I was like, ‘Thought bubble, question mark, what?’ And he said, ‘My only advice to you is you have to do your own thing; you can’t do what I did, don’t do what they did. This story only works if it’s told from a really personal perspective, so don’t try to – in this case, imitation will not be flattery for you, so just go for it.’”
  • Screenwriter Leslie Dixon adapted the story from the stage. She has also written the screenplay for some other known movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Runaway Bride.
  • Once the movie began taking shape investors were needed and the majority that helped fund the movie came from China. In order to draw in these investors (and audiences!) the studio needed a big name. They decided this big name would be John Travolta, the once crowned prince of movie musicals. Although he had not done a musical in 30 years, they knew he would draw the crowds. Travolta, famous for his long deliberations for roles, was hesitant and made the filmmakers wait over a year before making a decision. Travolta in a New York Times interview after being asked about his hesitation said that, “Playing a woman attracted me, playing a drag queen did not. The vaudeville idea of a man in a dress is a joke that works better onstage than it does on film, and I didn’t want any winking or camping. I didn’t want it to be ‘John Travolta plays Edna.’ That’s not interesting. It had to be something I could go all the way with, disappear in, like I did in the Bill Clinton role in ‘Primary Colors’ or in ‘Saturday Night Fever.” When he finally agreed to the part he had one condition, that Christopher Walken play Wilbur so that he was not the only known star in the film. He also wanted an Academy Award winner to play his husband. 
  • How Nikki got the role of Tracy Turnblad
    • There is something magical about finding a fresh face for a starring role. Shankman and the casting director, David Rubin, decided that an open call was best for finding the star for the role of Tracy Turnblad. A few reasons guided them to this decision, because not only were there no overweight teenage movie stars, the first two girls cast as Tracy were unknown actresses. 
    • In each city there were about 300-500 girls to audition! 
    • In open calls you want to keep your ears and mind open to all possibilities so it is hard to immediately say, “yes, this is the person.” Even though they received Nikki Blonsky’s tape early they kept searching, but kept coming back to her. Nikki worked at a Cold Stone Creamery and when they decided to break the news they told her that the director wanted to meet with all the finalists virtually.  When Shankman popped up on her screen he told her to make herself an ice-cream cone because she got the part!! 


    • So, the original 1988 film was not a musical, shocking I know! So when Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman sat down to watch the film, they were inspired by various lines and the tone of the film, to write several songs that captured the story and spirit of Tracy Turnblad and 1960’s Baltimore. 
    • Since the film is an adaptation of the musical, it’s structure is a little different. It focuses more on the story, and some of the songs were dropped. While the production lost songs like, “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now,” “The Big Dollhouse,” and “Cooties,” it gained songs like, “The New Girl in Town” and “Ladies’ Choice!”  
    • Good Morning Baltimore
      • This is the bombastic opening number that incorporates the sounds of 1960’s pop. It starts with an attention-grabbing drum beat, mixed with the peppy vocals of Nikki Blonsky.  
      • Shaiman and Wittman took inspiration from “Oklahoma!” as that musical opens with the number, “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin!’” They wanted the story to welcome the audience and set the tone, as Tracy happily exclaims, “Good Morning, Baltimore!”
      • In this scene, John Waters makes a cameo appearance as “The flasher who lives next door.” The song is funny, and perfectly paints Tracy as the lovable optimist, who sees every day as a new opportunity to make her dreams come true.
    • The Nicest Kids in Town
      • This song introduces Corny Collins, the show that would be the focal point of the film. It’s a snarky song that pokes fun at ensemble shows of the 1960’s era, like The Mickey Mouse Club and of course, “American Bandstand.”
        • “Nice *white* kids who lead the way…” 
    • It Takes Two
    • (The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs
      • The filmmakers intended to replace this song, and several new tunes were written for this purpose. Michelle Pfieffer actually spoke up, and felt that none of the replacement songs gave her character the same amount of depth as “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” So, it stayed in the film!
    • I Can Hear the Bells
      • This is the moment when Tracy falls in love with Link. It perfectly captures the magic of a teen girl’s fantasy and depicts how people can read too much into only a small encounter. This scene sets up the idea that Tracy and Link’s relationship may just be a fantasy, but the film turns that expectation on its head when Link falls in love with her as well.
    • Ladies’ Choice
      • This song was written just for the film, and was a show-off number for Zac Efron’s Link Larkin. 
      • The song was inspired by the sounds of Elvis, obviously style icon for Link as well and popular singer in the 1960’s.
    • The New Girl in Town
      • This song was written for the original musical, but not used in the production. Shaiman added it back into the movie as a song sung on The Corny Collins Show. It worked perfectly as a way to show the culture of the show, and the contrast between the segregated white and black casts.
      • It also frames Amber’s jealousy for Tracy in a clever tune sung in-universe. 
    • Welcome to the 60’s
      • This song is like a coming-out party for Edna’s character, as Tracy convinces her to leave the house for the first time. It reminds the audience that even though these characters don’t have to deal with the nightmare of racism, they struggle with how society perceives them as overweight women.
      • This scene also features the wonderful Jerry Stiller, who played Tracy’s father in the 1988 film! 
      • “People who are different, their time is coming” 
    • Run and Tell That
      • This song is another big number, showcasing the vocal talents of Seaweed (played by Elijah Kelly). Like the other character-driven songs of the musical, this song has a distinct musical style and has elements of R&B. It’s an ubeat look at Seaweed’s perspective, and leads him to inviting the girls to his mother’s record store.  
      • It introduces Seaweed’s younger sister, Lil Inez, and it’s the first time Penny takes notice of her love-interest. As of this time, Penny and Seaweed’s relationship would be illegal. 
    • Big, Blonde, and Beautiful
      • This song has three different perspectives, and cleverly shows the personality and motives of three different female characters. Initially it’s a song sung by Maybelle, but then it is the song that represents Edna becoming more comfortable with her body. Of course, it’s also the song that Velma sings as she intends to seduce Mr. Turnblad. 
      • “Big is back, and as for black, it’s beautiful” 
    • (You’re) Timeless to Me
      • This is the classic number that showcases John Travolta and Christopher Walken’s voices. Travolta was hesitant to take the role since it had been many years since he had starred in a musical, and Christopher Walken isn’t known for his musical abilities. The two make a perfect pair as they sing about each others’ timelessness. 
    • I Know Where I’ve Been
      • The biggest, most heartfelt, and show-stopping song of the musical goes to Motormouth Maybelle. Maybelle is an emotional anchor throughout the story, as she fights for equality on the Corny Collins Show and in life. 
      • In a musical filled with fun, bouncy songs, this ballad lands perfectly with the audience. While Tracy is fighting for integration, this moment isn’t about her. It’s a chance for the audience to really hear Maybelle’s perspective as a black woman in the 1960’s. 
    • Without Love
      • In this song, Zac Efron was forced to make-out with a photo of Nikki Blonsky. Apparently, he had to do that for several takes. 
      • This is the sweet song about young love, and finally unites the two major couples: Tracy and Link and Seaweed and Penny. 
      • Both sets of couples have their challenges, as the group must work to break Tracy out of prison and into the Miss Teenage Hairspray competition. 
    • (It’s) Hairspray
    • You Can’t Stop the Beat
      • The singers referred to this song as, “You can’t stop to breathe,” because there were so many words and so few pauses. Since Queen Latifah was used to performing as a rap artist, she nailed it on the first take. 
      • Rita Ryack (the costume designer) remembers that she at first wondered how Penny Pingleton would get the gown she wears in this final number. Rita decided Penny would have had to make it from her bedroom curtains. For the bottom of the dress, the valance from the curtains were used and hung from the curtain rings.
        • This pays homage to The Sound of Music!
    • Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)
      • An original song for the film, this played at the beginning of the credits with Nikki Blonsky, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron
    • Marc Shaiman worked the song, “Cooties” into the theme music during the “Miss Hairspray” competition part of the film.
  • Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now was a song that was cut from the production, but it was re-recorded for the film’s soundtrack and credits with all three Tracy Turnblads! Rikki Lake, Marissa Winokur, and Nikki Blonsky all participated.


