The 25 best film-to-musical adaptations

Our top transfers from the silver screen to the Great White Way.

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  • Grand Hotel (1989)

    Grand Hotel (1989)

  • The Full Monty (2000)

    The Full Monty (2000)

  • Promises, Promises (1968)

    Promises, Promises (1968)

  • Grey Gardens (2006)

    Grey Gardens (2006)

  • Beauty and the Beast (1994)

    Beauty and the Beast (1994)

Grand Hotel (1989)

Grand Hotel (1989)


15. Grand Hotel (1989)
Originally helmed by Tommy Tune, this stylish adaptation of the famous 1932 MGM film (and Vicki Baum's 1929 novel) depicts disparate guests at a luxury lodging in Weimar Germany. The show's chilly air of wheel-of-fortune melodrama was warmed, in the original cast, by Jane Krakowski as a would-be starlet and the incomparable Michael Jeter as a mousy accountant letting loose.—AF

14. The Full Monty (2000)
It's hard enough trying to retain the power of a story moving from one medium to another; try jumping across cultures. Book writer Terrence McNally and composer-lyricist David Yazbek took the basic premise of the 1997 English indie hit—unemployed blue-collar proles become strippers to make money—and moved the action to recession-hit Buffalo, New York. The translation worked quite nicely, powered by Yazbek's funky, frisky, pop-powered score.—DC

13. Promises, Promises (1968)
Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who helped define the 1960s with their trademark sound—personal lyrics set to brassy, zigzag rhythms—wrote songs for just one book musical: Neil Simon's adaptation of Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960), a morality tale about sexual and corporate compromise. Although the show's cynical 2010 revival was marred by miscasting and nonsensical additions to the score, its dramatic and musical themes still sound surprisingly fresh.—AF

12. Grey Gardens (2006)
Broadway loves a crazy diva, and the Maysles brothers' 1975 documentary has two: Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie"). These eccentric recluses inhabited a crumbling, cat-infested ruin of a house on Long Island, bickering and living in filth. In turning their story into a musical, book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie invent a first-act backstory to depict their past lives as glamorous society ladies, long before the descent. The score follows suit, beginning in Tin Pan Alley and ending in art-song angst.Sealing the deal were two bravely bizarre performances by Tony winners Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson.—DC

11. Beauty and the Beast (1994)
After resurrecting its animated-musicals franchise with The Little Mermaid (1989), Disney had another hit on its hands with Belle and her Beast, and wasted no time in ushering its 1991 animated flick to the Broadway stage. Composer Alan Menken (who had written songs for Mermaid) penned seven new tunes for this lavish production, which ran for 13 years and heralded the Disney era on Broadway. Although Disney Theatrical has stumbled since then (The Little Mermaid, Tarzan), Beauty proves that a catchy score and bright, bustling design make cartoons come alive.—DC

Users say

4 comments
David
David

Alright, own up. Who had the putrid taste to think Mamma Mia qualified as good, but that Toxic Avenger should be skipped over? Come on, out with it.

Sandee
Sandee

Oh God, how could I forget: My Fair Lady (from Pygmalion)

Sandee
Sandee

Oh you youg'uns have no sense of history: Oklahoma (from Green Grow the Lilacs) Carousel (from Lilliom) Purlie (from Purlie Victorious) A Little Night Music (from Smiles of a Summer Night) West Side Story (from Romeo and Juliet)