One of the big trends of the last few years has been turning movies into stage musicals. With some shows going on to eclipse their big screen source to become a more iconic & better known version of the story.
Two new films, ‘The Color Purple’ & ‘Mean Girls’ have had a similar path. With both going from the cinema, to hit stage musicals, which in turn inspired two brand new musical movies. With that in mind, allow us to make a big song & dance about some of our favourite movie-to-musical (& sometimes back to movie) adaptations.
Hairspray Good Morning Baltimore! One of first & best, musical adaptations was this reimagining of John Waters’ 1988 movie of the same name (starring a young Ricki Lake. Go Ricki! Go Ricki!). The musical was a huge hit and was made into a 2007 movie that cast John Travolta in drag playing Edna Turnblad. One of the reasons Hairspray has stood the test of time is that the songs are genuinely great, which can’t always be said about movie-to-musical translations. It’s just good, poppy fun the whole way through. You can’t stop the beat, baby!
This one is an absolute blast too. Debuting in 2007, the music and book perfectly match the bubble-gum feel good vibes & deceptively smart humour and sexual politics of the Reese Witherspoon blockbuster. The songs are cracking – a week rarely goes by when this writer doesn’t sing ‘Ohmigod You Guys’ to himself – and role of Elle has provided star-making opportunities to many ladies over the years, including Sheridan Smith and Susan McFadden. It’s wild that this hasn’t had a movie adaptation yet.
This rollicking adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel (and Danny DeVito’s 1996 movie) was one of the first to embrace hiring more left-field choices to compose the music for a show. Australian comedy-singer Tim Minchin proved to be an inspired choice to write the music and lyrics, bringing the right mix of weirdness, humour and heart to this darkly funny and moving story. The 2022 film adaptation, with Irish actress Alisha Weir in the lead role is based on the stage show and is a faithful recreation of an electrifying theatre experience.
The Color Purple:
There’s a reason the upcoming movie adaptation of the musical version of the 1982 Alice Walker book (and 1985 Steven Spielberg movie) is generating so much buzz. The musical, which was first staged in 2005, is a real barnstormer. This writer caught a production of it in London in 2013 with a then-unknown Cynthia Erivo playing Miss Celie. The roof was blasted off the place at several points. Fantasia Barrino is playing Celie in the movie; the song ‘I’m Here’ is sure to have movie audiences on their feet.
Elton John is the musical force behind this 2005 stage adaption of the Oscar nominated 2000 movie about a young boy in Miner’s Strike-hit northern England in the 1980s who wants to a ballet dancer. The show, like the movie, packs a huge emotional punch, even if the songs themselves are not immediate ‘add them to your workout playlist’ classics. The role of Billy has given some now-adult actors a big leg up in the industry: Spider-Man Tom Holland & Strictly Come Dancing whizz Layton Williams both played Billy at different points.
Mean Girls: The musical adaptation of the 2004 insta-classic comes with a strong pedigree: Tina Fey writes the show’s book (as she did the movie), the music is by her husband, 30 Rock veteran Jeff Richmond, and the lyrics are by Legally Blonde’s Nell Benjamin. The show, which debuted in 2018, saw its Broadway life cut short by the pandemic, was still a critical hit and the new movie is sure to give it a second life.
Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice became an unexpected musical in 2018, its time on Broadway was short, also due to the pandemic, but fans need not worry, there’s a brand new ‘Beetlejuice’ film starring Michael Keaton arriving into cinemas in 2024.
John Carney’s 2007 Irish indie hit starring Glen Hansard and Markta Irglova went on to win an Oscar for it’s gorgeous music, making it an obvious candidate for the stage musical adaptation treatment. The show succeeded beyond probably their wildest fantasies, it was a huge broadway hit, winning eight Tony awards in 2012. It’s been a regular touring production since.
This 1988 adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel and the 1976 Brian De Palma film is one of the most notorious bombs in musical history. Originally co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, of all places, it closed after just 16 previews and five official performances on Broadway. Almost by default, that turned Carrie into a cult hit among musical fans.