These Are The Best Movie-To-Musical Adaptations

Sara Portnoy | February 4, 2019 8:43 pm

There’s something special about seeing a live musical. Today, it’s becoming increasingly common to see Broadway shows inspired by popular films. Sometimes the movies already have the songs in them, while other times the composers create brand new tunes to go along with the familiar plot. It can be a magical experience seeing iconic movie characters come to life in musical form and sometimes the performances are so good that people argue whether the movie or the musical is better. The musical isn’t the sequel, rather it uses the movie as inspiration to create an interactive experience for theater fans around the world. Here are some of the best movie-to-musical adaptations you won’t want to miss.

Legally Blonde

When Reese Witherspoon starred as the iconic Elle Woods in the 2001 film Legally Blonde, no one thought that anyone else could play that character. Six years later, a brand new Broadway musical was adapted with fresh songs and dance numbers, but it stayed true to the original story.

legally blonde the musical
Don Arnold / Contributor
Don Arnold / Contributor

Legally Blonde The Musical was a hit right away. It inspired a large fan base and was even turned into an MTV reality show in hopes of replacing the lead star after her Broadway run ended. With mind-blowing reviews, it showed how a great movie can become a transformative musical.

Mean Girls

Tina Fey wrote and starred in the film version of Mean Girls back in 2004, with a star-studded cast of Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and more. It took about 13 years after the phenomenon was released, but it was finally turned into a Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Tina Fey returned with her husband and other collaborators to revamp her popular movie into a relevant live performance.

mean girls the musical
Walter McBride/WireImage
Walter McBride/WireImage

Fey’s team added brand new songs to the familiar plot. The millions of fans of the movie were able to see their favorite characters in musical form and also didn’t miss out on hearing the memorable film quotes.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Even though the films were originally based on the books by Roald Dahl, the musical takes inspiration from 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp are remembered for their portrayal of Willy Wonka, so the writers of the new musical needed to find someone that could stand alone from the previous Wonkas.

chocolate factory musical
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for New West End Company
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for New West End Company

The musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory uses a couple of songs from the original film but adds many to the forefront. The Broadway show follows the film plot but adds the spectacle of being a live show where anything can happen.

Hairspray

When the first Hairspray film premiered in 1988, it had no idea what was in store for the future. It took about 14 years, but Broadway was able to take the first movie and give it something that the screen didn’t quite capture the first time.

hairspray the musical
Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images

The massive success of Hairspray’s Broadway run inspired a brand new 2007 film with stars like Zac Efron, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and more. They took the new Broadway songs and put them in the re-make. Hairspray’s legacy lived on when the Broadway production was turned into a live TV musical in 2016 with Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, and more.

Shrek

It’s hard to forget a film about a giant green ogre who finds unexpected friendship with his donkey best friend. After its success and multiple sequels, the Broadway world decided to give Shrek its own musical with original songs. The 2008 adaptation brought together the familiar characters in live-action with unbelievable make-up and costumes to match.

shrek the musical
Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

For fans of the movies, it was a dream come true seeing the story come to life on stage. While it’s not running on Broadway anymore, it was captured on camera for Netflix to live on forever.

School of Rock

When people think of Jack Black, they can’t help but remember his incredible performance in School of Rock. People got a kick out of seeing young kids being able to play rock songs with confidence. Andrew Lloyd Webber noticed this and turned it into a groundbreaking musical.

school of rock musical
John Phillips/John Phillips/Getty Images
John Phillips/John Phillips/Getty Images

While a few songs from the movie were added or edited into the Broadway show, Webber composed many new ones to keep it lively. Many fans of the film will probably be surprised at how the adaptation takes the fun story in a brand new direction.

The Lion King

After watching a classic Disney movie, it can be hard to imagine it as anything else. The Lion King is mostly known for the genius songs by Sir Elton John and the stunning animation of singing animals in Africa. Broadway noticed that people of all ages could relate to some part of the movie, or just jam out to the fun tunes.

the lion king musical
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

The show opened in 1997, just three years after the movie premiered, and is one of a very small number of shows that are still currently running. The success of this show is why there are now so many Disney-inspired Broadway musicals today.

Aladdin

There have been so many Disney films that have been turned into Broadway shows that it’s becoming hard to count. The films are always filled with catchy and wonderful songs that people sing for years and years. Aladdin is no exception to this.

aladdin musical
Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Broadway version of Aladdin includes both the iconic songs from the movie and brand new ones to fit the show. Fans are always amazed seeing their favorite animated Disney films come to life with actors making them unique for the stage. The actors who’ve played the Genie in the past want the audience to know that while they’re no Robin Williams, they give their all in the role.

Bring it On

People may wonder how a movie about cheerleaders would do as a Broadway show. When they hear that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics, they probably know why it worked. Bring it On was transformed for the stage to be a high-energy production that anyone could enjoy.

bring it on musical
Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images
Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images

The musical was praised by reviewers for having witty dialogue, clever songs, and inventive visuals. It also involved many complex cheerleading routines that the average audience member wasn’t used to seeing on stage. For the skeptics that were doubting its success from screen to stage, they were proven wrong.

Finding Neverland

The Johnny Depp film, Finding Neverland, followed J.M. Barrie as he wrote the story for Peter Pan. The Broadway world was taken aback by the in-depth characterization and themes of the film, and thus it was made into a musical.

peter pan musical
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

People familiar with the characters of Peter Pan are sure to be inspired by the adapted musical. Reviewers mentioned that the Broadway show was no replica of the original biopic, but includes the same messages audiences related to. It lasted for about 17 months on Broadway but later became a US national tour.

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors started out as a humble 1960s movie, but later it was re-imagined for the stage with songs by famous Disney composer, Alan Menken. The musical can be categorized as horror or comedy with a bit of rock music.

LittleShop
Murray Close/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
Murray Close/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

The story of a florist raising a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh may sound a bit too gory for Broadway, but the songs that accompany the plot are more than fantastic. The musical did so well that it inspired the 1986 film that most people are familiar with.

Groundhog Day

Many fans of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day may be shocked that it was turned into a Broadway musical. It was noted that lovers of the original film were worried that the musical wouldn’t stick to the authenticity of the story, but reviewers thought it did the exact opposite.

groundhog day musical
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

The writers of the musical adaptation used the film as a basis for their work but were able to add in some original dialogue. They also transformed it into a musical piece that was easy to digest and kept with the tone of the movie.

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Broadway stepped in to turn Monty Python and the Holy Grail, into a full-fledged musical otherwise known as Spamalot. After the show premiered in 2004, many people noted how different it was from the movie. While they were both irreverent parodies from the minds of Monty Python, they contrasted quite a bit with their plot and characters.

spamalot musical
Paola Visone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Paola Visone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The adaptation was able to take home the Tony for Best Musical and lasted over 1,500 performances during its initial run. The Broadway show was so successful that it was announced that Hollywood would soon be turning it back into a musical film.

Pretty Woman

This musical adaptation received a great deal of debate about whether it was as good as the film. Pretty Woman is one of Julia Robert’s most memorable roles, and many fans couldn’t imagine a new production without her starring in it.

pretty woman musical
Walter McBride/Getty Images
Walter McBride/Getty Images

About half of the reviewers commented that the musical version has little of what makes the film worth watching, while others praised the Broadway show for being more romantic and spectacular than the film. It seems like the people who praised the musical are more on track because after premiering on Broadway in March of 2018, it is still running with fans galore.

Beauty and the Beast

It’s a tale as old as time, and one of the most magical Disney movies ever. The music and lyrics are one of a kind, so it was only natural for it to become a Broadway spectacle.

beauty and the beast musical
Christian Marquardt/Getty Images
Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

Beauty and the Beast was the first ever Disney-adapted show for Broadway over 25 years ago. Almost all of the songs from the movie were included, so that Disney fans could see what it’s really like having their favorite Disney film performed on a stage. Since it was a Disney film first, it had the perfect formula for morphing into a Broadway musical.

A Christmas Story

Every year during Christmas-time, people gather around their TVs to watch one of the most classic holiday movies, A Christmas Story. So many people made it a tradition that there are TV channels that play the film for 24 hours on Christmas Day.

christmas story musical
FOX via Getty Images
FOX via Getty Images

Broadway has a pattern for finding movies that audiences love and bringing them to life on stage. The musical adaptation takes the beloved characters of Ralphie and his family and adds fun toe-tapping songs to go along with his quest of receiving a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.

Mary Poppins

While the Mary Poppins novels came first, it wasn’t until Walt Disney turned it into a major motion picture in 1964 it gained a massive following. Julie Andrews sang her way into audiences’ hearts with the iconic songs people still hum along to today.

mary poppins musical
Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images

About half a century later, Mary Poppins was adapted for Broadway. It isn’t a direct adaption, but rather it uses elements from both the books and the movie to produce an awe-inspiring musical. Some of the famous songs are included, while others have been modified to fit the themes of the Broadway show.

Newsies

Some people forget that before Newsies was made into a Broadway show, it was a cult classic film of the 1990s. It follows a group of young boys forced into child labor inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Both the film and musical are known for their epic dance numbers and heartfelt lyrics.

newsies musical
Andrew Francis Wallace / Contributor
Andrew Francis Wallace / Contributor

It took around two decades after the movie for the musical to premiere on Broadway. The rave reviews of the show are a sign of its originality, talented actors, and the well-balanced political plot. The musical was also filmed for Netflix because it’s no longer running on Broadway.

Waitress

With so many films being made each year, it’s common for some to get overlooked. Waitress started out as an independent film in 2007 and was put in the hands of singer-songwriter, Sara Bareilles, to be made into a smash Broadway show.

Waitress
Walter McBride/Getty Images
Walter McBride/Getty Images

The story of a small-town girl stuck in her ways may seem redundant, but the beautiful and gut-wrenching songs bring the plot to life. Bareilles made sure to find a balance for the musical by staying true to the movie, but also allowing herself to take on a different interpretation.

Anastasia

Anastasia started out as a 1997 animated movie that tells the tale of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia trying to escape the execution of her family. Almost 20 years later it was adapted into a live-action stage production. The director of the musical explained that while six songs from the film were included, they added in 16 new ones.

Anastasia
Walter McBride/Getty Images
Walter McBride/Getty Images

The Broadway show doesn’t exactly stick to the plot of the move, such as adding and taking away characters and changing the setting a bit. Also, the musical was awarded Best Featured Actress and Costume Design awards at the Tony’s.