When I heard that the 1976 movie “Sparkle” was being remade with Whitney Houston in a key supporting role, I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Then Houston’s unexpected death turned what was likely to be a smaller late summer movie targeted towards women into a publicity sensation.
“Sparkle” is the story of sisters who form a singing group a la the Supremes, but then are plagued by the trials of fame, such as drugs and bad boyfriends. At the end, only the youngest sister, Sparkle, is left to set out on a solo career. Irene Cara played Sparkle in the original, and Jordin Sparks has the role in the remake. Houston is playing the girls mother (reportedly Houston had been a big fan of the movie growing up and was thrilled to take the part). If you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds like ‘Dreamgirls,’” well, yes, it clearly influenced the Michael Bennett musical which opened on Broadway a few years later.
Now “Sparkle” might get its Broadway turn. The Hollywood Reporter says that not only have the producers turned it into a book to be released ten days before the film’s opening on August 17th, but they are also gathering new songs for a stage version of the show that hopefully will go to Broadway. Curtis Mayfield wrote the original score, and R. Kelly added original songs for the 2012 remake.
I guess they feel pretty confident this is going to be a hit. Will the plan go forward if the movie flops? My guess is that the movie’s budget is low enough that they’ll be able to call any earnings a hit. Plus the interest in Houston will guarantee at least some kind of turnout. And if it performs weakly, well, maybe they’ll just hope the show can outdo the movie between a Broadway run and tour–especially if they can consistently attract a few well-known, middle-aged singers looking for a career boost to take the Houston role.