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10 Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies

Hello, you beautiful Hollywood fans! Last week, I brought you down the slippery rabbit hole of movies that were adapted from Broadway shows, and today we’re going to turn things upside down and explore hit Broadway shows that are based on Hollywood films!

While I love movies, Broadway will always be my first true love. I like to study the trends in Broadway’s new releases, and have noticed over the years that there is 1 fad that never goes out of fashion: adapting movies into musicals! Since there are *so* many different genres of movies that have been adapted for the stage, here are 10 Hollywood films that became Broadway musicals.

Aaaaand a 5, 6, 7, 8!

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Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: The Producers (1967)

Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel star in Mel Brooks’ black-comedy film The Producers. Known as a cult classic, this follows a film producer and accountant who scam to produce the worst stage musical. When they finally decide on creating a show centered on Hitler and the Nazis, the musical becomes successful which ruins their scam.

In 2001, Mel Brooks adapted the film into a Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and went on to win 12 Tony Awards. The two reprised their roles in a movie musical adaptation in 2005. Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell also appear in the film.


Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: 9 to 5 (1980)

This comedy is the ultimate workplace female empowerment flick! It is truly ahead of its time and since its release in 1980, it’s aged with class and longevity. If you’ve never seen it,  it’s about 3 women who fantasize about giving their boss a piece of their mind. And the cast? Talk about a power team: Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda. These 3 legends play a trio of corporate secretaries who hatch a plan to get revenge on their dreadful, chauvinistic boss (Dabney Coleman). When their boss ends up unconscious in his office the following morning, the women fear they may have accidentally put their plan in motion. As 1 might imagine, hijinks ensue as Dolly, Lily, and Jane do their best to get themselves out of a series of sticky situations with an almost farcical plotline. And when we say farcical, we mean that in the best way possible!

9 to 5 was a commercial success, grossing over $103 million at the box office, and launched Dolly Parton, already an established singer/songwriter, into the heart of American pop culture (where she so rightfully deserves to be!). If you guessed that Dolly wrote her hit single “9 to 5” for the film, then you are correct!

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The musical stage adaptation of 9 to 5 premiered on Broadway in April of 2009, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, herself. Notably, the musical’s book was written by Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay. Following the show’s premiere, it received 4 Tony nominations and a whopping 15 Drama Desk Awards, the most received by a production in a single year. While the show’s run on Broadway concluded a mere 5 months after its premiere, the 9 to 5 musical has been mounted in the West End (2019) and has toured across the US (2010), UK (2012, 2019), and even Australia (2020).

Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: The Color Purple (1985)

What’s better: the book, the movie, or the musical? Trick question! All 3! For fans of the 1985 Steven Spielberg film The Color Purple, its musical stage adaptation, which premiered on Broadway in 2005, was a soothing balm of novelist Alice Walker’s original narrative, steeped in deep Southern gospel with flash, dazzle, and heartbreak.

The film starred EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg in her breakthrough role as Celie Harris, along with Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Margaret Avery. The Color Purple is a coming-of-age drama that spans over 4 decades and documents life in rural Georgia during the early 1900s. Celie’s early life is tragically full of abuse and mistreatment. Her only salvation is her younger sister, Nettie (Akosua Busia). Celie suffers under the treatment of her abusive husband, “Mister” (Danny Glover) and when Nettie is expelled from Mister’s home, the 2 sisters begin corresponding via letter, not knowing when, or if, they will ever be reunited.

The Color Purple was a knockout blockbuster, grossing $98 million in theaters worldwide with a budget of $15 million. The film cemented Whoopi’s career in dramatic screen acting and was nominated for 11 Oscars (including Whoopi for Best Actress and Oprah for Best Supporting Actress.)

Naturally, it was an excellent blockbuster contender to be transformed into a musical! Coincidentally, when The Color Purple premiered on Broadway in 2005, it was nominated for 11!! Tony Awards. In 2015, the show was revived on Broadway with Cynthia Erivo starring in the role of Celie alongside Hollywood stars Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks. While Cynthia had starred as Celie in the West End Production, the 2015 revival production marked her Broadway debut. In addition to its Broadway and West End runs, The Color Purple has been staged around the United States and globally, including productions in Brazil (2018), the Netherlands (2019), and South Africa (2018.)

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Warner Brothers is currently producing a film adaptation of the musical, set to release in December of 2023. Oprah announced that she will be joining forces with Stephen Spielberg to produce the movie musical. FantasiaDanielle Brooks, Halle Bailey, H.E.R., and Taraji P. Henson will star.

Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: Hairspray (1988)

You might know Hairspray from the 2007 movie musical featuring heartthrob Zac EfronAmanda BynesQueen LatifahNikki Blonsky, and John Travolta, but did you know it originated from John Waters’ 1988 comedy film of the same name? The movie centers on Tracey Turnblad, an optimistic teenager in 1962 Baltimore who hopes to dance on the local TV show The Corny Collins Show. With her newfound success, Tracey rallies with her friends to advocate for racial integration within The Corny Collins ShowRicki LakeDivineDebbie Harry, Sonny Bono, and Jerry Stiller star.

Initially, the movie had moderate box office earnings but became a cult classic when it hit home video in the ’90s. Then, in 2002, a musical adaptation hit Broadway with Glee star Matthew Morrison in the role of Link Larkin and Harvey Fierstein playing Edna Turnblad. The songs in the Broadway musical were inspired by the dance style and rhythm and blues music from the ’60s. Hairspray went on to win 8 Tony Awards in 2003, including Best Musical.

