×

Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It’s a Musical

Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo.

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

“When I read a script, it processes in my head like a score,” Shankman said on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “Every script has its own rhythm. I connect with it in the same way that I connect with music.”

He found that the script to “What Men Want” had a big-band feel to it, and he even sent Henson the Bennie Goodman tune “Sing Sing Sing” to give her an idea of what he was thinking for her character.

Shankman, who was a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance” for eight seasons, spent years choreographing musical numbers for TV (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and film (“Dudley Do-Right”) before transitioning to directing movies like “A Walk to Remember,” “Hairspray” and “School of Rock.” He’s also a producer, currently at work on projects including the dance-centric YouTube series “Step Up: High Water.”

Over the course of his career, Shankman has developed a philosophy behind making dance numbers work on screen.

“I think maybe that it’s about having a point of view about the camera’s participation in the number,” he said. “Sometimes you just want to be an observer, and sometimes you want to be in the number. On reality television, they have those Steadicams up on stage whipping around those people, so we’ve gotten very used to, on television, seeing dance photographed a certain way, where the camera is actually creating 30% to 50% of the movement that’s happening. Sometimes that’s fun in a movie, when you’re trying to create a certain kind of narrative energy. And sometimes you want to just sit back and watch the people dance and sing.”

Shankman also updated listeners on the progress of the sequel to the hit movie musical “Enchanted,” on which he’s working with the original songwriting team (Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz), and original cast (Amy Adams et al.). In addition, he teased his upcoming Broadway projects, name-checked the stage musicals he’d love to make into movies, and recalled what it was like choreographing the prom scene in “She’s All That” — in the lobby of a car mart in Cerritos.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

  • Bat Out of Hell review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Bat Out of Hell'

    No one has ever accused Jim Steinman of subtlety. The composer behind Meat Loaf’s 1977 “Bat Out of Hell” (more than 43 million albums sold worldwide) and 1993’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (five and six times platinum in the UK and US) has forever trafficked in a boldly theatrical brand of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content