  • John Travolta as Edna Turnblad
    • He is of course known for another musical movie, Grease, but also Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever.
    • Edna Turnblad is traditionally played by a man in drag. This tradition began with Divine in the original 1988 film.
  • Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad
    • He has been in such movies as Catch Me If You Can, Pulp Fiction, and Balls of Fury.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle
    • She has been in Scarface, Batman Returns, Grease 2, and Stardust.
  • Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton
    • We of course remember Amanda Bynes from All That and The Amanda Show. She has also been in She’s the Man and Easy A.
  • Allison Janney as Prudy Pingleton
    • She has appeared in movies like The Way Way Back and 10 Things I Hate About You. She has also starred in tv shows like The West Wing and the sitcom Mom.
  • James Marsden as Corny Collins
    • He has been in Enchanted, 27 Dresses, X-Men, and Sonic the Hedgehog (2020.)
  • Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle
    • She is known for Chicago, Taxi, Last Holiday, and many more.
  • Brittany Snow as Amber Von Tussle
    • She is known for the Pitch Perfect Movies,Prom Night, and John Tucker Must Die. Robin and Marci also remember her on American Dreams! Which is of course about a 1960’s Band Stand.
  • Elijah Kelley as Seaweed
    • He was in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Take the Lead, and the live taping of The Wiz.
  • Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad
    • Nikki has been in the movies Waiting for Forever, Queen Sized, and Geography Club.
    • According to IMDB Blonsky still turns up at her former employer, which at one point introduced a new creation — Color Me Cotton Candy — in Blonsky’s honor.
  • Tayla Parx as Little Inez
    • She has been in a few things but she is a really talented songwriter and artist. She has written for many well known artists such as Ariana Grande, Nikki Minaj, Alicia Keys, and Fifth Harmony!
  • Jerry Stiller as Mr. Pinky
    • In the original 1988 film, Stiller played Wilbur Turnblad!
    • Stiller is known well for his parts in Seinfeld, Zoolander, Heavyweights, The King of Queens, and many more.
  • ANNNNND… Link played by Zac Efron
    • Known of course for Highschool Musical before this, but also has been in 17 Again and Neighbors.
    • Luckily Zac Efron favored this project over the 2006 High School Musical tour! His dubber from the first HSM movie, Drew Seeley, stood in Efron’s place on the tour.


  • Hairspray had a budget of about $75 million and had a US Gross of almost $119 million! 
  • After the success of Chicago, Hollywood was interested in adapting musicals again. Films like Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers weren’t doing well at the box office. When Hairspray came out, it was the tenth movie musical to ever make 100$ million dollars domestically! Some of the other films that passed that mark were, “The Sound of Music” and “Grease.” as well as such animated musicals as “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.”
  • According to New Line, the audience split has been about 65% female and 35% male.
    • Some of that 65% was us! Marci and Robin saw this film when it came out, with Robin’s mom. 
  • The movie was nominated for three golden globes, a BAFTA, and a SAG award. 

In 1988, 2002, and 2007, Hairspray was simultaneously ahead of its time and timeless. It’s a story created by, and for people who feel like outsiders. It cast a man in drag in a major role, starting a musical tradition that lasted through every other adaptation of the story. Hairspray explores fat phobia and racial injustice in a meaningful way. It’s a story with a message for everyone, but especially the people that don’t feel like they have a place in this world. Not only do we have a place, the world will be better the more we embrace our authentic selves and everyone else around us.

Before we go, we’d like to thank our Patrons! Joel, John, Jacob, Jacklyn, JD, Anthony, Shelli, Linda, Bob, and Carlos!

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The Case of The Music Man

Well, Animation April has come to an end. But, since we’re such big fans of alliteration, we’ve decided to turn this month into Musical May! We each chose a musical to cover this month, which means we’re bringing you three episodes focused on some of our absolute favorites! 

Adam got to choose first! And he picked (drumroll please) The Music Man! Based on Meredith Wilson’s Broadway hit, this film adaptation was released in 1962, starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. It was a huge success, and is still considered to be one of the most popular classic musicals among younger viewers. For a lot of us, The Music Man introduced us to musicals. It’s funny and entertaining (although a bit dated) and often it’s a great musical to watch if you’re just getting started in the genre. Plus, its songs are SO DAMN FUN to sing!

So, this week we’re taking a little trip to River City, Iowa where we will pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more!

Before we dive deep into the history of this movie, let’s talk first about Meredith Wilson, and the original play! Way back in 2019, we briefly touched on this movie in our Case of the Movie Musical: Part 1! So go check that out if you’re in the mood for some classic BCD. 

  • Meredith Willson was a talented flutist, composer, and songwriter from Mason City, Iowa. He wrote The Music Man as a salute to his home state. He was born in 1902, 10 years before the events of the musical, meaning he would have been about Winthrop’s age when “The Music Man” came to town. Imagine young Winthrop growing up to write the story of Harold Hill!
    • When he was in his early 20’s, he actually traveled with John Philip Souza’s band as a flutist. He also played in the New York Philharmonic! After serving in WWII, Willson returned to songwriting and was the music director of ABC radio and TV networks. He’s in the songwriting hall of fame, and even though he’s best known for writing the Music Man, he also wrote a lot of popular songs like, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!” He also wrote “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” another great musical. But of course, his crown jewel was The Music Man, an ode to his hometown and state, which earned him a Grammy and a Tony. 
  • Originally, Willson intended on writing a book about the happy childhood he had in Mason City Iowa. In the late 1940’s, he decided to write a play instead, incorporating songs that he had written, and basing some of the characters on actual people! 
  • When Willson had trouble securing the funding for the show, it almost became a TV special for CBS. That deal didn’t come to fruition, and when Willson finally found the support for a stage production, the next hurdle was casting the title role. 
    • Apparently, many potential leads turned down the part, from Danny Kaye to Gene Kelly. The show’s director, Morton DaCosta, eventually selected actor Robert Preston to play Harold Hill, even though Meredith Willson was doubtful he could pull it off, since Preston has never starred in a musical before. 
  • The Music Man premiered on Broadway in December of 1957. It was a critical and commercial success, and had a 5-year run that included 1,375 performances! The show was nominated for eight Tony awards, winning 5, including Best Musical – beating out “West Side Story!”

After its successful Broadway run, it was a no-brainer that this show needed the Major Motion Picture treatment. Warner Brothers purchased The Music Man for $1,000,000 (a fairly nice sum in the late 1950’s)! 


The Music Man follows esteemed con man Professor Harold Hill, as he heads to the town of River City, Iowa. He’s been warned that this town is full of people that are impossible to trick, salt of the earth folk that see through every sly-by-night salesman. At first, it seems that this town has met its match, as Hill is able to convince the residents that they are in need of a boys band to keep their children out of trouble. Of course, the local librarian is skeptical, concerned that he will hurt her friends and family by getting them to believe in something and be ultimately let down. Over time, she too sees the magic in the eponymous “Music Man,” just as Harold discovers that his music isn’t really a con at all. 


  • In the early 1960’s, Hollywood was past the gigantic, sweeping musicals of its Golden age. The Music Man looked and felt like a stage performance, but with a technicolor pop and innovative camera work.
  • Morton DaCosta directed both the stage and film productions. He brought with him from the stage, choreographer Onna White. White was instrumental in creating the famous “Madame Librarian” dance scene, an iconic moment for the film. 
    • Lead actress Shirley Jones warned Onna that she wasn’t a very good dancer, but Onna assured her that she would be after making the film! 
  • Shirley Jones was actually the first person cast in the movie, since she was already a bonafide film star. The studio wanted a big name for Harold Hill, to draw in even more audiences. They reportedly asked Carey Grant and were considering Frank Sinatra, but it was clear that Robert Preston was the only Music Man for the job. 
    • Cary Grant was even quoted saying, “Not only will I not star in it, if Robert Preston doesn’t star in it, I will not see it.” 
    • Shirley Jones said that  “I don’t know if you knew this or not, but Warner Bros., who produced Music Man, wanted Frank Sinatra to play Harold Hill. They were about to sign him, but Meredith Willson came in and said, ‘Listen, unless you use Robert Preston, you don’t do my show.” And that’s how Preston got the part.’”
  • The sets were simple. Three of River City’s major establishments, City Hall, the library, and the firehouse, were all located in one facade on the Warner Brothers lot. DaCosta was well-known for his inventive camera work, and he used angles and editing to trick the audience into thinking that these were three different structures.
  • The music was conducted by Ray Heindorf, and all of the songs were pre-recorded. It became clear that Preston was a master of performing the songs as if they were live. 
  • The film took nine months to shoot, as each musical number was shot in about three weeks. Only one number was practiced at a time, with intense rehearsals. The goal was to get each scene done in one take, much like watching a musical performed on stage. 
  • When all was said and done, the film premiered in Mason City, Iowa! It was a star-studded event with box socials and band events as well! 


When Meredith Willson sat down to write the music for The Music Man, he wrote new songs and included others he had written over the years. He ended up writing about 40 songs, and only 17 made it into the film. Not all of them were used on the stage, either. Willson obviously took the advice to write what you know. This is apparent in the scene when Harold Hill coaches The Buffalo Bills. He says, “Singing is just sustained talking,” a piece of advice that vocal coaches have been using for thousands of years. In a lot of ways, Harold Hill really is a music man more than a con man. 

So while we’re talking about the music, let’s go over some of the songs from the film! 

