Classic movies you can see on stage right now
Movie-to-musical adaptations are all the rage these days. Plenty of storied classics and cult favorites are getting the stage treatment to the delight of audiences all over the world. Though a lot of original films adapted into shows were made in America, they’ve enjoyed plenty of success abroad, so it’s no wonder that their stage adaptations are following suit.
Whether you’re in New York, London, or Australia, you can catch some of your favorite movies onstage right now. Grab your film-buff friend or the one who doesn’t know musicals, and introduce them to a whole new way of seeing their favorite films.
The 1992 Disney classic takes audiences into a whole new world. The young Aladdin finds a genie in a magic lamp and transforms into a prince to win the hand of the princess Jasmine. Fans of the movie will hear all their favorite songs in the musical, including “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World.”
Back to the Future
Marty McFly and and Doc Brown are firing up the DeLorean in London. The classic sci-fi flick about a time-traveling teen got the musical treatment and premiered in 2021. Marty blasts to the past in a time-traveling car built by the wacky scientist Doc, and he accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. Back to the Future is an extravagant time capsule of a show that pays tribute to the quintessential ’80s feel of the movie.
But I’m a Cheerleader
There’s plenty of reason to cheer now that this cult classic rom-com has gotten the musical treatment. The film starred Natasha Lyonne as Megan, a high school cheerleader with a perfect boyfriend and a perfect life — who happens to be a lesbian, which she herself won’t even admit. Her suspicious parents send her to the True Directions conversion camp, but rather than straightening her out, the people there — including one annoyingly attractive tomboy — help her cheer on her truest self.
You’ll have the time of your life when you see Dirty Dancing come to life on the London stage. Of course, the iconic lift is part of the stage show, in addition to plenty more sexy choreography and all the classic songs from the film, like “Hungry Eyes” and “Hey Baby, Do You Love Me?” The story takes place at a resort, where the young Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle during her summer vacation. Let yourself get swept off your feet at this oh-so-romantic drama!
Grease is the one that you want — the one you want tickets for, that is! The show started its life as a musical and was adapted into a movie later, but that movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John is a classic in its own right. Grease tells a timeless, fun story of Danny and Sandy, two teenagers that have a summer fling and try to rekindle their romance when they end up at the same high school in the fall. But even in the 1950s, things like cliques and popularity don’t make it easy to find love. With London performances from May to October, you can spend plenty of summer nights at Grease. There are worse things you could do!
None of the eight Harry Potter films have been directly adapted into plays you can see right now. But Harry Potter and the Cursed Child functions as a sequel to the boy wizard’s adventures in the books and movies, and it features all the characters you know and love, including Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, and more. The play kicks off where the eighth Harry Potter movie left off in its final scene: with Harry sending his own son, Albus, to Hogwarts.
If you didn’t freeze your brain, you’ll recall that Heathers, a murderous spin on the mean-girl movie, was a 1988 dark comedy film before becoming a musical in 2014. The film starred a young Winona Ryder and a disturbingly suave Christian Slater. Like a dead girl walking, the film lives on as a cult classic, and the musical’s been alive and well in London since 2018.
The Lion King
The Lion King became an instant classic when Disney released the film in 1994, telling the Hamlet-inspired story of a young lion whose father’s kingdom, the Pride Lands, is taken over by his evil uncle Scar. Simba aims to take his place as the rightful king. The musical premiered on Broadway only three years after the movie release, earned six Tony Awards, and is now one of the longest-running Broadway shows to date. The Lion King has been on the West End for 20 years, too, and all over the world, allowing global audiences to take their place in the circle of life.
First beloved as a children’s novel by Roald Dahl and then as a 1996 movie, Matilda was first presented onstage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2010. Like film audiences have for 25 years, British audiences (and from 2013-2017, Broadway audiences as well) took a liking to the story of the young, telekinetic bookworm who uses her powers to stand up to the uncaring adults in her life. The 2011 West End production received seven Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, making Matilda, along with Hamilton, the musical with the most Oliviers to date.
Truth. Beauty. Freedom. Love. The Bohemian ideals that run free in the Moulin Rouge nightclub are as timeless as Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 Moulin Rouge! film itself. The writer Christian falls into a fated romance with star showgirl Satine at the turn of the 20th century. Fans of the movie will recognize some of the music from the original pop pastiche, like “Lady Marmalade,” but the musical largely incorporates pop music from the 2010s, to fit with the musical’s 2019 premiere. Audiences can-can now catch Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway in New York, in London’s West End, and at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia.
Broadway is on the way, dears! When the Mrs. Doubtfire movie came out in 1993, Robin Williams endeared audiences (and awards voters — he won a Golden Globe for his work) to Daniel Hillard, a father who disguises himself as the titular British nanny in a desperate attempt to spend time with his children. The musical adaptation is perfect for anyone with ’90s nostalgia or families looking to spend some quality time together.
The 1990 Cinderella story starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere got the musical treatment in 2018. The Pretty Woman musical first opened on Broadway with Samantha Barks and Andy Karl as Vivian Ward and Edward Lewis. Now, the show is playing on the West End with Aimie Atkinson and Danny Mac in the leading roles. And yes, Vivian wears the iconic red dress in the show.
Saturday Night Fever
Put on your boogie shoes and join the disco inferno going up at London’s Peacock Theatre! This musical based on the 1977 film contains plenty of hits from the Bee Gees and other disco stars, like “Stayin’ Alive” and, of course, “Night Fever.” The main character, Tony Manero, feels trapped in his working-class neighborhood and unfulfilled in life. But there’s one place he can escape all that: 2001 Odyssey, the Brooklyn discotheque where he’s the king of the dance floor. Escape your everyday life for a few hours and join the dance party at Saturday Night Fever, where you should be dancing in your seat by the time the show ends!
To Kill a Mockingbird
Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird is based directly on Harper Lee’s classic novel, but the 1962 film adaptation is famous in its own right. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including a Best Actor nod for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Original cast member Jeff Daniels leads the Broadway reopening cast as Atticus, and Greg Kinnear follows him in the role beginning in January 2022. Rafe Spall will occupy the role on the West End when the show opens there in March 2022.