We all know there are films made from successful musicals and musicals made from successful films, but did you know about the spinning wheels of musical films based on stage musicals that were based on regular films? If you are confused don’t fear, we were too. Here is a small list of musical films that were based on stage musicals, which were based on a film in the first place.
1. Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
Okay, so the first movie turned to musical turned into a musical movie we would like to highlight today is a movie made for television. No matter though, a movie is a movie no matter the medium in which we watch and this movie musical had a long road before premiering on Showtime in April of 2005. The final work starred Kristen Bell, John Kassir, and Christian Campbell, who were all reprising their stage roles.
Alan Cumming joined the cast for the television musical movie along with Ana Gasteyer. First, the original movie Reefer Madness was released in the mid-1930s, which attempted to scare teenagers from smoking marijuana. In 1998, the story was recreated by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney as a stage musical, which officially opened in Los Angeles.
The stage musical version of Reefer Madness moved to an Off-Broadway location in 2001 but didn’t stay open for long. Besides the movie musical that appeared on cable, this musical has been recreated by amateur, student, and professional groups in places like Toronto, Seattle, Charleston, London, and Sacramento.
The trail of this story is an interesting one indeed. It began as a low-budget film, written and directed by John Waters, a man whose name is as synonymous with the term “cult classic” as his legendary films. There is no doubt that Hairspray, officially released in 1988, is Water’s most popular tale, following a teen named Tracy Turnblad, who is overweight but becomes not only comfortable with her own body image but even celebrates it.
Waters story also raises the questions surrounding racism by challenging the ideology of segregation in one American city, Baltimore, Maryland. The success of Hairspray has lasted, in many underground circles around the world, for decades since its release and ultimately a group of smart folks decided to recreate it into a stage musical. Producer Margo Lion was the first to contact Water’s for use of the story, who agreed, in 1998.
It opened on Broadway in August of 2002 and won eight Tony Awards the next year. The production ran for more than 2,500 shows, and then toured the country, ultimately landing on London’s West End. Of course, this is a list of movie musicals made from stage musicals made from movies, and in 2007 the movie version of the musical was released. It starred John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken. Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, and Nikki Blonsky as Tracy.
3. The Producers
Mel Brooks, one of America’s most revered and respected men of comedy, wrote a movie that was released in 1968. That movie was The Producers. It starred Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Dick Shawn, and Kenneth Mars. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for that year. Just like Hairspray, this Mel Brooks film was an instant hit.
Many years later, recording industry magnate David Geffen felt this story needed to be a stage musical. He spoke to Brooks, who agreed, and the comedian began to adapt it for the stage including writing some songs. It opened at the St. James Theatre in April of 2001 and it also ran for more than 2,500 performances.
Broadway staples Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane starred in the stage musical and subsequently, took on their roles for the next film, the movie musical, which was released in 2005. Other notable stars in the later film version include Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, and Jon Lovitz. Unfortunately, the 2005 film version of the stage musical, which was adapted from another film, didn’t fare well, barely breaking even at the box office.
4. Beauty and the Beast
If you live in any area within the reach of Walt Disney Pictures, you know that the latest version of this story was released on March 17, 2017. Yet, this tale as old as time has been told many times before, many more times than the other films from musicals from films on our list. It all began with a woman in France by the name of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve back in the mid-1700s, on paper that is.
Word has it this tale has been making its round in oratory circles throughout Europe for more than 4,000 years. Not only that, the widely popular Walt Disney animated version was not the first time this story was adapted to film. There have been so many it would take the rest of this article to list them all. The first was by French director Jean Cocteau in 1946, and since then there have been dozens more.
Yet the 1991 animated version dazzled millions, including us, and it didn’t take long for creators to adapt the story for the Broadway stage. After tryouts in Houston, the musical stage version of Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in 1994. Since then this stage musical has been produced in nearly every city in the world. From Seoul to Helsinki to Moscow and then Buenos Aires, Beauty and the Beast is a tale for everyone to love.
5. Billy Elliot the Musical Live
In 2014, a live filmed production of this Elton John creation aired to other theaters in numerous countries throughout Europe. It was then screened around the world later that same year. However, this is not where it all started.
Billy Elliot was originally a drama written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry released in September of 2000. This film tells the tale of a young boy who finds himself loving ballet dancing. Of course, his blue-collar testosterone filled community and household has a hard time adjusting to this passion. On top of that, Billy has a young male friend who enjoys dressing like a girl.
This original film touches on transgender issues and gender identities in such a sweet and subtle way, it makes perfect sense to us why anyone would want to take it and turn it into a musical. Elton John and Lee Hall undertook that task and created a show so successful it has had productions around the world including places like Oslo, Athens, and Tel Aviv.
The original London production was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards in 2006, taking home the prize for several including Best New Musical. The Broadway staging won all ten of the Drama Desk Awards it was nominated for including Outstanding Musical and it won a cavalcade of Tony Awards in 2009 including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations.