The concept of basing Broadway shows off of movies goes back years, but it didn’t start really taking off as a trend until Beauty and the Beast opened in 1993 and The Lion King in 1997. Both were hugely successful, and while other Disney movies have been adapted to the stage, including The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Mary Poppins and Newsies, those initial two were most well-known.
The Producers was a hugely successful Broadway musical based on a movie. Mel Brooks, the writer of the original movie, adapted the Broadway musical as well. He turned out to be quite a good songwriter, and the show ran for six years. A movie version was released in 2005, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who originated the roles on Broadway.
The original movie Hairspray was less well known, but it became a huge hit on Broadway, winning eight Tony Awards and running for seven years. In 2007, this musical also got a movie adaptation. In every version, the role of Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, is played by a man. Divine was in the original movie, Harvey Fierstein originated the Broadway role, and John Travolta took on the musical movie role.
Since Disney, The Producers, and Hairspray, there have been musical versions of nearly every movie you can think of. Some have done very well. The musical adaptation of Legally Blonde became a cult hit and spread across the country, being performed at high schools and colleges everywhere. David Yazbek’s adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels earned a Tony Award for its star, Norbert Leo Butz.
Other musical movie adaptations have not fared so well. Yazbek’s other movie adaptations, The Full Monty and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, have faded into obscurity. Musical versions of Elf, The Women of Eastwick, and High Fidelity were poorly received.
Musical adaptations of movies invite audiences to see familiar stories. In a difficult economy, Broadway needs all the help it can get to bring people in. These musicals aren’t going away any time soon. Your favorite movie could be next to make it to the stage. Or your favorite musical from Broadway could make it to TV on www.directstartv.com. Either way, movies and Broadway go hand in hand.