Musicals Based On Movie Comedies, Ranked
While there’s no Tony Award-winning Weekend at Bernie’s, and we have yet to receive Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Police Academy 3: Back in Training, a whole lot of movie comedies have been turned into major theatrical musical productions, even some that aren’t named The Producers – which we will now judge, based purely on the show-stopping numbers available on YouTube (we’re not made of money/Broadway tickets, you know).
Back to the Future
The movie Back to the Future already contains a ton of great songs, just primed and ready for a major stage show, such as “The Power of Love,” “Earth Angel,” and, of course, “Johnny B. Goode.” But Back to the Future: The Musical fills out the story with some additional tunes. While this may seem somewhat unnecessary to Back to the Future purists, there is something impressively subversive about hearing Lorraine sing a romantic ballad about how badly she wants to hook up with her future son. Biff also joins in – although sadly, he gets no song about how badly he hates manure. If this does well, we can all look forward to a sequel featuring a singing, dancing sports almanac.
People love Legally Blonde, so much so that it was adapted into a musical in 2007. The whole thing even aired on MTV back when that was a big friggin’ deal. Of course, the show chronicles the story of how Elle Woods attends Harvard Law school, but with more choreographed dancing. Sure some of the songs reinforce the film’s problematic stereotypes and regressive sexual politics. But at least the Jennifer Coolidge character, Paulette, gets a whole song about how she wishes she was in Ireland with “Enya and the whales.”
School of Rock
Despite the fact that its lead character clearly should have been thrown in jail, School of Rock is a terrific comedy – and makes total sense as the basis for a musical, as evidenced by the song “Stick it to the Man,” in which the bogus Mr. Schneebly (who is really Dewey Finn) teaches his class about the power of challenging authority through song. Of course, all of this extra singing makes it even harder to believe that no one in a nearby classroom alerted the authorities.
Apparently, there’s just something about rock-based comedies featuring Jack Black that are catnip to musical producers; the musical version of High Fidelity premiered way back in 2006 and was presumably the only show on Broadway where you could hear a bitter music nerd ironically croon about their “Top 5 Break-Ups.”
Even though it didn’t feature a single emotional number about North Shore High School’s oddly bloodthirsty school bus drivers, people love the Mean Girls musical, allowing characters like Cady Heron and Regina George to translate their raging hormonal animosity into song form. Now, scenes such as the one where Cady (originally played in the film, but definitely not on Broadway, by Lindsay Lohan) is searching for a seat in the school cafeteria become major set pieces with clever lyrics about highly specific cliques.
Since Roy Orbison never went into much detail about how the pretty woman from his song was actually a cocaine-addicted sex worker who falls in love with a handsome millionaire, these elements were fleshed out in the 1990 Julia Roberts romantic comedy – which was recently adapted as a Broadway musical. Now you can hear the character of Vivian sing a Little Mermaid-esque “I Want” song about how she years to get, not on to dry land, but “off the streets.”
Since folks may now be searching for a way to enjoy Bill Murray movies without Bill Murray, there is a musical version of Groundhog Day. While just repeating the same Sonny & Cher song over and over again might have been more appropriate to the source material, the show has original songs from Australian comedian Tim Minchin. And guess what: the whole damn show is available via this camcorder-shot YouTube video. So why not dress up in some fancy clothes and charge yourself $12 for a Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar while hunching in front of your laptop.
Fans went nuts for the recent Beetlejuice musical, and it’s easy to see why. It clearly takes much from the Tim Burton original – not just the plot, but the familiar wonkily gothic designs as well. But it is also very much its own thing.
But some of the additions actually enrich the Beetlejuice mythology; while we never fully find out what happened to Lydia’s birth mother in the movie, the stage show clarifies that she died – which makes sense, given Lydia’s state of mind in the story. The musical also gives her a whole song devoted to mourning her mom, appropriately titled: “Dead Mom.”
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Top Image: backtothefuturemusical.com