  • Main Title/Rock Island/Iowa Stubborn
    • For the Main Title track, Pacific Title created miniature music men! Just a bit of early film stop-motion to start off the film.
    • The song Rock Island is actually a favorite of Hugh Jackman, and he’s said that doing the number in High School actually got him interested in Show Business.
    • Iowa Stubborn is one of the bigger numbers of the film, involving most of the ensemble cast. It perfectly captures the attitude of smalltown America. 
  • Ya Got Trouble
    • Preston was perfect at appearing like he was doing the numbers live, but they were indeed pre-recorded! This number is definitely a masterpiece of this.
  • Piano Lesson/You Don’t Mind My Saying So
    • This song, sung by Marian and her mother, sets up both characters and depicts a realistic relationship between a mother and daughter. It also is a great musical representation of how adults can have a conversation with a child present, and the child has no understanding of what they are talking about.  
  • Goodnight My Someone/76 Trombones
    • Arguably the most famous song from the musical is 76 Trombones, the stand-out number where Harold Hill inspires the town to imagine life with a band. It’s the perfect theme song for the character, as he’s attempting to swindle everyone. But of course, the song comes back around at the end, as the boy’s band in town turns out to be more than what they imagined it would be. 
    • Conversely, “Goodnight My Someone” is Marian’s song. She first sings it with her piano student, as she says goodnight to her true love on the evening star. It’s a song defined by innocence and love, and seemingly the perfect foil to Hill’s song. 
    • That’s why it’s perfect that both songs are actually the same melody, with different tempos! By the end of the story, the characters are no longer foils, and the two songs become one in a literal and figurative sense. 
  • Sincere/Lida Rose/Every song by the Buffalo Bills
    • When Harold Hill unites the members of the school board, the rest of the town is skeptical that they will stop fighting. Of course, after the group is brought together with music, they appear multiple times in the show, singing. 
  • Pick a little, Talk a little/Goodnight Ladies
    • Goodnight Ladies was one of the few songs featured in the film that was not written by Meredith Willson. The song was written long before The Music Man takes place, and would very likely be sung by the residents of River City.
    • Pick a Little, Talk a Little is an incredible depiction of gossip in a small community. The film even hilariously places the imagery of hens against the group of women as they pick and talk about Marian’s scandal. 
  • The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me
    • This song is about how he prefers an experienced woman, either in sex or life. In some ways it’s liberating but in other ways it is insulting and crass.
      • “No wide-eyed, eager,
      • Wholesome innocent Sunday school teacher for me.”
  • Marian the Librarian 
    • As we said before Onna White was instrumental in creating this number. Since Shirley Jones did not feel entirely confident in her dancing abilities she appreciated that the male dancers were able to lead and guide her around the room and the number. She said they were such amazing dancers that they could make anyone look good!
  • Being in Love
    • You know, the bathroom song.
  • The Wells Fargo Wagon 
    • This song has been used in Wells Fargo commercials to promote the bank. According to Google it is one of the four biggest banks in America.
    • This film is still beloved by so many that SNL did a sketch where the wagon was coming and offering the townsfolk of River City bogus accounts.  This sketch addressed the scandal around Wells Fargo while singing the upbeat musical number from the film.
  • Gary, Indiana
    • Ron Howard recently sung a bit of this song (lisp and all) in an interview.
  • Shipoopi
    • For this song, Willson invented the term Shipoopi to mean a woman that won’t kiss until the third date. The song is fun, but seems random, and is often made-fun-of by fans. 
    • This was the biggest dance number in the film, showing off the musical stylings of Buddy Hackett. The scene was shot with an elaborate overhead camera.
  • Till There Was You 
    • According to IMDB, when The Beatles covered this song, Meredith Willson got more money than from the play or show combined! 
    • This turns out to be the love ballad between Hill and Marian, and highlights the emotional moment when he decides to stay for love instead of running for his life.
    • This is the moment when Winthrop angrily confronts his hero, Harold Hill. This causes Harold to really consider his own motivations as he utters the famous line, “I always think there’s a band, kid.” 
  • Beethoven’s Minuet in G
    • Otherwise known as the song used in the Think Method! This little theme gets repeated throughout the film, and ends up saving Harold Hill from getting tarred and feathered at the end! 


  • Robert Preston as Harold Hill
    • He was a well known Broadway actor that won Tonys for “The Music Man” and “I Do, I Do.” He also did several movies too, like The Last Starfighter!
    • Shirley Jones said of working with Preston, “Sometimes, when an actor has been doing a show for a long time – and he had been doing it for three years when we made the movie – they come to do the film and do things like ‘Listen, why don’t we do it this way’ – they’ll start directing it themselves. He did none of that. He was so open to anything that the director said or anything the actors wanted to do. He was just so marvelous.”
  • Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo the librarian
    • She was named after Shirley Temple! She had several roles and really hoped to play the role of Marian but did not think it was possible until Warner Brothers bought the rights and the rest is as they say…history.
    • Shirley Jones was pregnant during filming! She found out three months into production and when she told Morton DeCosta he assured her not to worry because they would hide it. They used a corset and frilly dresses/ items to help cover her bump and she was told not to let anybody else know. In the scene when she and Robert Preston embraced on the footbridge little Patrick kicked Preston. 
  • Ron Howard as Winthrop Paroo
    • As a boy Ronnie was an incredible actor. He was not a showbiz kid but he was amazing.
    • Winthrop represents every young child in the town, and the child in every adult. 
  • Pert Kelton Mrs. Paroo
    • She began as a vaudevillian with her parents, and so she was an incredible performer. She was the original on Broadway as well and knew everything about the character that she was playing.
    • She was the first person to play Alice in The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason.
  • Buddy Hackett as Marcellus Washburn, Harold Hill’s inside man
    • In the script they had put Brooklyn because they assumed he could only talk one way. They wanted Hackett because at this time in his career he was very well known and could draw the crowds.
  • Hermione Gingold as Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn the Mayor’s wife
    • The woman that played her daughter said that Hermione played the grand madame from England at all times. Her trailer was completely decorated with bright flowered chintz from floor to ceiling.
  • Paul Ford as Mayor George Shinn
    • He was so sweet and apparently was upset that he was billed over Buddy Hackett. Hackett said that he didn’t care but told Paul to get a ladder and change it if he was so inclined! Hackett however said he didn’t even need his name up there because the only one that gives you billing is the audience.
  • The Buffalo Bills as the School Board (The Barbershop Quartet)
    • The Buffalo Bills were a real quartet from Buffalo, New York. The members changed a few times due to moves and opportunities. Meredith Wilson happened upon them while he hosted his radio show titled “Music Today,” after the quartet won the International Quartet Champions in 1950. He would play their album on the air and became familiar with their work. He travelled to meet them in 1954 and after writing The Music Man he reached out to them to audition for the quartet in his musical. They were immediately hired. 
  • Timmy Everett as Tommy Djilas, the firecracker and love interest to the Mayor’s daughter
    • Timmy was proficient in the theatre as he won the Daniel Blum Theater World Award in 1957 for a supporting role and the Theater World Award for best supporting actor in 1958. He also appeared in a few television shows and things until he sadly passed away at the age of 38. 
  • Susan Luckey as Zaneeta Shinn, (EEEH Gods!)
    • She remembers being cast for the movie because she had done the stage show with Mortin Dacosta. They got along well that she knew she had a very good chance of being cast in the film since he was directing that as well! She did not even have to have a screen test.
  • Harry Hickox as Charlie Cowell the travelling salesman coming to warn the town
    • He was also known for guesting on several tv shows such as Columbo, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Kojak.
  • Charles Lane as Constable Lock
    • He was also in things like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Aristocats.
  • Mary Wickes as Mrs Squires
    • She has also been in the Sister Act movies, Little Women (1994), and White Christmas.
  • Sara Seeger as Maud Dunlop
    • She was in such shows as Bewitched, Dennis the Menace,and The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Adnia Rice as Alma Hix
    • She appeared in just a few television shows, one of which was The United States Steel Hour.
  • Peggy Mondo as Ethel Toffelmier, Marcellus’s love interest
    • She appeared in tv as well like Get Smart, To Rome with Love, and McHale’s Navy.
  • Jesslyn Fax as Avis Grubb
    • She was known for being in the movies Rear Window, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and Kiss Me Deadly.
  • Monique Vermont as Amaryllis, Marian’s piano student
    • The Music Man was her biggest role. 


The movie received critical acclaim and was well liked across the board.

The Music Man won the Tony for Best Musical in the 1957-1958 Broadway season which put it ahead of West Side Story. Unfortunately when the movies were made Music Man won only one Academy Award, for Best Score, but West Side Story won 11. Though West Side Story is still used often in schools and won more awards, The Music Man continues to be a fan favorite today. This is demonstrated by the fact that a remake was made by Disney and released in 2003.

In a 2009 forum, professor Stefan Hall said, “In some ways, The Music Man (1962), based on Meredith Willson’s 1958 Tony Award-winning musical, anticipated the later 1960s as a transitional moment in American culture. While not overtly patriotic (indeed, some might argue the opposite given that the plot involves con man “Professor” Harold Hill’s attempt to swindle the citizens of River City, Iowa), the  film uses early 20th century Americana to comment on the present. The confrontation between the angry mob and Hill (Robert Preston, reprising his Tony Winning Broadway turn), who throws his con in the name of love, presages the conflict between the hawks and doves that would divide the country during Vietnam. Also, the imaginative power of the youth movement, and an equivalent in Hill’s boy band that learns to play instruments without ever touching them via the “Think System.” And it is fitting that part of the film takes place on the Fourth of July, including the famous “Seventy-Six Trombones,” number, because the restoration of faith that reunites Hill with his love interest also  finally roots him in an American home.”

The Music Man is the kind of musical that ends up surprising you. Non-musical fans might turn their noses up at it, as it appears to be just like any other classic hollywood musical. But, this film is different. The Music Man is funny, sincere, and filled with nostalgia. It’s a biting commentary on the world in 1912, the world in 1957, and the world today. In some ways, it’s timeless, while in others it may be a bit dated. But all in all, it’s the classic tale of a lovable con-man that finally meets his match of a town filled with people that makes him question why he started conning in the first place. 

So, even if you don’t like musicals, stop being so Iowa Stubborn, and give this one a try! We promise you won’t be let down. 

Before we go, we’d like to thank our Patrons! Joel, John, Jacob, Jacklyn, JD, Anthony, Shelli, Linda, Bob, and Carlos!

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Thank you to all that support us whether it be through listening, telling a friend, or donating!


The Case of Kenny Ortega

So far this month we rocked out with The Blues Brothers, learned about John Williams, and ranked some Disney villain songs. This week we’re closing out June Tunes with an episode not so much about music, but more about dancing. 

Today we are taking a look at the career of choreographer-turned-director, Kenny Ortega! Kenny Ortega is responsible for some of the most iconic dance scenes of the 80s, from the lift in “Dirty Dancing” to Duckie’s moves in “Pretty in Pink.” He went on to direct some of Disney’s cult classics that will be remembered for generations.

Movies He Choreographed

The Rose (1979)

  • Kenny’s first chance at a movie to choreograph. Since it was his first movie he was appointed as the assistant choreographer.

Xanadu (1980)

  • Kenny had been a long time fan of Gene Kelly. Although Xanadu did not do well in theatres or by critics’ reviews you would never guess by the way Kenny speaks about it.
    • “He mentored me, and when the movie was over he continued to,” Ortega recalls. “He would invite me to his home and we would look at his films together and he would talk to me about how he designed choreography for the camera which was the greatest education I had received up until that point.”

One From the Heart (1981)

  • This movie chronicles the five-year romance of a window dresser and her boyfriend that ends with a bad break up. After mutual nights away, they begin to regret their decisions, but it could be too late. 

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

  • A group of recent college graduates embark on a series of misadventures in the real world. Together they grapple with adulthood.
  • Ortega was brought onto the set of the Brat Pack drama to make Rob Lowe look convincing as a saxophone-playing rocker. Ortega said “I worked with Rob and the band, helping them get into the physical side of their roles.”

Pretty in Pink (1986)

  • Andie is an outcast at her Chicago high school, hanging out either with her older boss who owns the record store where she works, or her quirky classmate Duckie who has a crush on her. When one of the rich and popular kids at school, Blane asks her out, it seems too good to be true. As Andie starts falling for Blane, she begins to realize that dating someone from a different social sphere is not easy.
  • Try a Little Tenderness
    • One of the most iconic moments in this John Hughes classic comes at the Trax record store, when John Cryer’s character Duckie commits to a spontaneous dance. However, it was partly choreographed courtesy of a young Kenny Ortega. 
    • Ortega said, “It was sort of put together after a spontaneous workshop that we did right in that record shop. I went in there in advance and played with some ideas, and Jonathan really took to them and was such a good sport and such a great collaborator and brought his incredible personality — Duckie times 10. It wasn’t traditionally choreographed. I showed him some things and he took hold of it. That was born of the moment.”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

  • The Twist and Shout Scene
    • When Ferris Bueller played hooky, he went big. And his biggest, most over the top moment comes when he takes over the annual Von Steuben Day Parade in the streets, first lip-synching to “Danke Schoen” and then going for it with the Beatles. 
    • After Hughes worked with Ortega on Pretty in Pink, he called Ortega in again, this time to not only choreograph Ferris’ parade performance, but to direct it as well.
    • “The scene was all John’s (John Hughes) idea and then he gave me a lot of freedom in how I approached it and how I built it. He wanted Ferris to take over the streets of Chicago. We pre-shot some of the elements of that number, but we moved the float right into a real existing parade, so we had 10 to 12 cameras on it and we had one shot to get it right. If I remember correctly, I think it was sort of Matthew’s introduction to dance. I don’t think he’d ever done a musical performance in film before, and now look at him!”

Dirty Dancing (1987)

  • The famous lift
    • The lake scene where Patrick Swayze’s character lifts Jennifer Grey was tricky due to frigid lake temperatures that put Grey in the hospital for hypothermia.  Kenny is so dedicated to his craft that he was not afraid to wade out there in that freezing water with them. 
  • The influences for the dancing in this movie came from lots of different places: Street salsa, Colombian style salsa, Cuban rhythm step, R&B and street soul.
    • Ortega thought of dirty dancing as soul dancing, but with a partner. He based the moves on the original dancing of the early 60’s. 
  • He catered to specific people and would have them move in ways that complimented their own styles.
    • He hoped that Dirty Dancing would inspire people to go out and dance! Patrick Swayze himself thought that the dancing would “blow” audiences away.
  • What he did achieve with Dirty Dancing was an iconic film moment, recreated in films and TV shows for generations to come. The beloved film is considered to be a cult classic, and Kenny Ortega helped it gain that status.

The Great Outdoors (1988)

  • It’s vacation time for Chet Ripley along with his wife, Connie and their two kids, Buck and Ben. But a serene weekend of fishing at a Wisconsin lakeside cabin gets crashed by Connie’s obnoxious brother-in-law, Roman Craig, his wife Kate, and the couple’s two daughters.
  • Ortega has a way of finding the dancer in everyone, and the ending of The Great Outdoors was no exception. If you look closely, you might even notice Dan Aykroyd reprising some steps from his days as Elwood Blues!

Salsa (1988)

  • Robby Rosa by day is an auto-mechanic, but by night is drawn to the dance. He believes the title of Salsa King at the nightclub La Luna belongs to him. He proceeds to practice with three women in order to win the contest. 
  • In this movie Kenny was not only the choreographer but the associate producer. It was a grueling job but he wanted to be able to have more control over this movie than, for example, Dirty Dancing.
  • The album contained music by Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria, Michael Sembello and Miami Sound Machine, Celia Cruz and Charlie Palmieri. It was a beautiful merging of old and new music that Kenny was happy to be the executive producer for.
  • While he admits that the writing is not the best in this movie he feels that the music and  movement really give the characters depth as people.
    •  Since this is all about Salsa Kenny wanted passion in their dancing. He said “Like me, these young men and women are using dancing to flee the things in their cultures they don’t like. But they also love their families and their culture, too. That great contradiction makes me want . . . fire from my dancers.”
  • This movie gave him a chance to produce positive images about Latinos and because of this was given an award from the Nosotros Organization because of it.

Shag (1989)

  • A coming of age story that revolves around four young women who want a final adventure together after high school before going their separate ways in life.
  • Shag which is not in reference to a haircut or carpeting is actually a reference to a 60’s “cut the rug” southern dance craze. It was called the Carolina Shag and is rightfully displayed within the movie.
    • Scott Coffey, one of the stars, said that they practiced for three weeks, six hours a day, and six days a week for the final contest scene. 

Newsies (1992)

  • Newsies is a movie musical starring Christian Bale, David Moscow, Luke Edwards, Max Casella, and Bill Pullman.
  • It’s loosely based on the Newsboy strike of 1899.
  • The songs were composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Jack Feldman.
    • Ortega counts working with Alan Menken as one of his fondest memories. He said that Menken came in with an open mind and heart.
  • Newsies was his directing debut, and the gateway to his next film: Hocus Pocus!
  • He put the actors through two months of intense musical boot camp. They sang, danced, did gymnastics, martial arts, and spoke in New York dialects. 
    • In order to bond the young actors pranked Kenny with anything from squirt guns to filling his trailer with newspapers. 
  • It is reported that Kenny’s old mentor Gene Kelly stopped by and complemented the progress that the young actors were making in their dancing.
    • Kenny became really good at shaping young stars that had no dancing or singing background. For Newsies he had to convince the young Christian Bale to star as Jack Kelly. After seeing Bale in Empire of the Sun Kenny felt he would be perfect for the role even with no musical theatre experience. Although it took a lot of convincing and training Bale did a stellar job. Kenny Ortega has a way of seeing the talent in people and bringing it out to the forefront. He would do this again for the Descendants movies.
    • He was impressed with how Bale threw himself into the role and made Jack Kelly come to life. 
    • He says Newsies is one of the great experiences of his career in general. 

Hocus Pocus (1993)

  • We brought this movie up in our October episode last year.  This was Kenny Ortega’s second film, since he started in the industry as a dancer and choreographer, he wanted there to be a fluidity in the movie. He choreographed the musical number, but also just the regular scenes. 
    • Bette Midler pointed out that she had never acted as part of a “trio” before, and liked that she felt as if she was part of a unit instead of a single actor. 
  • When Kenny Ortega first thought of putting a musical number in the movie David Kirschner, who is the creator and producer of the film, did not like the idea. He had the thought that it would ruin the movie. He said that quote “This is a movie that puts you on the edge of your seat and you’re going to stop it for this musical number?” “And yet,” he said, “I’m a billion percent wrong. I love seeing how wrong I was about it.”
  • Ortega said of having Bette Midler in the film, “It’s the most fun that you could possibly imagine and it’s why I said yes before I even read the script.” 
    • He also said that he tended to stay out of the way, which he believed was the best thing to do when you work with such talented people.

High School Musical (2006-2008)

  • Kenny Ortega began as a musical theater guy at the young age of 13 by being in the professional touring production of Oliver as a teenager and a touring production of Hair. These beginnings led him to High School Musical (2006). The casting process was very similar to a live musical, as the actors had to have a variety of skills from basketball playing to singing and dancing. 
    • Zack Efron stood out and was cast in the star-making role of Troy Bolton at the age of 16.
  •  “I think what Disney and the networks are doing is a return to the beginnings of what made television so special.  Disney Channel — not only with High School Musical but with The Cheetah Girls & Camp Rock, and artists like Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez — and even before that with Brittany (Spears) — has found a young, family audience that really enjoys music storytelling that can suspend their disbelief.  I think adults have a little more of an issue with being able to suspend their disbelief of a story suddenly breaking into song.”
  • Get’cha Head in the Game
    • This was one of the first songs shot with the Wildcats team. It was an interesting and unique blending of sport, art, and dance.
    • This style was continued when he explored baseball and dance in the 2nd movie with the Song “I Don’t Dance.”
      • When Kenny explained why he used baseball for the second movie he talked about how Frank Sinatra had used baseball as a way to become familiar with movement. 
      • They used a combination of dancers and ball players. Both groups reported improvement in their respective fields the following year after this scene was shot.
  • Fun Fact: His dog Manly was Sharpay’s Dog in the High School Musical Series.
  • In an NPR article Efron said, “Kenny is the kind of mentor and sort of friend that never shows any limits. He never lets you know your limits.” 
    • He really impacted a lot of the kids and so there is a thank you video where a lot of the cast said their personal thank yous to him.
  • Kenny recounts that when the first High School Musical was released to TV it would bring opportunities for him to be given another chance to do a movie set for the theatre. He never thought it would be High School Musical 3 that would bring him back.

This Is It (2009) (The Michael Jackson Movie)

  • Kenny Ortega worked with Michael Jackson on a few of his tours such as Dangerous and HIStory. He also collaborated on his This Is It tour which abruptly ended when Michael Jackson passed away in 2009.
  • Ortega went on to direct this movie, which was a compilation of rehearsal footage from the This Is It tour. 

Descendants 1,2, and 3 (2015-2019)

  • Peter Pan was Kenny’s favorite movie as a kid so being able to do the musical number from the second called “Going Down” on the ship with all the pirates was like reliving childhood for him as he choreographed the sword battles.
  • “Chillin Like a Villain” was tricky because they did not have long to shoot it. The last day they were on set to film this dance number a typhoon was happening. They had to try to keep everyone calm and safe. It was shot in Vancouver and as they were dancing props and sets were flying away and the rain was coming down immensely. 
  • He made the conscious decision to have Mitchell, who plays Ben, the son of Beauty and the Beast, not be an experienced dancer in order to give him an everyman charm.
  • Sofia Carson who plays Evie from Descendants “Kenny’s Choreography is just out of this world. He really has stepped us up to our game. He has this passion that he gives us every single day.”

July 24, 2019 he was given a Hollywood Walk of Fame star by the Pantages theatre. In his speech he honored the young Descendants actor Cameron Boyce who died earlier that month. “Cameron said we can’t take it with us, so it’s about what you leave. With this, I promise Cameron that I will carry this goodness with me in all the days of my life.”

He was also honored with the Disney Legends Award in 2019 alongside Bette Middler 

“Not everyone is blessed in this world to be given choices but those of us that are given choices, those choices can determine, you know, who we become, what our destiny is and the choices that I’ve made have landed me in some pretty fantastic places, places that have been fantastic enough to keep my fire burning, to keep me excited, to keep me wanting to continue doing what I’ve been doing for all of these years.”


The Case of the 80s Dance Flick

It’s the final episode of June Tunes and we decided to focus on dance movies of the 1980s! You’ll notice, however, that we also included Saturday Night Fever in this episode even though it came out in 1977. We felt like we couldn’t talk about dance films without at least mentioning the iconic movie that essentially created a genre of film.

This episode is more relaxed than our previous music episodes, as we share our thoughts on a small list of famous dance movies! We thought this might be a fun way to close out the month of June.


Saturday Night Fever

  • This movie blended film and music in such a successful way, it inspired many movies to come
    • This film showed movie studios that they could more effectively capitalize on popular music of the time and paved the way for dance movies of the next 10 years
  • It shot John Travolta to superstardom in 1977, one year before Grease, although he had previously appeared on “Welcome Back, Kotter”
  • The soundtrack was filled with BeeGees songs, and it became unclear whether the movie was fueling the popularity of the music, or the other way around
    • The movie marks the rise and fall of Disco music, as it kept Disco in the spotlight for a few more years
  • The BeeGees wrote the songs for the movie AFTER the movie was shot, meaning all the dance scenes were shot with characters dancing to other music like Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs
    • They repurposed “Stayin’ Alive” which was just a demo at the time of filming, so it’s the only song that John Travolta was moving to while filming
  • Tony (John Travolta) is a paint store clerk who wants to break out of his everyday life
    • Dancing at the club helps him face the harsh realities of his life like his dead-end job and squabbling parents
  • The movie is based on the article: Tribal Rites of the new Saturday Night, which was a fabricated story by Nik Cohn
    • The article was meant to chronicle the disco dance scene, which Cohn was unfamiliar with, so he wrote a mostly fictional account on which the movie is based

Flashdance (1983)

  • “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara won an Oscar for best music/original score
    • It also hit #1 in the US for 6 weeks
    • In June the soundtrack released and stayed #1 for 2 weeks interrupting Michael Jackson’s Thriller which would come back to #1 only to be dethroned later by the Footloose album
    • In September, Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” also took #1
  • Based loosely around the life of real life welder and exotic dancer, Maureen Mauder, Paramount had her sign away the rights to her life story
  • The now famous off the shoulder big sweatshirt look was purely accidental because Jennifer Beals could not fit her head through her highschool sweatshirt. She decided to cut the collar off and wear it to the audition.  They liked it and added it to the movie
  •  It took 4 dancers for the iconic final dance scene by Alex Owens. One of the dancers was actually a man. Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón.  The famous leap was done by gymnast Sharon Shapiro
  • This was one of the first films that didn’t fit into the “musical”category because it did not center on the songs.  With MTV it became easier to bring pop songs into films. This led to the popular movies of Footloose and Dirty Dancing.

Footloose (1984)

  • Follows Ren, a boy from Chicago who moves to a rural town, where dancing to modern music is forbidden
  • This story is loosely based on true events!
    • In 1980, high school juniors in Elmore City, Oklahoma appealed to the town leaders and requested that a city-wide ban on dancing be lifted so they could hold a prom. When the decision to overturn the ban came to a 2-2 vote, the tie-breaking decision came from the school board president who reportedly said, “Let ’em dance.”
  • Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead, but Cruise was tied up with another project, while Lowe sustained an injury and was unable to play the role.
  •  Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jodie Foster, Phoebe Cates, Tatum O’Neal, Bridget Fonda, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane and Brooke Shields were all considered for the role of Ariel
  • The movie also stars John Lithgow with an appearance from Sarah Jessica Parker
  • The soundtrack dethroned Michael Jackson’s Thriller album with titles such as: “Footloose,” “Sussudio,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and “I need a Hero”
    • Seriously, the soundtrack ROCKS

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)

  • Came out in 1985 and inspired by the Cindy Lauper song of the same name
    • The story follows a young Army brat played by Sarah Jessica Parker who dreams of dancing on her favorite TV show. With a help of Helen Hunt, she attempts to win a spot on the show
  • The actual song isn’t used in the movie, a cover is used instead because of licensing restrictions
  • The movie starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Lee Montgomery, Morgan Woodward, Jonathan Silverman, Shannen Doherty, and Helen Hunt.
  • Parker was in Footloose one year earlier, though in this film she has the starring role

Dirty Dancing (1987) 

  • It stars Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze and takes place in the early 1960s
  • It is based in part on Elenor Bergstein’s childhood; She was a screenwriter for the project
    • She wrote a script for another film in 1980, and when an erotic dance scene was cut from the film, she was inspired to write this story with heavy influences from her childhood as a Doctor’s daughter that vacationed in the Catskills
    • For a choreographer, she chose Kenny Ortega!
    • For casting, she insisted on actors that could also dance
  • The scene where the couple are dancing and crawling on the floor wasn’t intended to be in the movie, it was a warm-up that the director loved so much that he put it in the film
  • The trees at the lake were spray-painted green for the scenes that took place in the woods and at the lake because the scenes were shot in the fall
  • In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing endured for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves, this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things.”

Hairspray (1988)

  • This John Waters classic starred Rikki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump” teenager who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show in 1960s Baltimore
    • The movie had many other famous names like Jerry Stiller, Divine, and Sony Bono
    • The movie also uses segregation as a main plot point, as Tracy attempts to bring about an era of change by integrating The Corny Collins show. It highlights the harsh reality of the civil rights era while maintaining a goofy tone
  • The popularity of this movie spawned the stage musical of the same name that was then later re-made into a film in 2007
  • John Waters’ success with Hairspray paved the way for him to make “Crybaby” in 1990, starring Johnny Depp

Breakin’ (1984)

  • Also known as “Breakdance” in the UK and “Break Street ‘84” in other regions, this was a very popular movie of the mid-1980s! With more of a focus on break-dancing than plot, this is a fun dance movie that showcases incredibly talented dancers
  • Set in the hip hop club Radio-Tron in MacArthur Park, LA
    • The club is where many of the dancers spend time and have dance battles
    • This is where the main character Kelly meets Ozone and Turbo, the trio are the main characters of the films
  • Menahem Golan of Cannon Films was inspired to create this film after his daughter saw a breakdancer in California
  • By the end of its run, the film grossed $38,682,707 in the domestic box office

Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo (1984)

  • This sequel to “Breakin'” focused even more on dancing, with extended dance sequences as the main focal part of the film
  • It follows the same trio as they try to save the local community center that serves children and teaches them dance and other art
  • We suggest that when you watch this film, try not to get too caught up in the plot, as the dancing is the real show!