13 of the best musicals that are adapted from films
Bringing some of the catchiest songs from the movies to the stage, many films have been adapted for theatres across the world. According to an article in The Stage, shows with storylines taken from popular culture sell nearly five times better than original stories, with film-based stage adaptations attracting the largest West End audiences. Movies from the golden age to recent family favourites have influenced many shows, bringing some of the catchiest songs with them. We take a look at productions that have been successful on the silver screen and in theatres.
West End musicals based on films
The Prince of Egypt
Based on the Book of Exodus as later told in the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, the musical adaptation will receive its British premiere at the Dominion Theatre. Featuring the chart-topping song ‘When You Believe’, join Moses in an unbelievable embodiment of human spirit and compassion as he saves the Israelites from persecution. Rising up to free his people, see how the course of millions of lives changed forever at The Prince of Egypt, opening in 2020.
Brought to theatres with a touch of Ultra-Clutch, the 1988 musical-film Hairspray was adapted for the stage by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the duo behind Sister Act and The Addams Family. As in the film, Tracy Turnblad secures a coveted spot dancing on The Corny Collins Show, but her superiors challenge her progressive views. The production opened in the West End in 2007, playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre for two and a half years.
Hairspray will return to London in 2020, starring Michael Ball as Edna Turnblad.
School of Rock
Before the fictional story of Dewey Finn taking on the role of a substitute teacher at Horace Green was brought to life on stage, it was told in a film. Released in 2003, Jack Black played the lead role, accompanying a class to put down their pens and notepads and pick up their musical instruments in a heartfelt story with plenty of music. Creating his own curriculum, Dewey Finn transforms the class into a rock band, signing them up to a local Battle of the Bands competition in order to get a high grade. With original songs, as well as a soundtrack featuring songs by Stevie Nicks, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, School of Rock was the highest grossing music-comedy film of the 2010’s. Hear the film’s original songs performed on stage, as well as new material written for the stage adaptation at School of Rock currently playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.
Released in 1988, Big was one of many body-swapping themed movies to storm the box office, but Big was the greatest success and was listed in the American Film Industry’s top ten fantasy films. The film follows Josh Baskin, a 12 year old who wishes to be bigger. Waking up in the body of a 30 year old, he realises that his wish is granted. But will he be able to balance his juvenile mind with his adult appearance? Arguably one of the greatest scenes in Big involves pianos and dancing, but we’ll leave you to watch that.
Big will make its West End premiere at the Dominion Theatre later this year, starring Jay McGuiness.
The Lion King
Released in 1994, The Lion King is one of the highest-grossing films for Disney but is also one of the most successful stage adaptations in history. First opening at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway in 1997, The Lion King then transferred to the West End in 1999. The story of Simba becoming King of the Pride Lands is currently ongoing at theatres on both sides of the pond, as audiences are transported to the Serengeti to see their favourite animated animals come to life. Elton John brought his musical touch to the production, creating the music for the show with iconic songs including “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. With colourful costumes and puppets bringing the pride lands to life, The Lion King has become a staple of musical theatre, as audiences young and old fall in love with the young cub.
Aladdin the Musical
Bringing “A Whole New World” to the theatre, the 1992 Disney film Aladdin was first performed at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway in 2014. With a Genie welcoming audiences into Agrabah night after night, the musical follows the much-loved story of street rat Aladdin falling in love with Princess Jasmine, later receiving three wishes. The magic of the movie was not lost with this stage adaptation, as Disney maestro Alan Menken created the music. Aladdin opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in London in 2016, transporting the Broadway spectacle across the pond. Nominated for best set design at the 2017 Olivier Awards, the musical is a sight to behold, keeping the prestige of the Disney film intact.
9 to 5
Known for her country tunes including “Jolene”, Dolly Parton penned the score for 9 to 5, which first opened on Broadway in 2009. The musical follows the story of three headstrong female colleagues, as they come up with inventive ways to kill their boss. The show ran for under a year on Broadway, yet is set to bring a country whirlwind to the West End, opening at the Savoy Theatre in 2019.
Nominated for 13 Oscars and considered to be one of the Disney greats, Mary Poppins finally received the stage treatment in 2004, premiering at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. Audiences were stunned at the lovable nanny flying into the theatre, as she brought magic into caring for Jane and Michael Banks while meeting Bert, a jack of all trades. Featuring Disney songs including “Feed the Birds” and “Step in Time”, the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” show ran for over three years, closing in 2008. Mary Poppins will return to the West End in 2019, starring Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and Charlie Stemp as Bert.
Adapted from a 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly, Waitress follows Jenna Hunterson, a young woman from a small town who faces an unwanted pregnancy. Her creative outlet is her pie making, so when she sees a pie-making competition in a local town with a cash prize, she enters in the hope of starting a new life for her and her child. Led by an all-female creative team with music from Sara Bareilles, the show opened on Broadway in 2016.
The 2005 film about a shoe factory in Northampton was adapted for the stage by a creative team including Cyndi Lauper, later receiving the 2016 Olivier Award for best new musical. The unlikely relationship between Charlie, a factory owner and Lola, a drag queen formed the basis for the story, with the “kinky boots” strutting to centre stage at a fashion show to save the company. Kinky Boots opened at the Adelphi Theatre in 2015, starring Killian Donnelly and Matt Henry. The pair will lead the cast for the upcoming DVD of the musical production, in a fitting way to celebrate the show that closed on 12th January 2019!
Once the Musical
Winning eight Tony Awards including best musical, Once brought a moment of serenity to theatres on Broadway and in the West End. “Guy” sings in an Irish bar alone, but when “Girl”, a Czech woman walks in, the two fall for each other and play songs together. Playing at the Phoenix Theatre in London, the cast exit the stage through the audience, sitting in the auditorium. With a theatre bar on the stage, the production had a minimal set yet had maximum impact. Originally starring Declan Bennett, Ronan Keating assumed the role of “Guy” from Bennett until the show closed on 21st March 2015.
The aspirational story of Elle Woods graduating from Harvard Law School was adapted into a musical, with music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe. Laura Bell Bundy originated the leading lady in 2007 on Broadway, receiving six Tony Award nominations. After success in the United States, Legally Blonde transferred to the West End, opening at the Savoy Theatre in 2010 and winning best new musical at the Olivier Awards. The West End cast included Sheridan Smith, Jill Halfpenny and Duncan James and enjoyed a continuous run until 2012, later touring around the UK.