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Screen-to-Stage Adaptation

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Blank Paper: ...More recently, musicals have been based on movies like My Favorite Year, Footloose, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Big, Saturday Night Fever, The Wedding Singer, The Full Monty, The Producers (inhales) Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hairspray, Beauty and the Beast, Billy Elliot, Spamalot
Jeff: Wow! So movies make good musicals?
Blank Paper: Well, they make musicals.

It's usually the case that hit plays get turned into movies. But more and more nowadays, the opposite is happening, with films being translated for the stage. Some say it's a sign of intellectual bankruptcy in theatre. Hollywood has the same problem, but there are a lot more new successful movies in the last two decades than new successful plays. So the stealing ends up being one way.


These are usually musicals even when they weren't in the first place (see All Musicals Are Adaptations); Adaptation Decay usually occurs here. Movie musicals are also frequently adapted for the stage, and these tend to acquire additional songs in the stage version.

This trope can be taken one step further, by going from movie, to stage musical, to Recursive Adaptation movie-of-the-stage-musical.

Inversion of The Film of the Play.

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    Film musicals adapted for the stage 

    Stage musicals based on non-musical films (original film in parenthesis if necessary) 

    Non-musical stage adaptations of movies 
  • Calendar Girls: Originally a true story, the tale of a group of WI members' creation of a nude calendar to benefit a local cancer ward was first made into a film, and then the film was adapted by Tim Firth into a stage play.
  • Clue: The Play
    • Sadly, there is to date no commercially available stage adaptation of the film. A few players have obtained special permission, and any other performance was and would be technically illegal. There is a musical stage version, but it has nothing to do with the film.
  • How to Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968): The public domain status, and relatively low budget the film had makes it an easy and convincing transfer onto stage.
  • The 39 Steps is a Played for Laughs adaptation of the 1935 film The 39 Steps that uses just four actors! (Although it was originally a novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps.)
  • The Man from Earth
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again: Created for amateur stagings in The '80s, this is a Pragmatic Adaptation that scales down the action but preserves the style and tone of the film.
  • Point Break Live! is a tongue-in-cheek retelling that uses an audience member to fill Keanu Reeves's role (dialogue is provided on cue cards).
  • 12 Angry Men: Technically, it was a play before it was a movie. However, it started as a teleplay on CBS' Studio One program, and the two versions have almost exactly the same script. The movie has an extra, very short, intro scene.

Stage musicals based on manga and/or anime (these tend to be series of musicals that follow successive story arcs):

Special Mention

Stage adaptations from other sources:

  • The Addams Family: officially adapted from the original comic strip rather than TV show, though the producers did obtain permission to use the show's famous Theme Tune in the score.
  • Happy Days: a New Musical
  • Kingdom Hearts actually has unofficial stage adaptations done in Germany by the performing group Tsuki no Senshi. They did adaptations for the original Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
  • It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman
  • In the 1980s there were two stage adaptations of The BBC Scotland sitcom City Lights, starring the original cast.
  • Doctor Who stage plays include Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday (1974) and Doctor Who — The Ultimate Adventure (1989). The earliest—and possibly Ur-Example—is The Curse of the Daleks, written by Terry Nation and David Whitaker, from 1965. The episode "Midnight" was also adapted to the stage in a small student production.
  • In Japan, some particularly popular games have received screen-to-stage adaptations of their own, such as Persona 4 Visualive, which adapts a chunk of the game's story to stage; and Phantasy Star Online 2 -ON STAGE-, which features an original story based on the game.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants received a Broadway musical, The Spongebob Musical, with a score composed by many famous artists, including Aerosmith, They Might Be Giants, The Flaming Lipsnote , John Legend, Lady Antebellum, and David Bowie.
  • Ensemble Stars! On Stage tends to be a mix of event adaptations and original interquels.
  • Touken Ranbu has both a stage play and a musical.


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