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Some of my favourite screen to stage musical adaptations

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

This past month there has been a surge of releases for movie musicals. We’ve seen Timothee Chalamet don a top hat to take on Gene Wilder’s iconic role as Willy Wonka, the film adaptation of the Mean Girls musical with Renee Rapp returning as Regina George, and a powerful retelling of The Colour Purple. As well, anticipation is high for the 2-part film adaptations of Wicked, one of the most popular Broadway shows that will finally be getting a big screen treatment.

While musical films aren’t known to have quite big box office successes (this strategy was ultimately used for the marketing of the Mean Girls movie so audiences couldn’t tell it was a musical), musical theatre nerds like myself are always excited to see one of our favourite stage productions get Hollywood treatment as it’s not always possible for us to see a performance of it in-person. However, many popular Broadway musicals are already adapted from famous screenplays or novels. While some of these movies may already be musicals, some don’t even include any songs at all! Here are some of my favourite screen-to-stage adaptations.


Beetlejuice the Musical premiered on Broadway in 2019, and was met with critical acclaim for its unique set design, make-up, and costumes. This is the second of Tim Burton’s films to be adapted as a stage musical, with the first being “Big Fish.” While the musical remains true to the classic horror-comedy film, it also integrates a modern twist into it and puts more of a focus on Winona Ryder’s character, Lydia Deetz, as she navigates grief. Alex Brightman also portrayed the title character of Beetlejuice hilariously and even does a great impersonation of Michael Keaton’s voice for the original character. Two of the film’s well-known songs, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jump in the Line” by Harry Belafonte, are also included in the show. Having been a big success on Broadway and closing its doors last year, I would love to see more Tim Burton films get the Broadway treatment.


I was fortunate enough to see this on stage during its recent North American tour, and it did not disappoint! Hairspray is captivating from start to finish and its overall design is very vibrant and bold. This musical has had both a film adaptation in 2007 and an NBC live television special presented with an all-star cast, however, the roots of this musical are based on John Waters’ 1988 comedy of the same name to address the themes of inclusivity and accessibility. Each of the songs are catchy and are reminiscent to popular 60s tunes, and the show itself is filled with witty humor. This show in my opinion is probably one of the most light-hearted and flashy that have come to Broadway, and it has gained a large amount of fans over the years.

Little Shop of Horrors

If you’re a plant-lover, you’ll either grow to appreciate this musical or become suspicious that your venus flytrap could somehow inherit the ability to talk and swallow you whole. Little Shop of Horrors is both an upbeat but murderous story following the consequences of greed, and was initially based on the 1960 horror film of the same name. While this show first premiered in the 80s, it returned back to off-Broadway in 2019 and has had many big names filling in the shoes of its characters over the years, including Broadway native Jeremy Jordan, High School Musical‘s Corbin Bleu, and Euphoria‘s Maude Apatow. Throughout the years, it has received critical acclaim through its creative use of puppetry for the Audrey II plant.

Legally Blonde

In my opinion, Legally Blonde has had the best musical adaptation as far as chick flicks go. Not only does it not steer too far away from the movie itself, it also dives deeper into areas of the movie that weren’t portrayed. Some of my favourite additions are the stronger focus on Elle and Emmett’s relationship, and Vivienne being the one to convince Elle to return to Brooke’s court case. Like the movie, the entire show is light-hearted and cheerful, which is reflected in its very pink set design and costume choices. The message that the movie portrayed is still very evident throughout the show, as we watch Elle remain true to herself and persevere.

Do you have any favourite movie-to-stage musicals that weren’t included on this list? Let us know!

Audrey is double majoring in Journalism and Communication & Media Studies. She's been involved with Her Campus Carleton since her first year, and has written pieces about lifestyle, entertainment, food, and campus life. In addition to Her Campus, she has also done reporting for The Charlatan, Capital Current, and Roots Music Canada. When she's not busy writing, Audrey loves discovering new movies to add to her Letterboxd watchlist, geeking out over musical theatre, trying new restaurants in Ottawa, and anything vintage.