Words by: Danelle Go / GIFs by: Kathleen Yap
A little over a month after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original hit In The Heights was given a release date (2020, people! Take note!), and almost a month following the 72nd Annual Tony Awards, the spotlight continues to shine on the musical theater community. Especially in more recent years, with cultural phenomena like Hamilton, or timely pieces like Dear Evan Hansen, or even pop culture tributes like Mean Girls, Broadway (or West End, or wherever else musical theater has established as their homes) is just the gift that keeps on giving.
With large crowds gathering at theaters around the world and with the variety of plays and musicals available to the public, the next step has been to get one’s musical to reach an even wider range of audiences: through the magic of cinema. In The Heights is just one of the most recent examples of popular Broadway musicals turned (or…about to turn into) movies. Here are a few of our personal favorites that have hit the stage, cinema, and every note in our heart:
8 Stellar Musicals That Went From Stage to Screen
8. A Chorus Line
Though not the most popular of the items on the list, this musical, which first hit the stage 1975 before the screen 10 years later, actually holds a beautiful story of love, passion, and the truth behind some of the most hardworking people in the business: the chorus. Learning backup vocals and mass choreography is definitely not easy, and A Chorus Line perfectly shines a light on some of the most hardworking people in the industry and how they sacrifice everything to do what they love most.
On Broadway, Chicago continues to be the longest-running American musical, coming up at around 22 years since the arrival of the 1996 revival. In its film version, this 2003 Academy Award winner for Best Picture is just as razzle-dazzling as the stage version. With stunning choreography, killer vocals by the leads both on stage and on screen, this is just one of those all-time American greats (provocative, but great nonetheless).
On stage, this 6-time Tony-winning (out of 13 nominations!) musical is nothing short of stunning from costumes to musical numbers to the core of its story about the drama and cutthroat tendencies of the R&B industry during the 1960s/1970s. Inspired by true events, Dreamgirls (which is actually still on London’s West End stage) reached an even wider audience on screen featuring huge stars like Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson (just as she emerged from her time on American Idol), Eddie Murphy, and Jaime Foxx, and until now remains iconic and beloved.
Leave it to this musical to leave an everlasting message of mortality, love, and hope, both on stage and on screen. Rent first made waves because of its controversial themes and unorthodox style; but eventually, because of the incredible music produced by writer Jonathan Larson, people began to appreciate it for what it truly was. Soon enough, this led to a film remake, starring 6 out of 8 of the original Broadway cast, and allowing this message to be immortalized by the medium of cinema.
4. Mamma Mia
For a feel-good story about love and family combined with the pop-disco tunes of Abba, Mamma Mia fits the bill! Over the years, from London to New York City, millions of people have grabbed the chance to catch a show; and though its 14-year run on Broadway came to an end back in 2015, it still brings crowds on their feet at London’s West End. On the other hand, the film version starring the iconic Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried (among other names in the cast) became a cult classic, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2008. It did so well that they even decided to produce a sequel (catch Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in cinemas July 18) bringing it to beloved audiences yet again!
Fun fact about this item on our list: Hairspray actually originated as a movie! The first movie was released in 1988 and because of its moderate success in cinemas, it led to a stage adaptation. This musical then went on to win 8 Tonys, and even returned to the screen in 2007 featuring a young Zac Efron and a few other stars like Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, and John Travolta. What makes this story so popular is the way it combines societal issues like race and equality with a meaningful score, heartfelt story, and some killer choreography.
2. The Last Five Years
Definitely one of the more underrated musicals (and by far, one of my personal favorites), The Last Five Years is not your typical boy falls in and out of love with girl type of scenario. With its clever storytelling techniques, unique plot, and amazingly wonderful music; it’s the type of art that you come by once in a blue moon. Though it never hit Broadway and only remained off-Broadway both during its original run in 2002 and in its revival in 2013, it was turned into a film in 2015 starring Anna Kendrick (yes, Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick) and Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl’s own Winn Schott). So if you haven’t already listened to this incredible musical, open your Spotify and do so ASAP! (Personal preference: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; the way Anna and Jeremy emote through their singing is just breath-taking!)
1. Les Misérables
From being one of the most important pieces of literature written by Victor Hugo to passing through several forms of film and even radio adaptations to the very first stage adaptation in France in 1980, which led to London 1985 and Broadway 1987, to the musical film-adaptation in 2012; Les Misérables has been through a lot. This story has come time and time again to reintroduce Jean Valjean and his quest at redemption after years of pain and suffering. Whether you’re watching it as a masterpiece on stage, or the incredible Academy Award-nominated film adaptation, this story and its timeless themes will continue to go on, one day more.
What are some of your favorite musicals-turned-movies? Or are you still waiting for some of your favorite musicals to hit the screens? Talk to us!