From Stage to Screen

By: Amelia Manley

Over the years, many a musical has been adapted to be featured on the silver screen. Here are a few of the more popular stage to screen adaptations.


Hairspray is a bit of a unique situation. This story started as movie, then was adapted into a stage musical and then readapted to become a movie musical–and most recently, a live TV musical. Hairspray follows the trials and tribulations of Tracy Turnblad in 1960’s Baltimore. She may not be the best student, but she does have a passion for dancing. She auditions for the Corny Collins Show, although she does not quite fit their ‘ideal,’ being a plus-sized young woman. She soon makes friends with Seaweed J. Stubbs and gets involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore.

A classic, in my opinion. It is rather lighthearted, considering the heavy subject matter it tackles. For those whom have only seen the original John Waters movie, there are some great songs in the musical including “Good Morning Baltimore,” “Welcome to the 60’s” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

Les Misérables
Les Misérables began on the page and the popular musical adaption was based upon the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, but there have also been eight film adaptations and the most recent was the 2012 movie musical starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Jean Valjean is the main character, however, this Les Misérables has an ensemble cast. Several different story lines occur at once and the plot spends time with each character. The central conflict of Les Misérables follows Valjean’s 30 year game of cat and mouse with the righteous Inspector Javert.

The musical, to some people’s surprise, is sung from beginning right up until the end–there is no spoken dialogue. Having seen both the 2012 movie and the stage musical, I prefer to see Les Misérables on the stage because it is so much more dramatic to see the events of the novel play out live.

Mamma Mia
First a 1999 musical based on the songs of ABBA, movie adaptation of Mamma Mia followed in 2008. The story centers on Sophie Sheridan in the days leading up to her wedding. She finds her mother’s diary and in it, three names–one of which may be her father. Sophie then invites all three of these men to her wedding, without her mother knowing, in the hopes that she will be able to recognize her father at first sight. This eventually gives way to chaos, which peaks during the wedding.

My parents went to the Mamma Mia musical while they were still dating. They’ve always raved about how much the stage musical was like a concert. The movie and musical, in my opinion, are both pretty fun. Other than slight differences in plot, both of these are great productions and a great way to enjoy ABBA’s classic hits.

Little Shop of Horrors
Initially a 1960 film, then a 1982 musical and finally a 1986 movie musical, Little Shop of Horrors has gone through some transformations. First and foremost, this is a dark comedy. Little Shop of Horrors follows the happenings at Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Seymour Krelborn and Audrey are co-workers at Mushnik’s. They both lament their situations in life. Seymour has a secret crush on Audrey, and when he comes across a strange plant, he eagerly names it Audrey II. This plant is soon revealed as a man-eating plant with the song “Grow For Me.” The plant soon gains a consciousness of its own, forcing Seymour to do things for him. But along with its appetite, Audrey II’s fame keeps growing throughout the show.

There are major differences between the stage musical and the 1986 movie. I won’t ruin it for you, but the ending is quite different in each, so if you haven’t had a chance, it’s worth checking both out. All in all, I like both versions, but one is definitely more uplifting than the other.

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