Before I start this list, I want to preface this by saying: I think Disney is overproduced in theatre across the board right now. Since the opening of The Lion King in 1997, not a single season on Broadway has gone by where there hasn’t been at least one Disney musical in circulation on the Great White Way (including TLK). While some have done well (Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, Newsies) and some have not (Tarzan, The Little Mermaid)--junior and school versions of almost all of these titles and more that are licensable through Music Theatre International (such as 101 Dalmations, The Jungle Book, Winnie The Pooh, Mulan, Alice In Wonderland, The Aristocats, Pinnochio, Sleeping Beauty, High School Musical and Camp Rock) there are also a lot of underrated non-musical Disney movies out there that could really benefit from a stage transfer--commercially or not. Here’s my list.
The Parent Trap
Ok, why hasn’t this happened yet? Besides the obvious difficulty of casting of two young girls who look similar enough (along with the fact that casting child actors in lead roles can be restricting enough), there’s no reason why someone shouldn’t take this up right now. The original film is charming, smart, cute tale of two twins, separated at birth reuniting their split parents together. Watching a stage adaptation would be trip down memory lane for millenials. While the original 1968 film may be a bit dated, as far as I’m concerned, the 1998 remake is still as precious and lovable as ever. Plus, young Lindsay’s English accent was so endearing. I might also suggest that if Lindsay’s feeling up to it, she would make a great cameo as the stepmother. After all, her performance in “Speed The Plow” in the UK has shown she has stage experience. The Parent Trap (1998)
Return to Oz
I’m biased, because this is my favorite Disney film--and will make any Disney-related list I ever make (regardless if it really deserves to be there or not). This film, featuring such great stage actors as Nicol Williamson and Jean Marsh, is the continuation of Dorothy’s travels in Oz with a much, much darker twist (spoiler alert: in the first thirty minutes of the film Dorothy gets shock treatment). It is based off the next two books in the Oz cannon, the Land of Oz and Ozma Of Oz, which have both had successful stage adaptations over the last several years (including The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a musical the author wrote himself in 1913 and recently, Bright New Beyond). While many elements of the story are dark, and strange--they are also fantastical and very surreal. If this adaptation was done in a very minimal, inventive Peter-And-The-Starcatcher kind of way, I think it could work wonders. Return To Oz
Saving Mr. Banks
I don’t cry at films often, but I found Saving Mr. Banks to be incredibly heart-wrenching. What better material for a stage play (or musical) than one that heavily deals with theme of artistic integrity--a topic that is up for constant debate in the theatre. Upon further research of the film, it is important to note that there are several elements that aren’t necessarily accurate in terms of what really happened, or omits several aspects of PL Travers’ life entirely such as: her bisexuality, adoption of a son who later became estranged from her, the fact that it took several years for Travers to agree to the film (and even so, she cried all throughout the premiere of Mary Poppins because she detested the final product) and lastly that upon her death she granted Disney the stage rights to Poppins on the provision that no one who worked on the original film could have any involvement. In spite of some fabrication, which one should expect in any biopic, it is a highly moving portrait of the struggle to remain faithful to one’s work and the constant pain Travels grappled with through a very traumatic and eventful childhood that she chose to deal with through storytelling. I could easily a well-penned adaptation working on a regional level, or maybe even on Broadway. Saving Mr. Banks
The fact that Hocus Pocus hasn’t received a stage adaptation is almost mind-blowing. Recently there has been an internet hoax that there is a sequel--which is unfortunately not true, so I think this would be the next best thing. This film has all the ingredients to be a stage play: the occult, camp fun, and Bette Middler. While there are two very minor musical numbers (and Bette’s fabulous rendition of “I Put A Spell On You”) this non-musical film which chronicles the adventures of the 100-year old dead witches resurrecting--The Sanderson Sisters (played by Bette, Kathy Najimi and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively)--and two children, Max and Sarah, who plan to take them down before they essentially brainwash their entire town of Salem. While some of the stage affects could take some serious inventiveness (such as witches flying through the sky) if anything, we’ve learned there’s more than one way to make witch-inspired magic work on stage from Wicked. Maybe if it were released on Broadway seasonally like The Grinch, and if we were lucky enough to get the original witches to reprise their roles (as they are all seasoned vets of the stage) this would be an overnight success for sure. Hocus Pocus $2.99 Instant Video
Like The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday is a facelift of the 1976 film with Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris (the original book written by Mary Rodgers, shame she couldn’t have been around to dramatize it!) about a mom and daughter, constantly at odds with each other, who one day wake up switched in each other’s bodies. While the remake has a pretty racist subplot featuring Anna (Lindsay) and her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) trying to get un-switched because of a fortune cookie at a Chinese Restaurant, the film has some really great laughs and not to mention some fun songs--in 2003, every preteen was jamming out to Anna’s band’s song “Take Me Away”. This one could also be fun for theatre for young audiences to teach kids to be careful what they wish for.