Broadway’s Next Round of Movie Adaptations (part 1)

Matthew Teague Miller

Like it or not, the wave of movie adaptations on the Broadway stage (aka Moviecals) is here and going strong.  It is not an entirely new phenomenon, dating back to things like A Little Night Music, which premiered in 1973, and 42nd Street, which premiered on Broadway in 1980, but it cannot be denied that the explosion of Moviecals in the past fifteen years has made it a viable self sustaining genre that is here to stay.  This wave has resulted in eight Tony Awards for Best Musical (The Lion King, The Producers, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hairspray, Spamalot, Billy Elliot, Once, Kinky Boots) and thousands of high school and college productions of Legally Blonde.   The current Broadway season even includes two Moviecals, School of Rock and American Psycho, as well as a major regional production of the long awaited Freaky Friday musical.  The question is not “will there be more?” but rather “what should they be?”  

The following is a list of the top five movies from each of the last three decades that would make great stage musical adaptations (part 2 will be the previous three decades).  The criteria for selection is based on 1) Heightened dramatic storytelling that would allow for the addition of songs for character’s dialogue, 2) Marketability of title to attract investors and audiences, 3) Ability to fit the show on a stage, 4) Based on my extensive research (aka a simple Google search) is there already a legal stage version being adapted (Number 4 took out many contenders including Clueless, The Princess Bride, Groundhog Day and others).


1) The Princess Diaries
What makes for a better musical than a young girl finding out she is a princess?  Julie Andrews was even in the movie, maybe we can see her back on Broadway if someone finally does this adaptation.  Once it makes it on Broadway, every high school in America will be producing this show.

2) Almost Famous
Music is already embedded in this amazing movie that tells the story of a 15-year-old boy going on the road to write a Rolling Stone piece about a rock band.   An original rock musical in the style of School of Rock would be entertaining, moving and poignant… just like the movie that it is based on. 

3) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It is entirely possible that this only made it on the list for selfish reasons because it is one of my favorite movies.  With a contemporary Indie-Rock or Folk-Rock score this could be a powerful stage play that asks people “are we better living through our pain and remembering.”


4) 13 Going on 30
All I want to say about this is… Sutton Foster’s next Tony Award.

5) 8 Mile
This movie almost did not make it on the list because it is so recognized and identified by its original star.  But with the success of Hamilton and the potential of more musicals using rap music, couldn’t this piece connect to a generation of people who aren’t yet theatre-goers?


1) Fargo
It’s entirely possible that this tragedy would make a better opera than a musical but can you not already see William H. Macy’s character singing a big ballad about killing his wife?


2) Thelma & Louise
Frank Wildhorn made a car drama work with Bonnie & Clyde, lets get him to adapt this great “sisterhood drama” into a stage musical.  Just imagine the Side Show style duets the title characters could sing together while driving in the car (yes… they’d both be belters).

3) Shawshank Redemption
Again, maybe a better opera than a musical but the emotional depth of these characters screams “make me sing!”

4) Boogie Nights
There is already a British musical called Boogie Nights but it’s a jukebox music revue from the era. How about a borderline campy musical based on the movie?

5) What about Bob?
 This dark comedy was directed by Frank Oz (the voice of Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear) and has musical sized dramatic tension.  It would be a perfect fit for the stage.


1) The Breakfast Club
There was a production of a show called “The Breakfast Club Musical” in 2010 in Chicago but it has not been done on Broadway and does not appear to have been aimed for Broadway, so the idea is still up for grabs.  Not only is this a great story about adolescence, identity and community but having a small cast of young people makes it a mountable piece at most regional theatres.  It could be gold. 

2) The Last Unicorn
This animated movie is a no-brainer for the stage and if Disney owned it it would have happened by now.  The title song is already written and is gorgeous (if you don’t already know it click this link  If you are a child of the 80s you had this on VHS and would be chomping at the bit to bring your kids to the theatre to see it today.


3) Weird Science
Ok maybe it is a little dated (two nerdy teens creating the perfect woman with their computer and her coming to life) but it is still rich with musical opportunities.  Danny Elfman’s Oingo Boingo wrote the title song for the original movie and he would be the perfect person to write an entire score.  The sexy female creation could take pop star form (aka Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus) which would only increase the music opportunities.  Who would not pay to hear/see that?

4) Weekend at Bernie’s
Best movie ever… I picture several duets with the two main guys and at least one ventriloquist number with the dead body.

5) Revenge of the Nerds
Outcasts finding community and connection were a major theme in the 80’s and are also major things people sing about in musicals, especially in big ensemble numbers.  Just picture the opening to this show where a chorus of nerds sing about their lot in life (“Hello” from Book of Mormon but with thick rimmed glasses).