10 Surprising Movies With Musical Adaptations

Evil Dead The Musical/Facebook
Evil Dead The Musical/Facebook / Evil Dead The Musical/Facebook

Movies and musicals have always enjoyed a close relationship. Or maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the right word; sometimes musical adaptations of movies sing, and sometimes they squawk. (See the infamous Carrie: The Musical.) Here are just 10 movies that got musical adaptations … with varying levels of success.


In the annals of musical theater song titles, “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons" certainly sticks out. George Reinblatt strayed from the horror and gore of his source material and went full satire for Evil Dead: The Musical. First performed in Toronto in 2003, the musical—based on all three of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies—made it to Off-Broadway in 2006 and has since made stops in Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Las Vegas, where it’s currently still running. If you want to ensure a bloody good time, buy a seat in the “splatter zone,” where audience members can expect to be doused in fake blood.


Composer and lyricist Laurence O’Keefe has two musicals based on classic teen comedies under his belt: Legally Blonde: The Musical, nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2008, and the lesser-known Heathers: The Musical, co-written with Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness: The Musical). Heathers: The Musical, which had an off-Broadway run in 2014, made several changes from its Winona Ryder-starring source material—most notably combining Veronica’s ex-best friend, Betty Finn, and school pariah Martha “Dumptruck” Dunstock into one character. A feature film adaptation has been in the works for several years, though things are moving along at a slow pace.


No less a person than Brian Blessed co-starred in a 1989 musical adaptation of Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis. Blessed played Joh Fredersen (Anglicized as John Freeman), the despotic ruler of a futuristic city where the poor toil in underground factories for the benefit of the rich. The film’s most iconic pair of characters—the saintly Maria and her robotic doppelgänger—was played by Judy Kuhn, who was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award in 1989 for her performance. A four-time Tony Award nominee, Kuhn’s best-known work outside the theatrical musical space is providing the singing voice for Disney’s Pocahontas.


The overlap between “musical theater enthusiasts” and “sports movie fans” turned out to be disappointingly small for the cast and crew of the Broadway version of Rocky, which—despite a marketing blitz and four Tony nominations—shuttered after a mere six months in 2014. (The show enjoyed more success in Germany, where it was originally produced.) Fittingly, the production was helmed by an underdog; it was the debut musical of director Alex Timbers, who—with Roger Rees—went on to helm the much more successful Peter and the Starcatcher and pre-Hamilton American history musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Timbers is also the co-creator of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle. Rocky himself, Andy Karl, went on to star in another movie-turned-musical: Groundhog Day, which is currently running on Broadway.


An even shorter Broadway run belonged to the Rupert Goold-directed American Psycho musical, which ran for a few months in 2016. The show originated at the Almeida Theatre in London, where yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman was played by Doctor Who alum Matt Smith. The Broadway transfer brought Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the aforementioned musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) into the lead role. In addition to original songs by Duncan Sheik, the show featured covers of ‘80s pop classics like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “In the Air Tonight,” “Don’t You Want Me,” and, of course, “Hip to be Square.”


Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics penned the score for Barbarella, based on the 1968 sci-fi camp classic of the same name. Actually, per Variety’s review, it’s based not on the movie but on the French comic book that inspired the movie—which is a subtle distinction. Also from the Variety review: “a 21st-century bore,” “a cheesy, awkward production,” “hopelessly juvenile book and lyrics.” After failing to catch on with critics and audiences, the show shut its doors after an approximately one-year run at Vienna’s Raimund Theater.


Another one for the short Broadway run file: A musical adaptation of supernatural romance Ghost—the movie version of which featured Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, and the pottery scene heard ‘round the world—closed after just under four months in 2012. Reviews were on the negative side, with Christopher Isherwood of The New York Times calling it a “thrill-free singing park ride … flavorless and lacking in dramatic vitality.” Co-writing the music (with Glen Ballard) and lyrics (with Ballard and Bryce Joel Rubin) was none other than Dave Stewart—yes, the same Dave Stewart who previously had poor luck with Barbarella.


Before earning near-universal acclaim for a little thing called Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the music and lyrics for a theatrical adaptation of teen cheerleader comedy Bring It On. The musical was notable for having Broadway’s first transgender teen character and, on a less positive note, for being sued by one of the movie’s screenwriters over rights issues.


King Kong’s having a hard time getting to New York … the King Kong musical, that is. A musical adaptation of the 1933 classic made its bow in Melbourne in 2013, with the idea being that it would make its way to Broadway. Four years later, and that still hasn’t happened; by all accounts, the creative team is still deep in the revision process. The show combines ‘30s Broadway classics like “Get Happy” and “I Wanna Be Loved by You” with songs from contemporary artists, some of whom—like Sarah McLachlan—penned new numbers specifically for the musical. In case you’re wondering, no, Kong doesn’t sing; in the Melbourne production, he was a 20-foot-tall animatronic puppet.


A musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’s The Producers was a smash hit in the early aughts, setting a record for most Tony Awards won by a single production that stands to this day. It made sense, then, that Brooks would pull from his filmography for a second trek to the Great White Way. Young Frankenstein was decidedly less successful, suffering from—per The New York Times—“mixed reviews, faulty marketing decisions and overheated expectations.” Despite a big-name creative team that included Brooks and his The Producers collaborator Thomas Meehan, Sutton Foster as Inga, and Megan Mullally as Elizabeth, it closed after a little over a year. Cloris Leachman was reportedly set to reprise the role of Frau Blücher, whom she played in the ’74 film, but the show closed before she could.