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Disney’s The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre (Photo: Dewynters Photography)

Disney's The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre (Photo: Dewynters Photography)

Films that got turned in theatre shows

Eleni Cashell

By Eleni Cashell First Published 18 February 2019, Last Updated 21 August 2019

With the live-action version of the iconic musical Cats about to hit the big screen, and an increasing number of theatre productions being broadcast live in cinemas, seeing your favourite West End show in the cinema, as well as the theatre, is becoming more common.

With the Raindance Film Festival (18th-29th Sept) and BFI London Film Festival (2nd-13th Oct) coming soon to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, there’s plenty of fun to be had for film fans in Theatreland!

But what if we told you that some of Theatreland’s current hits started off life in the glamorous movie world?

Here are some of the shows you can see in the West End right now which are stage adaptations of successful films.

9 To 5 The Musical

Caroline Sheen, Natalie McQueen and Amber Davies in 9 To 5 The Musical (Photo: Pamela Raith)

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, 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 ourselves, but it’s been worth the wait!

Aladdin

Disney's Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre (Photo: Johan Persson)

You’re probably one of the several million people who’ve watched the live-action remake of Aladdin, but this obviously isn’t the first time Aladdin has been on the big screen.

Before it started entertaining us in the West End, Aladdin was an animated feature film in 1992.  And there wasn’t just one either, it was an actual trilogy!

And it didn’t stop at three films either. There has also been a TV show, theme park rides, video games, ‘on ice’ tours and a TON of other stuff. Basically, if you like Aladdin, there’s plenty of merchandise to spend your entire savings on. The entire franchise has won four huge American awards, making them the envy of Hollywood, including an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony Award.

The musical stage show premiered on Broadway in 2014, before finally making it over to the West End in 2016. The West end version features breathtaking sets, mind-blowing special effects, over 350 lavish costumes and a fabulous cast and orchestra bringing the story to life.

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Big The Musical

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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 is already a hit over in America, receiving a Tony nomination for its music, lyrics and book. Following a UK tour in 2016, Big is now making its West End debut at the Dominion Theatre.

The stage adaptation will star Jay McGuiness (The Wanted, Strictly Come Dancing) in the lead role of Josh Baskin, a role he also played on the UK tour. He’s 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.

 

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

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Unlike some of the other shows on this list, which have been theatrically adapted a few times already, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has never been staged in a major adaptation before. Until now that is. And get the cake and balloons out, as the stage show is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the novel, which the film is also adapted from.

Set during WW2 in Greece, this romantic story is also a tragic story of war and the consequences on both those serving and those left behind. When war hits the peaceful island of Cephalonia, everything changes and the love that’s blossoming between characters is put to the test.

The film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin came out in 2001 and starred the unforgettable talents of some pretty big names, including Nicolas Cage, John Hurt, Christian Bale and Penélope Cruz. Although the film split reviewers for its toning down of the slightly more tragic elements of the book, it still went onto make over $62 million, which ain’t bad!

 

Fame The Musical

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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. In fact, you can book tickets to see it at the Peacock Theatre now!

Starring Keith Jack (BBC’s Any Dream Will Do, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), soul singer and TV star Mica Paris, and Hollyoaks’ Jorgie Porter, Fame The Musical is the definitive production of this much-loved musical.

 

The Gruffalo

Tall Stories' The Gruffalo

Just like many of the shows on this list, The Gruffalo started its days in the pages of a book. Written by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson, it captured children’s imaginations so much that it sold over 13 million copies, won prizes and then got made into a short animated film by the BBC.

If that wasn’t enough success, the film had some pretty big stars voicing the colourful characters, including Robbie Coltrane (Gruffalo), James Corden (Mouse), Helena Bonham Carter (Mother and squirrel narrator), Rob Brydon (Snake), John Hurt (Owl) and Tom Wilkinson (Fox). This 27-minute film was nominated for both an Oscar and a BAFTA.

Unsurprisingly, this success led it onto the stages of not only the West End but also Broadway and on a global tour. Nice one Gruffalo!

 

Hairspray

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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.

Hairspray is returning to London from the 23 April at the London Coliseum for a strictly limited run, with Michael Ball reprising his award-winning role as Edna Turnblad!

Disney’s The Lion King

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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 for 20 years 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

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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 soon to grow, when she flies back down to the Prince Edward Theatre on the 23 October 2019.

 

Matilda The Musical

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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 upcoming musical will have 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.

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In the upcoming production, Luke Brady (Sweeney Todd) and Liam Tamne (The Light In The Piazza) will lead the cast as Moses and Ramses respectively. Christine Allado (formerly Peggy/Maria Reynolds in Hamilton) will take on the role of Tzipporah, with Alexia Khadime (Wicked, The Lion King and Les Mis) as Miriam.

 

School Of Rock – The Musical

Craig Gallivan and Amos Mayland in School Of Rock (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

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

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. But now its all-female creative team (a first for the West End) is here in London, serving up a slice of this tasty show.

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9 to 5 the musical big the musical captain corelli's mandolin disney's aladdin disney's the lion king fame the musical films hairspray mary poppins matilda the musical school of rock the musical the gruffalo the prince of egypt waitress

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