Expect the Unexpected

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The Third Man, the musical?


Colin Firth in the Harry Lime role created by Orson Welles? I could see it.

Colin Firth in the Harry Lime role created by Orson Welles? I could see it.

Could a story about a wartime racketeer who steals penicillin, dilutes it, and sells it on the black market injuring innocent children, be the premise of a musical?

That was a recent topic of discussion on a chat board on BroadwayWorld.com.

There’s talk that the classic 1949 film, The Third Man, written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed, is being made into a musical in Vienna by an Austrian production company, Vereinigte Buehnen Wien (VBW).

According to rumor, the German-language musical is expected to be premiered in 2016.

Talk about high concept. I love this film very much. In fact it tops my list of Desert Island films.

But as a musical? My first thought was no. No way this could be a musical.

Then I thought some more. The Third Man’s storyline would fit in with other dark musicals such as Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Cabaret. So maybe it’s not as far out as it seems. With the right music, book and cast, it could be interesting.

If the German musical is a hit, perhaps it could also be made with an English speaking cast.

Norbert Leo Butz would make a "Cotten-pickin' good" Holly Martins.

Norbert Leo Butz would make a “Cotten-pickin’ good” Holly Martins.

The Third Man film cast was amazing. Orson Welles was despicably charming as Harry Lime who sold his soul and crossed to the dark side.

Joseph Cotten played our hero, the down on his luck American pulp fiction writer Holly Martins who’s ensnared in Lime’s mess and has to rise to the occasion.

And then there was the luminous Alida Valli, as Anna, Harry’s long-suffering girl friend who stands by her man at all costs.

My Broadway “dream” cast for The Third Man, the musical, would be:

Colin Firth as Harry Lime. Firth has the charm and good humor to win and betray our trust.

Tony Award-winning Norbert Leo Butz who wows audiences in whatever he does, would make a great wide-eyed Holly Martins.

Laura Benanti looks just like Alida Valli and has the chops too.

Laura Benanti looks just like Alida Valli and has the voice too.

As for Anna, I can’t think of anyone better for the heartbroken lover than Laura Benanti. Her voice is great and she is a ringer for Alida Valli.

Laura was so funny on the Tony awards commiserating with Megan Hilty and Andrew Rannells about appearing on TV shows that flopped. She is a Broadway treasure who won a Tony for Gypsy. Sooner or later TV will get her.

In this clip below, Laura Benanti performs “I Know Things Now,” Little Red Riding Hood’s song from Into the Woods.

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