Kneehigh Theatre’s award-winning adaptation of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter returns to London this week, appearing live on stage and on the screen at the Empire Cinema Haymarket. Debuting in 2007, Emma Rice’s (Romantics Anonymous, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) production has toured the globe and opened to dazzling reviews on Broadway, winning the hearts of audiences and critics alike.
To celebrate one of the most beloved films of all time coming to the stage, we present our rundown of the best screen-to-stage adaptations of all time.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, Doctor Strange) donned a pair of sexy red leather boots to play drag queen Lola who helps straight-laced Charlie (Joel Edgerton) to look at the world from a different perspective. The film was based on the true story of a Northamptonshire factory who changed their angle and catered to the male market for fetish footwear under the “Divine” brand.
The 2005 film featured a couple of diegetic musical numbers, but was just screaming for the fully-fledged Broadway treatment. The musical debuted in 2012 with a score penned by pop icon Cyndi Lauper (‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, ‘Time After Time’, ‘True Colours’) and scintillating choreography from Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde).
The 2016 Olivier Award winner for Best New Musical is still going strong at the Adelphi Theatre, chock full of drag queens and catchy songs like ‘The Sex Is In The Heel’, ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ and the uplifting anthem ‘Just Be’.
Jack Black’s (Shallow Hal, Kung Fu Panda) biggest role to date was in the 2003 film where he played Dewey Finn, a slacker who impersonates his roommate to try and earn some extra cash. Although unqualified in his role as a teacher at a prestigious prep school, Dewey ends up teaching some heartwarming lessons to his talented class, and learning from them in the process. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version, currently playing at the New London Theatre, features a cast of hugely talented kids who act, sing AND play their own instruments.
Funnily enough, Lloyd Webber was credited as a composer in the end credits of the original film, as the Cats classic ‘Memory’ was sung by one of the musically gifted students.
Sara Bareilles stopped writing hits like ‘Love Song’, ‘Gravity’ and ‘Brave’ to turn her hand to musical theatre, bringing this cult independent 2007 film starring Kerri Russel (Felicity, The Americans) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle), to a whole new audience.
The eponymous waitress is Jenna, who uses baking as a distraction from her unhappy marriage, and is saving up to enter a pie contest, hoping she can use the winnings to leave her husband and start a new life. Her world is turned upside down when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant and falls in love with her gynaecologist.
Bareilles herself has played the title role, and it’s recently been announced that Karen Cartwright herself, Smash’s Katharine McPhee, will be taking over. Jason Mraz (‘I’m Yours’ ‘I Won’t Give Up’) made his Broadway debut in the show, and Keala Settle starred as Jenna’s sassy best friend before donning a beard for The Greatest Showman. We’re hoping the show crosses the pond soon.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this show about Peggy Sawyer’s journey from “fresh off the bus” to Broadway stardom was made for the theatre, but it took 47 years for the 1933 film to make its way to the stage. Pop legend Lulu has just been cast as prima donna Dorothy Brock, taking over from Sheena Easton in the current West End revival at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The most infamous flop in the history of musical theatre. Based in equal parts on the 1976 film and the Stephen King novel that inspired it, the ill-fated musical followed the story of the telekinetic teenager and her religious fanatic mother, and included the famous prom scene happening live on stage.
Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and starring Broadway legend Betty Buckley, the show was all set to be a big hit, until receiving boos at the curtain call of its first preview. When the financial backers pulled their money out of the show within a week of opening night, Carrie went down in history as being the most expensive Broadway flop of all time. The only person to come out unscathed was Linzi Hately, only 17 at the time, making her Broadway debut in her first professional role, who shot to stardom and has been a mainstay on the West End stage ever since.
The show came to London for the first time in 2015, with an extensively rewritten book and score, garnering positive reviews when it played at the Southwark Playhouse.
Just like Hairspray, Mel Brooks’ The Producers got the film-to-stage-then-back-to-film treatment, making ‘Springtime for Hitler’ a musical in a musical film, based on the musical in a musical of a non-musical film, which makes our brains hurt a bit.
Mel Brooks’ 1967 directorial debut follows the story of a washed-up producer inspired by his accountant to make a fortune from creating the biggest flop Broadway has ever seen. Things don’t quite go to plan when the tasteless extravaganza gets mistaken for satire and becomes the toast of the town. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder played the producers of the title, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick filling their shoes, both in the original Broadway cast and the 2005 film remake.
We couldn’t talk about parodies without mentioning this show, “lovingly ripped-off” from the classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, voted one of the funniest films of all time. An irreverent parody of Arthurian legends, this Tony Award for Best Musical winner had book and lyrics written by original Python Eric Idle, and John Du Prez’s original score joining the songs from the film, as well as Life of Brian classic ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.
The shoe features all the classic moments from the film, as well as many references to other Monty Python sketches, alongside tons of musical theatre in-jokes. A string of famous faces have taken on the role of King Arthur over the years, including Tim Curry, Simon Russel Beale, Marcus Brigstocke and Sanjeev Bhaskar. A brand new production is currently touring the UK and has audiences rolling in the aisles.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Flying car. Enough said.
Elton John and Lee Hall’s musical ran for over ten years at the Victoria Palace, current home of smash-hit Hamilton, and did so well, it’s easy to forget it was a film to start off with. The show broke the record for the most nominations at the 2009 Tony Awards, a record only broken by Hamilton.
Opening in the West End later this month, the stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 debut film has already received great reviews across Australia and at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It has been extensively rewritten for its London run, with the addition of a brand new character played by Will Young.
Technically, Strictly Ballroom was a stage play first, produced by Luhrmann whilst still a student. It follows maverick professional ballroom dancer Scott, who breaks the rules of competition to follow his heart, who teams up with the left-footed Fran. The musical features original material written for the stage, as well as all the classic numbers from the film, which we got a sneak peek of earlier this year.
What’s your favourite screen-to-stage adaptation? What films do you want to see come to a theatre near you? And which films should stay on the silver screen? Let us know via: