Broadway has given us a number of stellar productions that stand the test of time, many of which were transformed from the stage to the big screen in movie adaptations a la The Sound of Music, RENT, West Side Story, Mamma Mia and more. However, the recent trend is to bring hit movies to Broadway in hopes of enhancing stories we already love with show tunes and dance numbers. Here are some winners and losers of flicks-turned-musicals.
Winner: The Lion King
The stage adaption of the 1994 animated Disney hit was a home run for Broadway, and continues to be a box office smash. Since its debut in 1997, the show has won five Tony awards and surpassed the Phantom of the Opera as Broadway’s highest-grossing production, with over $1 billion in sales. Elaborate costumes and makeup combined with the original music composed by Sir Elton John and Tim Rice make this show a must-see.
Will Ferrell has had tons of memorable roles in his career, but few are as beloved as Buddy in 2003’s Elf, which has become a modern holiday classic. The musical version debuted on Broadway in 2010 to commercial success, but lacked the same magic that the film manages to generate every holiday season.
Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book which spawned a 1996 movie has seen success as a stage production. Matilda’s original production began in London in 2011 to rave reviews, and found itself on Broadway within two years. The show was extremely well received, and was nominated for 12 Tony awards, winning five. The original Broadway cast’s recording of the show’s soundtrack also received a Grammy nomination. After three years on Broadway, the show is slated to close in January of 2017, so make sure to go see it before it’s too late!
For all intents and purposes, Shrek’s musical adaptation could be listed as a success. It scored a Best Musical nomination at the 2009 Tony awards, won a Tony and Drama Desk award for costume design, and featured Broadway veterans Brian d’Arcy James and Sutton Foster as the titular ogre and his Princess Fiona. However, the show cost an estimated $25 million, making it the most expensive Broadway production. After two years of performances, Shrek could not repay its initial debt, and was shut down.
Winner: A Christmas Story
When this musical made its seasonal Broadway debut in 2012, it had some big shoes to fill, as the film which it’s based on is so iconic, it runs on television for 24 straight hours each year. While die-hard fans of the movie may find a dance number with many leg lamp props to be unnecessary, the production remains true to the film’s charm and nostalgia, giving show-goers a refreshing take on the tale of the boy who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. While the show had a limited Broadway run for only one holiday season, national tours have taken place since and it was even nominated for Best Musical at the 2013 Tony awards.
Loser: Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde has sat firmly on the list of beloved chick flicks since its release in 2001, widely remembered for its endearing message that you should never judge a book by its cover along with plenty of witty, quotable lines. Unfortunately, the Broadway adaptation fails to grip audiences the same way. Original leading lady Laura Bell Bundy made for a bubbly Elle Woods, yet came off more childish than Reese Witherspoon’s take on the role. Despite impressive choreography, Legally Blonde: the Musical does not make the cut. The production was shut down after just over a year on Broadway.
Winner: Mary Poppins
Technically, this musical is adapted from the original books by P.L. Travers which were the inspiration for the Disney flick about the titular magical nanny and the London family she helps. While minor changes were made from the film, such as the absence of those gleeful dancing penguins during “Jolly Holiday,” the musical is able to still hold its own compared to the film. Backed by the award-winning music by legendary Disney composers the Sherman brothers, Mary Poppins finds its charm in the tap dance-filled “Step in Time” number. The Broadway production closed in 2013 after a seven-year run and over 2000 performances.