Great Movies That Inspired Broadway Adaptations

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Broadway stage shows and the Hollywood big screen have long had a symbiotic relationship, with many of the best films of all time including Fat, Chicago, Cabaret and The sound of music, adapted from classic musicals. Recently, however, there has been a huge influx of the opposite: films adapted into stage productions.

Legally blonde, Aladdin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Pretty woman, The school of rock, Mathildeand Charlie and the chocolate factory are just a few of the films that received the Broadway makeover and found success on stage. For some films, going to Broadway seems like a no-brainer; for others, it definitely takes a bit of tweaking, a lot of imagination, and a bit of stardust to give it what it needs. Nowadays, it seems that no film is banned when it comes to musical adaptations. Below are 9 great films that have inspired successful stage productions on Broadway (and off-Broadway).

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9 hair spray

The original 1988 comedy film, directed by legendary cult director John Waters, is an incredibly fun and heartfelt summer flick. It follows “pleasantly plump” teenager Tracy Turnblad as she finds fame as a dancer on a local TV dance show and rallies against racial segregation. The Broadway adaptation is noted for its one-man cast as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother, who is agoraphobic and ashamed of her obesity, continuing the tradition of having a man in drag portray the character. , as seen in the original 1988 film, which starred drag queen Devine. The stage version won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2003.


8 The Little Shop of Horrors

Based on the 1960 low-budget horror comedy of the same name, The Little Shop of Horrors The musical premiered off Broadway in 1982 before moving to the Orpheum Theater off Broadway. Interest grew after the release of the 1986 cult classic musical film adaptation directed by Frank Oz and starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, which went on to huge cult success. Based on a florist who discovers a Venus flytrap that feeds on human blood, this wacky eccentric of a show has since appeared on Broadway and overseas to critical acclaim.

7 Cabiria Nights

A classic, but not everyone may know that this hit musical production was actually based on the script of the 1957 Italian film Cabiria Nights. Fair enough, it played a little thick and fast with the source material, making it a little more accessible by casting the main character as a “dancer for hire” instead of a sex worker. It still follows the same story of her romantic misfortunes, nonetheless. Since its first Broadway appearance in 1966, when it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, it has since enjoyed many revivals on Broadway and in the West End over the following decades. It was adapted again for the big screen in 1969 with Shirley MacLaine as Charity and John McMartin recreating his Broadway role as lover Oscar Lindquist.


6 Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Musical comedy spamlot is based (loosely) on Monty Python and the Holy Grailone of the most controversial Monty Python films, about the life of King Arthur. In one way or another, spamlot managed to surpass its source material and reach new levels of irreverence and absurdity with the addition of more song and dance. This 2005 Broadway production, adapted by Python original Eric Idle, received 14 Tony Award nominations, winning in three categories, including Best Musical.

5 school of rock

school of rock is an example of a film that seems to have always been destined for Broadway. Loved by children and adults alike, the film was universally acclaimed, not only for Jack Black’s career-defining performance, but for the performances of all the supporting actors (especially the children), as well as the screenplay. , humor and overall happy tone. . school of rock is about a failing rock musician, who poses as a substitute teacher in an effort to use the students to form a band and enter a contest and win a cash prize. There’s plenty of heart and laughs, and it’s no surprise that with a little help from the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, it became a huge Broadway hit on every level.

Related: Best Songs From Musical Movie Adaptations

4 Dirty rotten villains

While movies like school of rock, Free from all ties, dirty dance or even pretty women all seem like obvious choices for stage adaptations, the one that certainly would have caught a lot of people off guard was the 2005 Broadway musical adaptation of the classic 80s comedy about ‘crooks’ Dirty rotten villains, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Somehow it managed to subvert expectations and retain the feel of the original, just with an added fun factor, thanks to the addition of some great singing and dancing. A surprise hit that was described as “the best musical to hit Sydney this century” by the Sydney Morning Herald, when it was first released in Australia.

3 The producers

This is where things get a bit meta. The producers is a 1967 American satirical black comedy film written and directed by Mel Brooks and starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn and Kenneth Mars. It follows some unlucky guys, who came up with a scam that involved creating the worst possible musical they could think of (just think lots of crazy dancing Nazis). Naturally, this film about making a musical was later adapted into a musical, and just like in the film, the musical was absolutely ridiculous but hugely successful.


2 Matilda

Matilda the novel was originally released in 1988 and later became a feature film in 1996. The film was directed and co-produced by Hollywood legend Danny DeVito, who also acted as the narrator and as Matilda’s father in the film. Played for laughs in what is perhaps the purest adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, looking at the plot a little closer, there’s still a girl victim of family neglect and terrorized by a teacher who locks up disobedient schoolchildren in a closet lined with broken glass. The movie is hugely entertaining nonetheless, and a lot of that is down to the committed performances from the cast, including Mara Wilson as Matilda, Rhea Pearlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Paul Reubens alongside DeVito. Despite critical acclaim and praise for the film and especially DeVito’s direction, Matilda performed disappointingly at the box office. Either way, Denis Kelly saw the potential of jumping onto the big stage and enlisted Australian comedian Tim Minchin to help with the music and lyrics, and the rest is history. The musical was widely acclaimed and was a huge hit, so much so that a film adaptation of the musical is now in production.


1 The Lion King

by Disney The Lion King is nothing less than a phenomenon. When it was released in 1994, it broke many records and became the highest-grossing animated film of all time. It was then remade in 2019 and introduced to a whole new generation who flocked in droves (along with nostalgic parents) and helped the remake once again become the highest-grossing animated film of all time. In 1998, a stage adaptation was critically acclaimed on Broadway and became – you guessed it – the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time. Definitely an emerging pattern here. And when it comes to the stage show, it’s not hard to see what it’s all about. The Elton John and Tim Rice soundtrack is one of the strongest ever, and the stage costumes, puppets and choreography are truly compelling and entertaining for audiences of all ages.


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