When we think about Broadway musical adaptations, often we think in terms of musicals that were turned into films; but what if we flipped the script to talk about movies that were turned into Broadway musicals? It is a pretty lengthy and distinguished list, but I’ve zeroed in on the what I feel are the best Broadway adaptations of film musicals ever to grace the stage.
Beauty and the Beast
The success of the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast made the transition to Broadway in 1994 quite smooth. Composer Alan Menken wrote seven new songs for the new Broadway production. Audiences enjoyed the real-life take on the animated classic so much that it ran for 13 years and set the stage for other Disney classics to follow behind it.
The film Billy Elliot really struck a chord with audiences and probably had a lot to do with its quick turnaround from the big screen to the big stage. The director of the 2000 film Stephen Daldry also directed the musical in 2005. The musical worked because it blended a combination of the screenplay’s raw element with narrative-supporting dance numbers and a score that easily captivated the working-class storyline.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
2005’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was composer and lyricist David Yazbel’s second film-to-musical adaptation, which makes it easy to understand why this transformation was such a success. This production was supported by a host of catchy Europop musical numbers and big band show tunes that got audiences all riled up and make this remake a lively hit.
2002’s Hairspray was a vibrant and exuberant take on the 1988 John Waters film. The musical highlighted the best parts of the film while tastefully leaving out some of its cheeky subversion. What was left was a joyful and spirited show with an energetic score that dazzled audiences at every performance.
Kinky Boots has really become quite the phenomenon. A winner of 6 Tony Awards including the coveted Best Musical, this stage adaptation blends the most amazing elements to tell an incredible story. A score by Cyndi Lauper, choreography by Jerry Mitchell, and a book by the amazing Harvey Fierstein make this firecracker of a show enjoyable for everyone to see.
Little Shop of Horrors
I don’t think I am the only one who holds the opinion that this 1982 adaptation took this 1960’s film to new heights. This Off-Broadway hit had everything a theatergoer could ever want — irony, wit, and edge. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken took what I thought was an average film and transformed it into a much smarter and much darker show that captivated the hearts and minds of so many people.
Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies of all times. It is so whimsical and captivating — you just can’t help but love Ms. Poppins. The musical adaptation of this film gives audiences the same feelings of whimsy and adoration that the 1964 Disney film gave moviegoers long ago. I’d have to say this is in large part due to the fact that producer Cameron McIntosh did such a good job at keeping the look and plot of the final show very close to the original elements including the original Sherman Brothers score.
Here is yet another Disney film that made a great transition onto Broadway. While the 1992 film was good, the Broadway musical is better, capturing the liveliness and spirit of the “newsies” in a way that allowed people to connect with their story.
Rocky: The Musical
As someone with roots in Philadelphia, you know the film and the musical were must-sees for me. The film was so inspirational and captured so many elements of Philly in a magical way that I was concerned the musical would fall flat. However, the Broadway show captures the love story and the fight story in a way that makes you love Rocky and Adrian as much as you did when you saw the movie.
Shrek: The Musical
When I saw Shrek the film as a child I think I was four years old. I loved the movie so much that when my mom bought me the movie for Christmas, I watched it pretty much everyday to the point where I had all of the words memorized (and still do might I add). So, when I heard it was going to be turned into a musical I was excited. Shrek the Musical brings the movie to life in an energetic and fun-filled way as audiences embark on the ogre’s journey and all the entertaining ups and downs it entails.
Although the 2005 remake of the 1975 classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail may not have had as much anarchic comedy as the movie, it still proved to be a riot for all who saw it. Mashing tunes from the film with additional songs created by Eric Idle and John DuPrez and adding elements of Vegas glitz allowed the musical to deliver enough awe and laughs to keep audiences coming.
The Lion King
Yes, this is one more Disney classic whose move to Broadway in 1997 was a huge success. Everyone was unsure how Broadway would be able to handle the scale of the 1994 animated classic, but its now obvious that director and designer Julie Taymor handled the task incredibly well. A beautiful blend of puppetry, African rhythm, and gorgeous scenery has propelled the show to iconic status on the Great White Way as it continues to break records to this day.
I think this production’s record 12 Tony Awards speaks for itself as to the greatness of this show. Mel Brooks’ 2001 adaptation of the 1968 film drove audiences wild with laughter and sent people in a frenzy to try to get tickets. This musical took the movie to a whole new level with its comedic and showstopping numbers in a way that really set the stage for the comeback of the American musical comedy.
If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing any one of these Broadway productions, you know they deserve a place on this list. Each one of these shows will give you something to forever cherish — whether it’s a laugh or something to think about.
Author: Diamond Grant