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Step in Time – Zizzi Strallen and Company in Mary Poppins. Photo by Johan Persson.

Step in Time - Zizzi Strallen and Company in Mary Poppins. Photo by Johan Persson.

Films that got turned into musicals

By Hira Desai First Published 18 February 2019, Last Updated 28 February 2022

Plotting your next movie marathon and stuck for ideas? What if we told you that some of Theatreland’s hits started off life in the glamorous movie world? Check out our roundup of stage-to-screen adaptions that’s got something for everyone.

Disney’s The Lion King

If you’ve never recreated the scene where Rafiki holds up baby Simba in the comfort of your own home, you’re either lying, or you’re going to do it the moment you get home because the thought is now there.

The story of Simba and the challenges (and mean Uncle) he faces to become King, has been entertaining West End audiences at the Lyceum Theatre for over 2 decades and has performed to over 15 million people. It’s now London’s sixth longest-running musical of all time.

But when you look at the success of the original movie, the fact this story is still running shouldn’t be a huge surprise. When the film was released in 1994, it instantly became one of Disney’s most popular modern movies, winning two Oscars for its music (which also feature in the stage show).

Just three years later this unique re-telling of Hamlet, but with lions, opened on Broadway and went onto win six Tony Awards. Two years after that it arrived in the West End, and the rest, as they say, even in the lion kingdom, is history.

Mary Poppins

Christmas/Easter/Sundays wouldn’t be the same without seeing Mary Poppins on the TV. The classic story, (naturally based on a book) featured catchy tunes, upbeat choreography, tea parties on the ceiling, cartoon penguins and a slightly dodgy cockney accent (bless Dick Van Dyke, he tried, bless him).

And the stage show has only gone onto embrace and extend Mary’s tales of adventures with the Banks family. Over 12 million people have seen the theatrical adaptation worldwide, with that number will soon grow, once the Prince Edward Theatre reopens.

Matilda The Musical

The 1996 film Matilda, based on the much-loved Roald Dahl book, got every child thinking they could have secret powers; and every parent and teacher scared that the kids might have those powers too.

Going from Hollywood to the London stage all happened because of comedian Tim Minchin and the Royal Shakespeare Company, who teamed up to bring this little girl’s adventures to life once more.

Starting her journey at RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010, Matilda The Musical won an incredible seven Olivier Awards when it opened in London’s West End in 2011, and four Tony Awards when it subsequently transferred to Broadway in 2013; and on both continents, it was named Best New Musical.

The longest-running production to play at the Cambridge Theatre in history, Matilda The Musical went onto win a further 86 major international awards and has been seen by millions of people worldwide, including London, Australia, New Zealand and on tour in North America.

The Prince Of Egypt

The animated film The Prince Of Egypt opened in cinemas back in 1998, with an impressive voice cast which included Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren – and more. It quickly picked up critical acclaim, as well an Academy Award for one of the film’s most unforgettable songs, When You Believe.

The musical has music and lyrics by the renowned Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), and will feature 10 new songs, as well as five from the original Dreamworks film, including Deliver Us, All I Ever Wanted, Through Heaven’s Eyes and of course, When You Believe.

School Of Rock – The Musical

A 2003 movie starring Jack Black about a guy who lies about being a teacher, and then enters his students into a battle of the bands to earn some money doesn’t sound like it would normally be considered for a musical, but thank goodness it was!

The film was a huge success when it was released, making $131 million and receiving high praise from even the snobbiest of film critics. For 12 years, the film was the highest-grossing music-themed comedy of all time (Pitch Perfect ended up stealing that crown). It even got a Golden Globe nomination for Jack’s performance of Dewey Finn.

Thirteen years after the film came out, this rocking movie was turned into an equally rocking stage show, where, just like the film, the kids played the instruments for real. Opening on Broadway in 2015, it came to the West End just a year later. And who do we have to thank for buying the rights to this show and bringing it to a theatrical audience? None other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also wrote the show’s rocking score.

School Of Rock The Musical has gone onto receive three Olivier Award nominations including Best New Musical, and has won Outstanding Achievement in Music for the children’s band.


Waitress was released in 2007 as a small, independently made film. It’s all about Jenna, a waitress who’s stuck in an unhappy marriage in a small town she’s desperate to leave. But when she unexpectedly finds out she’s pregnant and meets her handsome doctor, things take a turn for her.

The film was received so well that the same year it was released, the stage rights were acquired.

Within a short period, the story had baked a dedicated fanbase, and six years later its creative team, including successful songwriter Sara Bareilles, had finished its sweet masterpiece. Even the film’s director, writer and producer, Jessie Nelson got on board, helping to adapt the book and film into a successful musical.

It’s been on Broadway since 2015 and achieved several Tony nominations and though it’s West End production is now sadly closed, is sure did serve up a slice of heartwarming pie that we will never forget!

Big The Musical

A much-loved Tom Hanks film, Big is all about Josh Baskin, a young boy whose wish to grow up unexpectedly comes true. As he finds himself trapped inside an adult’s body, Josh must navigate an adult world of work, love and friendships.

The stage show was a huge hit over in America, receiving a Tony nomination for its music, lyrics and book. Following a UK tour in 2016, Big made its West End debut at the Dominion Theatre last year.

The West End production (which has sadly closed) starred Jay McGuiness (The Wanted, Strictly Come Dancing) in the lead role of Josh Baskin, a role he also played on the UK tour. He was joined by Girls Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh as Susan Lawrence, Olivier Award winner Matthew Kelly as George MacMillan, and Coronation Street’s Wendi Peters as Mrs Baskin.

Fame The Musical

One of the lyrics in this musical’s iconic big number says, “remember my name”, and this musical’s name hasn’t only been remembered, but turned into a multi-award-winning stage show.

Although the film came out in the 1980s, the story is almost timeless, as it follows the lives and hardships of students at a Performing Arts school, who are all trying to break into the industry and become a success. Themes within the show include prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.

Just like its stage adaptation would go onto do, Fame the film won its fair share of awards, including two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. The film was so successful it became a TV and stage show, released a single (which spent 16 weeks in the charts) and even got a remake in 2009. Because what’s better than one Fame movie? Two of course!

Fame The Musical has enjoyed seven West End runs since opening on Broadway in 1988 and continues to be one of the best-loved musicals across the world. Turns out that Fame The Musical will indeed live forever.


Taking a step back in time to the 1960s is Hairspray. There are actually two film versions of Tracy Turnblad’s story: the non-musical film (in 1988) and the musical adaptation, which was released in 2007. Although not a huge hit in the box office, the 1988 film became incredibly popular when it was released on video, and ended up being listed on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the greatest movies of all time.

So it wasn’t a massive surprise when it was adapted into a stage musical and an even less of a shock when it won eight Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards.

9 To 5 The Musical

Working 9-5 ain’t no way to make a living according to the fabulous Dolly Parton. But it’s amazing what a cup of ambition can do, as this new musical may have only just arrived in London last year, but it started its career in the 1980s.

9 To 5 (the film version) is an American comedy, which stars iconic actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, as well as Dolly herself in a starring role! It was a huge hit, making over $103.9 million at the box office, and becoming the 20th highest-grossing comedy film of all time. And if that wasn’t enough, the film was then made into a hit TV show which ran for five series! Basically, the fact it got turned into a musical shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

It would be another 30 years until the musical version hit Broadway audiences, and the West End had to wait a further ten years to see it for themselves, and it’s now touring the UK and Ireland!


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