Special Reports

Will Jennifer Lopez Make Her Broadway Debut in the Hustlers Musical?

The international pop icon teased out a possible future for the hit movie this week.

(© David Gordon)

Ears perked up this week when it was suggested that Hustlers, the hit movie about con-artist strippers, could become a Broadway show — especially when that idea was reinforced by Jennifer Lopez herself. Not only is she the star of the film (which is being shortlisted for a bunch of awards), but she's one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. And yet, she's never been on Broadway.

This Story of the Week will explain the significance of Hustlers, why it lends itself to the stage, and how Lopez could be involved in a future Broadway adaptation.

What is Hustlers?
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is a genuine product of the Internet age: It is a movie based on a viral New York Magazine article about a ring of dancers at a New York City strip club that hustled stockbrokers and executives out of mountains of cash using a cocktail of MDMA and ketamine.

Lopez plays Ramona, the veteran stripper and mastermind, leading a starry cast that includes Constance Wu (as her deputy) and Julia Stiles (the journalist reporting on the story). Keke Palmer, Lizzo, and Cardi B all make appearances as exotic dancers. It's been a huge box office success grossing over $150 million worldwide, a princely return on a film that cost $20.7 million to make.

There's an undeniable populist appeal to Hustlers, a story about working-class women of color taking from the very men that fleeced the American public during the 2008 economic collapse. It's almost like Robin Hood, but instead of a longbow and dirk, the hero's weapons of choice are alcohol and date rape drugs (one can imagine a very different reception for the film if the genders of the characters were reversed).

But Scafaria doesn't paper over the morally troubling aspects of the story, revealing characters who are simultaneously sympathetic and deeply flawed. And, of course, there are consequences to their epic swindle. That makes Hustlers not just a commercial success, but a compelling work of drama — the kind of thing that lends itself to the stage.

(© Neil Grabowsky)

Where did the idea of Hustlers going to Broadway start?
"I want a Broadway musical," Scafaria told Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman at an awards campaign event at the Museum of Modern Art. Scafaria envisions a jukebox musical that incorporates songs from the film and plenty of pole dancing. Friedman mused, "Just the idea of those strippers dancing on poles in a Broadway house, with a strong new script from Scafaria — I could see that on Broadway in two years or less, dontcha think?"

This is not uncharted territory on Broadway: Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy, about burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, comes immediately to mind. And, of course, there is The Full Monty, the popular stage adaptation of the 1997 comedy about steel workers who become male strippers. Elizabeth L. Wollman has written an entire book for Oxford University Press about the adult musicals that flourished in the hedonistic 1970s in Hard Times. Those expecting the theatrical audience to clutch its pearls at the thought of Hustlers on Broadway might be surprised by the warm reception I think a musical like this would receive — provided it's done right.

Scafaria also tossed out the idea of Lopez reprising her role for the stage. That would mark JLo's Broadway debut, an event that would absolutely rock any Broadway season.

Has Jennifer Lopez really never been on Broadway?
No, she has not. The closest she has come is the much-delayed live television broadcast of Bye Bye Birdie, in which Lopez is slated to play the role of Rose. That broadcast has been postponed multiple times, with the excuse always being Lopez's busy schedule.

The Broadway lifestyle is not exactly compatible with that of a celebrity spinning multiple plates. You are expected to be at the same place at the same time eight times a week for as long as your contract of employment — a fact of the business that instantly clears out the travel schedule. "If you want to do musical comedy and do it right, you've gotta live like a f*cking nun," Ethel Merman once advised a young Elaine Stritch (who only sporadically took that advice). And indeed, when your nights are dedicated to celebrating mass in the theater, and your days are constrained by a vow of silence (or vocal rest), it is easy to feel like a postulant.

Understanding this, Lopez threw cold water on the idea of her Broadway debut as an actor when asked about it in the above video interview with Extra. "I don't know that I would do it," she responded, suggesting instead, "I would produce it, for sure. I don't know. Maybe. You never know with me." Indeed, we don't.