Top 10 Screen To Stage Musical Adaptations
The path from screen to stage hasn't always been a smooth one, and celluloid success is no guarantee of musical triumph (just ask the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark team). But London is currently awash with popular medium-jumpers, from Aladdin and The Bodyguard to critically acclaimed new musical Groundhog Day, which opened last night at the Old Vic. Here are 10 of the best screen to stage adaptations.
1. Once, Phoenix Theatre, 2013
John Carvey's exquisitely delicate film seemed antithetical to the more bombastic stage musical form, but it was memorably translated into a spellbinding, Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning show (premiering Off Broadway in 2011). Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's score found the perfect match in Enda Walsh's book, and a stripped-back staging ensured a very different theatre experience.
2. The Producers, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 2004
Mel Brooks's 1968 movie was long considered a comedy classic, and thankfully his 2001 stage adaptation more than lived up to expectation. It set a record for Tony Awards and was warmly received by audiences, particularly its original pairing of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Theatre returned the favour by sending the new musical version back to the screen in 2005.
3. Spamalot, Palace Theatre, 2006
Another beloved cult comedy, another high-stakes transfer. The memorable set-pieces of Monty Python and the Holy Grail all made their way to stage in Eric Idle's adaptation (Broadway debut 2005), but so too did spot-on industry satire, from the Lloyd Webber-spoofing "The Song That Goes Like This" to "You Won't Succeed (On Broadway)". A superb balancing of fandom nostalgia and theatrical innovation.
4. Sunset Boulevard, Adelphi Theatre, 1993
Speaking of Lloyd Webber, he joined forces with Christopher Hampton and Don Black for an enduring adaptation of Billy Wilder's 1950 film, recently revived with Glenn Close returning as fading screen star Norma Desmond. This caustic look at Hollywood celebrity was faithfully translated, with a lush score emphasising the brooding romanticism and underlying tragedy.
5. Billy Elliot the Musical, Victoria Palace Theatre, 2005
Stephen Daldry and Peter Darling, director and choreographer respectively of the superb 2000 film, returned for Lee Hall and Elton John's excellent stage version. It emphasised even more effectively the tension between ballet-mad, working-class Billy's personal journey and the plight of his local mining community, as well as using dance to drive narrative and provide vital self-expression.
6. The Lion King, Lyceum Theatre, 1999
Disney proved just as unstoppable on stage with this wonderfully realised adaptation of their animated hit, still going strong. Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer's music, infused with African rhythms, formed the backbone, but Julie Taymor's production (Broadway debut 1997) was brought to life by the extraordinary costumes, stilt work and puppetry: animals rendered as graceful, visceral, jaw-dropping beings.
7. Hairspray, Shaftesbury Theatre, 2007
If more uncomplicatedly upbeat than John Waters' slyly subversive 1988 film, there's no denying the sheer joy of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's infectious score, and the key contributions of director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell to this rocket-powered hit (Broadway debut 2002). Another one to go full circle, returning to screen in all-singing, all-dancing form in 2007.
8. Grey Gardens, Southwark Playhouse, 2016
That rarer documentary-to-musical theatre hit, the Maysles brothers' riveting 1975 work about two eccentric recluses - cousin and aunt of Jackie Kennedy - was skilfully adapted by Scott Frankel, Michael Korie and Doug Wright (Broadway debut 2006). The stage version provides a backstory, demonstrating how the society ladies withdrew from the world, and, through a neat double-casting trick, the cyclical nature of toxic mother/daughter relationships.
9. Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre, 2015
Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein provided a poppy, feel-good version of this 2005 British indie film, beating fellow adaptation Matilda to the Tony. The show (Broadway debut 2013) embraced heart-warming themes of overcoming prejudice and following your dreams, as well as the toe-tapping potential of numbers fuelled by fierce drag queens (and their fabulous footwear).
10. An American in Paris, Dominion Theatre, March 2017The lauded stage version of Vincente Minnelli's luminous 1951 film premiered on Broadway in 2015, and is heading our way next year. Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon smartly assembled a creative dream team, from Rob Fisher's arrangements of Gershwin and playwright Craig Lucas's beefed-up script to Bob Crowley's dazzling design and performances combining talents from the worlds of musical theatre and ballet.
Photo credit: Matt Crocket, Manuel Harlan, Richard Hubert Smith