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Not just books, even movies inspire stage plays

  • October 10 19:27 PM

Adapting a play for a movie is nothing new. World cinema has numerous such examples where a successful play has transformed into a blockbuster film. However, it’s not very often that a movie is adapted for stage. India is treading this territory with its latest adaptation of K Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-e-azam. The play, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, will be premiered in Mumbai this month. Though Indian audiences have not witnessed many plays adapted from movies, Hollywood has been creating films from theatre for ages now. Here’s a list of some successful films, which were translated much successfully on stage…

The Wizard of Oz

This 1939 movie has inspired several musicals. One was allowed to use the songs from the movie but not any of the dialogue that wasn't in the original book. The most recent, in 2011, was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and included several new songs.

Mary Poppins

This is a 1964 American musical fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney, with songs written and composed by the Sherman Brothers. The film, which combines live-action and animation, had Julie Andrews in the role of Mary Poppins. The theatre adaptation is a musical with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers, with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a script by Julian Fellowes.

High School Musical

This 2006 American teen-romantic comedy musical has three parts. The trilogy was directed by Kenny Ortega, who is also famous for directing Hocus Pocus. It became the most successful film that Disney Channel Original Movie ever produced till that year. Also, it is the first and only Disney movie to have a theatrical sequel. The play has quickly become a very popular choice for high school musical theatre productions.


Released in 2001, Shrek won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. So much is the popularity of this character that a wax statue of Shrek has been installed at Madame Taussad’s in London. Shrek The Musical (music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire) is an adaptation of the film as a stage musical. It opened on Broadway in 2008 after a trial run in Seattle. Multiple touring productions have followed, and it is now available for independent productions.

Catch Me If You Can

This 2002 Steven Spielberg film was based on the life of the teenage con artist Frank Abagnale Jr whose humdrum life is disturbed when his father goes bankrupt and his parent’s divorce. Frank, who already showed a talent for mimicry, embarks on a new life as a teenaged con artist. The film starred Leonardo DiCaprio, as Frank Jr and Tom Hanks as FBI agent Carl Hanratty, who is chasing Frank. The musical of this film with a theatrical score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman was first performed in 2009 in Seattle. Later it opened at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre in April 2011. The production received four Tony Awards nominations.

Dirty Dancing

This 1987 romantic starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze became a sleeper hit making stars of the actors. The film was adapted for the stage in 2004 as a musical, Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage. It was written by Eleanor Bergstein and had the same songs as the film, plus a few extra scenes. Although reviews were mixed, the production was a commercial success, selling over 200,000 tickets during its six-month run. It has also had sellout runs in Germany and in London's West End, where it opened at the Aldwych Theatre in 2006 with the highest pre-sell in London history, earning £6 million!


Big is a 1988 film produced by James L. Brooks and directed by Penny Marshall, starring Tom Hanks as a 13-year-old boy in the body of a 30-something man. In 1996, the film was made into a musical for the Broadway stage. It featured music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr, and a book by John Weidman. Directed by Mike Ockrent, and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it opened 1996.

Rain Man

This 1988 American road comedy-drama film was directed by Barry Levinson, which starred Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the lead roles. It tells the story of an abrasive and selfish young wheeler-dealer, Charlie Babbitt who discovers that his estranged father has died and bequeathed all of his multimillion-dollar estate to his other son, Raymond, an autistic savant, of whose existence Charlie was unaware. Hollywood star Josh Hartnett made his London theatre debut in Rain Man playing Charlie Babbitt.

Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots, named for the song of the same name by the actors from the old 1960s The Avengers Live-Action TV show, is the story of Charlie Price, who inherits his father's shoe factory upon his death. Though not very keen to keep the factory, he doesn’t want it to fail either. Lola, a 6-foot-5, black Drag Queen, offers her a rescue plan asking Charlie to make footwear for Drag Queens. The only way for the factory to have a shot at this niche market is to make a splash at the Milan Shoe Expo. Rest is the journey about how he manages to secure a place for this dwindling enterprise. A musical Screen-to-Stage Adaptation, with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, opened on Broadway in 2013 and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.