The musical has become a staple in pop culture, with a musical movie adaptation in 2007 and the 2016 televised special, called Hairspray Live!, on NBC. The special included Maddie BaillioAriana GrandeKristen Chenoweth, Dove CameronHarvey FiersteinDerek Hough, and Jennifer Hudson.

Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: Moulin Rouge (2001)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this 2001 Baz Luhrmann spectacle of romance and bohemia set in Belle Epoque 1900’s Paris, please do yourself a favor and go watch it immediately. The 2001 jukebox musical dramedy starring Nicole Kidman as the young courtezan Fantine and Ewan McGregor as the romantically penniless writer and composer Christian.

The 2 meet at the nightclub where Satine is the star showgirl and tumble into a hopelessly romantic and illicit love affair, all while Christian is penning a musical, in which Satine will star. Although, the production is being funded by the evil Duke, who has been promised Satine all to himself. Songs are sung in perfect harmony, sweeping dance numbers are staged against a turn-of-the-century Montmartre cabaret, and a love story is set against a musical tapestry of crowd-pleasing pop and rock anthems. What more is there to say? In the opinion of this writer (who has seen Moulin Rouge more times than she would care to admit), it is a near-perfect film.

Moulin Rouge earned nearly $180 million worldwide with a $50 million budget, and received 8 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The film was widely praised by audiences and critics alike. According to Roger Ebert’s 2001 review, “The movie is all color and music, sound and motion, kinetic energy, broad strokes, operatic excess.” Ewan and Nicole were widely lauded for their performances.

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann began the process of adapting Moulin Rouge into a musical in 2002, just a year after the film’s blockbuster success. The musical stage adaptation finally premiered on Broadway in July of 2019, with Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo in the starring roles.

“[Moulin Rouge can hold your wonderment without abate from start to finish. … This is a show to make the young feel mature, and the old blissfully young again,” wrote Rolling Stone of the Broadway production, shortly after its premiere. Moulin Rouge earned 14(!!!) Tony Nominations, although any wins are still TBD. The 74th Annual Tony Awards have been postponed until September 26th (less than a month away! Who’s excited? Me, me!).

If you’re like me, and still regularly losing sleep over the fact that you have yet to see this production live on Broadway, fear not! Much to this writer’s delight, Moulin Rouge will be returning to the Great White Way later this month. The show will be re-opening at the Al Hirschfield Theater on September 24th.


Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: Legally Blonde (2001)

2001 was a great year for female-led movies, evidenced by the fact that both Moulin Rouge and Legally Blonde premiered within 2 months of each other. And like Moulin Rouge, Legally Blonde lent itself *fabulously* to becoming a musical.

Legally Blonde stars Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods (1 of her finest performances IMHO, and yes, I do mean borderline genius). Jennifer Coolidge’s performance as Paulette Bonafonté always really stands out for me upon watching this film. She’s the ultimate “I got your back girl, go conquer the world” bestie-adjacent supporting character. Also in the film: a brooding, academic-hot Luke Wilson, a frumpy, New-England-cold Selma Blair, THE ultimate silver-fox-in-a-male-authority-figure actor Victor Garber, and a really cute Chihuahua named Bruiser. (Turns out, Bruiser was played by a dog actor named Moonie. He died in 2016 at the age of 18 and rightfully received a ton of press about his passing. RIP Moonie. Thanks for your masterful contribution to modern pop culture.)

Legally Blonde was initially a sleeper hit at the box office. However, with a $20 million production budget, its total global earnings of $141.7 million cemented the film as a Blockbuster smash hit. Not to mention the cultural impact of this film. As a pre-teen girl in 2001 I can attest to the fact that “bend and snap” was a phrase that was exhaustingly cited at theater camp that summer.

Reese Witherspoon’s performance cemented her as an A-list celebrity and launched the rest of her career. Variety put it aptly: “Beaming star wattage out of every pore, not to mention her hair, Witherspoon once again proves herself a comedienne worthy of comparison to such golden era greats as Carole Lombard and Ginger Rogers.”

Legally Blonde: The Musical premiered on Broadway in 2007, 6 years after the film’s release. Starring Broadway baby Laura Bell Bundy as Elle Woods, the musical successfully distilled all of the major aspects that fans loved about the movie in the first place (the empowerment, the costumes, the catchphrases!) and distilled them into a near-perfect musical comedy.

The production earned 7 Tony award nominations that year, although its low ticket sales caused the show to close in October 2008 and Legally Blonde: The Musical was deemed a flop. Many Broadway stans would beg to differ, as the show has become a cult favorite for many a musical theater nerd. However, this is 1 of the movies on our list that was far more of a hit in Hollywood than as a musical.

Broadway Shows Inspired By Hollywood Movies: Shrek The Musical (2001)

Dreamwork’s 2001 Oscar-winning animated feature became a Broadway stage musical. Shrek The Musical is based on Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson’s film of the same name with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. The musical follows Shrek, a green ogre who lives in isolation on his ugly green swamp. When a group of fairytale characters flee to the swamp because they have been evicted from their home by Lord Farquaad, Shrek teams up with a lovable but annoying donkey to get his land back. Lord Farquaad makes a deal with Shrek; if he can rescue Princess Fiona, Shrek will get his swamp. What ensues is a lot of chaos, romance, musical numbers, and a shocking revelation about the Princess.

The original cast included Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek,