The musical genre is constantly growing: whether we’re talking about Broadway in New York, the West End in London, or the various national and international tours, the world is now facing a real musical-mania!
Over the years, inspirations for this genre have often been drawn from movies or, on the contrary, they have inspired a film adaptation. This allows fans to be able to see some of the most famous musicals of all time easily in cinemas or at home (thanks to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+), and compare them to the theatrical version.
But what are the most successful movie and stage musicals? What are the most anticipated adaptations? And above all…If you would like to discover more about them, what are the ones that need to be seen on stage, and the equally valid on-screen ones?
Entire generations of children (and not only)have dreamed (and still are dreaming) with Disney animated movies. So, rightfully, they couldn’t but be a great source of inspiration for musicals! Among the most famous ones, we find:
THE LION KING
The iconic 1994 movie inspired this musical, which, after its debut on Broadway in 1997 (and after having won six Tony Awards), became Broadway’s third longest-running show in history. The colorful set and costumes (in addition to the memorable songs, obviously) are definitely worth the ticket’s money.
The team – Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin –who made the music and lyrics of the 1992 animated movie, returned to turn this classic into a musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2011. This too is strongly recommended, especially for the masterful interpretation of the Genie!
One of the most beloved Disney movies of recent times has been adapted into a musical in 2017 by the same team (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Jennifer Lee) who made the animated movie. The musical features 13 new songs, all to be discovered! Plus: Elsa’s stage change of dress while she is singing “Let It Go” is simply amazing.
Are you a Dancing Queen or an Abba fan? If yes, then you can’t miss this musical, which debuted in London in 1999 with the title of one of the Swedish band’s most famous songs, filled with ‘60s-’70s costumes and music that will make you dance. The 2008 movie of the same name, which features an outstanding cast including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, and Julie Walters, had a sequel in 2018.
Who remembers a very young Christian Bale as the protagonist of the “Newsies” movie (1992), directed by Kenny Ortega with the music of Alan Menken?! Well, that movie, inspired by the real riot of the New York newsies in the late 1800s, inspired a musical that debuted on Broadway in 2012. However, you just need to go to Disney+ to see both the movie and a recording of the original musical production, and let yourself be carried away by the engaging songs and ballets!
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
And what a Superstar, since this famous rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice has been on at least in one theater in the world for the last 45 years! The story follows the last week of Jesus Christ’s life, made contemporary thanks to the opera’s modern allusions and subtle irony. The 1973 movie features the original Broadway cast. Little known fact: before being released in Italy, the film was privately presented to Pope Paul VI who, as stated by the lead actor Ted Neeley, was pleasantly impressed by it!
“One representation more:” This is how we could adapt the title one of the most famous songs of this musical, set between 1815 and 1832 in France and based on the historical novel by Victor Hugo. It is the longest-running show in the West End and the second in the world after “The Fantasticks.” It has won 3 Olivier Awards and 7 Tony Awards. The story has inspired several movies and TV series but the most famous musical adaptation is definitely that of 2012, which includes in the cast names such as Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, and Helena Bonham Carter and has won 4 Oscars.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
With one of the most famous overtures of all time and written by master Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was inspired by Gaston Leroux’s book of the same name, the Phantom has been charming the audience of the world’s most famous theaters since 1986. The 2004 film, starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, did not get a lot of positive reviews, despite having a good box office success. The most famous theatrical pair of performers is the one composed by Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess.
That kind of success for a musical has not been seen in ages: “Hamilton,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and focused on the life and career of the founding father Alexander Hamilton, won 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and grossed 300 million with pre-sale tickets before its debut, which took place at the end of 2015 on Broadway. Recently, the musical landed in London. The fans (and so to be fans) will have the chance to see a recording version of the musical, with the original cast of the musical on Disney+ from July 3rd! “Wait For It” 😉
Whoever says that s/he has never been dragged by the songs of this musical at least once in their life is lying! After debuting on stage in 1971, in 1978 the story of Rydell High School students, and particularly of the couple, Danny and Sandy, landed on the big screen (with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as the protagonists), becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Even nowadays, it is considered one of the most successful musicals and movies of all time.
The iconic 2001 movie, directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as the dancer Satine and the penniless writer Christian, is considered to be the one that led to the “rebirth” of the musical genre in cinema. With its soundtrack composed by iconic pop music reinterpreted by the cast, it made the whole world dreaming, and singing. In 2019, the musical version debuted on Broadway, and it was a huge success!
This rock musical, written by Jonathan Larson and based on Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème” debuted on Broadway in 1996, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This musical has consecrated the genre among the new generations: it tells the story of a group of young artists in New York and it touches themes such as AIDS, drugs, and homosexuality. It is the eighth longest-running show on Broadway. In 2005, Chris Columbus directed the film adaptation, in which six of the eight original cast members who played the protagonists reprised their roles on the big screen.
“On Wednesdays, we wear pink and… We Sing!” The 2004 comedy movie starring the high-school student Cady (Lindsay Lohan) struggling with the evil group of the Plastics (Amanda Seyfried, Rachel McAdams, and Lacey Chabert), inspired a musical that opened on Broadway in 2018. Tina Fey wrote the script for both adaptations. What’s the result? Laughter is ensured regardless of the version you choose to see!
A musical, a legend. Directed by Bob Fosse, with music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, it focuses on the rivalry/friendship of the two dancers Velma and Roxie while in prison (where they are both held for killing their partners), in 1920s Chicago. The musical opened on Broadway in 1965 with performers Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera as the protagonist, but it was the 1990s revival that turned it into one of the best-known shows and the American musical with the highest number of performances, both on Broadway and in London. The 2002 movie, directed by Rob Marshall, was as successful as the stage adaptation, winning six Academy Awards! The cast includes Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.
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WEST SIDE STORY
This musical, with its complex themes (including social and racial issues), sophisticated music, and unforgettable dance clips, is perhaps one of the most famous and contemporary of all time. With a book by Arthur Laurents, words by the legendary Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein, and inspired by the drama “Romeo and Juliet,” the story is about the rivalry between two teenage gangs, Sharks and Jets in 1950s New York. Tony and Maria, belonging to two different gangs, fall in love with each other, kicking off a whole series of events that define this musical.
The original production won three Tony Awards and the musical continues to perform around the world through its many revivals. The 1961 movie adaptation, directed by Robbins and Robert Wise and starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, won 10 Academy Awards out of 11 nominations, becoming the most awarded musical movie of all time. The remake by Steven Spielberg, starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as the protagonists, will be released in cinemas in December 2020.
IN THE HEIGHTS
Before “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda composed the music for another successful musical, “In the Heights”, which tells the story of the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York through the eyes of the young Usnavi. The musical that opened on Broadway in 2008 and was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards, winning four, was adapted into a movie by Jon M. Chu and it is scheduled to be released in June 2021. The role of Usnavi, initially played by Miranda himself, is played in the movie by Anthony Ramos who originally played Miranda/Hamilton’s son, the young Philip, in “Hamilton.” A real family affair!
Did you know that “The Wizard of Oz” has a prequel? At least, he has theatrically speaking, and it’s one of the most seen musicals in the world, the second longest-running show on Broadway. Inspired by Gregory Maguire’s novel, which stars the witches Glinda and Elphaba, it holds the record for the largest opening ever in the West End. In 2021, there should be the release of the movie adaptation: who will take over the roles of the impeccable Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth?!
DEAR EVAN HANSEN
This musical, which focuses on the themes of mental illness, suicide, and adolescent depression, was a real revelation. The story stars Evan Hansen, a high-school student who suffers from social phobia and who, after the suicide of a schoolmate, pretends to be his long-time friend to bring the family of the deceased closer together and win over the girl of his dreams. After its Broadway debut in 2016, the musical won six Tony Awards, including best lead actor, earned by Ben Platt, who’s considered one of the most promising talents in musicals.
It has just been announced that a movie adaptation is on its way: Ben Platt will reprise his role, while actress Kaitlyn Dever is in talks for playing his female counterpart, Zoe (originally played by Laura Dreyfuss, who also worked alongside Platt in “The Politician”).
Considered one of the most lively and cheerful musicals of recent times, “The Prom” (which debuted on Broadway in 2018) follows the story of a group of Broadway veterans who, when their careers seem to be over, decides to devote themselves to a social cause: they decide then to help a girl from Indiana to bring her girlfriend to prom.
We didn’t have to wait long for a movie adaptation: Ryan Murphy is directing it for Netflix, which is expected to be available on the platform at the end of 2020. The cast includes Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, and Andrew Rannells and expectations are very high!
Almost everyone knows Roald Dahl’s book “Matilda” and the 1996 movie starring Mara Wilson and Danny DeVito that focuses on the brilliant and “magical” Matilda. The story inspired a musical that debuted in 2011 on West End and, in 2013, on Broadway. It has won 7 Oliver Awards (becoming the most-winning musical in history, tying with “Hamilton”) and 5 Tony Awards. The musical is still running today in London, while it closed last year in New York.
A movie adaptation based on the musical is currently in production, but the release date is still unknown: Ralph Fiennes will play Miss Trunchbull, while Jodie Comer is expected to play Miss Honey.