8 Best Movie to Musical Adaptations

I just saw Heathers, The Musical at Stage 773 put on by Stage Door Productions. It was an interesting dive back into the 80s.

Certain songs resounded and added to the storyline, while others felt like filler.

Among the best, Dead Girl Walking and its reprise. The first time you hear it you know exactly when it’s going to come back and it launches the character development of Veronica from timid to daring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIHPNqYiPSM

Among the worst, Welcome to my Candy Store. The metaphor was weak  and tired, painfully recalling Nelly’s Candy Shop.

Then some really nice product placement for 7 eleven in “Freeze your Brain” was actually quite poetic. Upon rewatching the movie, I appreciated the musical calling out to the convenience store giant, because it felt more realistic and let me draw upon my own experiences to the store instead of the “Snappy, Snack Shack.”

Often we anticipate stage musicals being adapted to the screen, but the reverse brings certain expectations and a audience already engaged in the storyline. So which movies successfully transitioned to the stage? And why?

8. Newsies

Newsies is a beloved classic and just finished up its Broadway in Chicago run at the beginning of the month. It is excellent timing for its revival because those 80s babies who loved the film version are now taking their kids to see the musical. Music by Alan Menken, book by Harvey Fierstein, the musical debuted on Broadway in 2012, 20 years after the film.

7. Waitress

Jessie Mueller carries the show. Not only does this musical have the appeal of the movie, but has songs written by the hugely popular singer/songwriter, Sara Bareilles.

6. Kinky Boots

I think a lot of people think of this as a musical first, but it was a movie. A feel-good classic.

5. A Very Potter Musical

This took the internet by storm! The songs are memorable and high quality. The jokes were timely. Brought to us in part by Darren Criss, Glee darling and musical superstar. It absolutely came out during the Harry Potter movie fanaticism. I think this was an underappreciated, emblematic musical creation.


4. Beauty and the Beast

Another beautiful Disney adaptation, but the added song, Home is a show stopper in my book. All great musical ingredients in this one.

3. Once

A perfectly natural transition to the stage.

2. American Psycho

Wow. This one is a bit odd, but remarkable in its daring stage interpretation. Music is by the popular artist Duncan Sheik who also was behind the music in Spring Awakening. Although the music here is inventive and pushes the boundary of electronic music in musical theatre.

Also, this fan theory!


1. The Lion King

From its revolutionary staging, to its beautiful songs by Elton John, The Lion King has stolen the hearts of young and old audience members for years. The Disney classic elegantly adapts Hamlet and the musical takes the story to another level. Female characters are given more agency, Rafiki is a female role. The non-Western, African influence is rare for Broadway and although a little campy, gives representation. Premiering in 1997, the stage production has been running for almost 10 years which shows its lasting impact. It really is stunning!

Bonus: The award for worst movie turned musical…What went wrong with possibly the most mocked movie turned musical, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark? Music by Bono, popular movie, connection the widely popular comic book culture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcrc4VdoueE 

I’d love to see a few movies turn to musicals. Some contenders include 10 things I hate about you, Napoleon Dynamite, Pulp Fiction, Donnie Darko.

Frozen is set to hit Broadway in 2018! But that’s not really a surprise, it was basically begging for it.

A Mean Girls musical was just announced too. Because who can’t quote every line?! And also the whole talent show bit was built for the stage.

I’m excited for a couple non-movie related musicals in Chicago this fall.


Next to Normal by Theater Wit

In the Heights by Porchlight at Stage 773

And what musical theatre fan isn’t excited about Hamilton in Chicago??


Do you have favorite movies turned musicals? Musicals turned movies? I’d love to hear ’em!



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