All the Romantic Comedies that Became Broadway Musicals
Love is in the air — or at least on our screens. We’re planning to spend Valentine’s Day the pandemic way: watching movies on our couch.
In honor of the rom-coms we’ve got lined up onscreen, we thought we’d take a look at the movies that have coupled up with the stage to make mushy gushy romantic musical magic.
When the movie Amélie first came out in 2001, it was a literal global success. And Amélie herself? Well, she was the perfect leading lady. Whimsical, imaginative, and mischievous. It was no wonder she became a Broadway star in 2017.
With the help of Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo and the creative brains behind the Broadway adaptations of An American in Paris and Tuck Everlasting, Amélie’s Parisian dreams traveled over to New York City. While her visit was short (the show ran for 56 regular performances) the cast recording makes for a sweet escape, no matter where you are.
The Apartment / Promises, Promises
At this rate — no matter when, where, or who acts out this story — it’s bound to be a hit. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine led the workplace rom-com when The Apartment came out in 1960. Name an award, it was nominated for it. Eight years later Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Neil Simon revamped the story for the stage with the new name Promises, Promises.
Jerry Orbach and Jill O’Hara were the stars this time around and like its movie counterpart, the musical was a total success. In 1969 Promises, Promises went to the West End and then in 2008 Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) and Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) led a star-studded revival.
When we heard Clueless was being adapted into a musical, we were like “Oh my god, I am totally buggin’.” The coming-of-age comedy is a cult favorite; nearly every line is quotable, the characters are iconic, and don’t even get us started on the costumes. The 1995 film starred teenage Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, and more.
So it was no wonder that when the movie transferred to the stage in 2018, Disney Channel favorite Dove Cameron was Cher. The off-Broadway run featured the perfect playlist of high school hits like “Bye Bye Bye,” “No Scrubs,” and “Kids in America.”
The Goodbye Girl
A struggling actor is forced to room with his friend’s ex-girlfriend: what could possibly go wrong (or right)? The Goodbye Girl was written by Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite) himself, which means no one can be surprised it was eventually turned into a musical. The movie came out in 1977 with Richard Dreyfuss as the struggling actor and Marsha Mason as his unexpected roommate.
It was a smash success and the creative team attempted to turn it into a TV show until the roommates landed on Broadway in 1993 instead. The struggling actor? Martin Short, in his Broadway debut. The ex-girlfriend? Bernadette Peters, already a Broadway mainstay. What a duo!
As an actor on Broadway performing the same show eight times a week, it can oftentimes feel like you’re living in the movie Groundhog Day. Now how about if you’re an actor on Broadway performing Groundhog Day eight times a week? Well then, you’re probably Andy Karl.
Before the musical, Groundhog Day was a pop culture phenomenon starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. After the movie came out in 1993, Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, Company) considered making it a musical before stating the movie “cannot be improved.” That’s when the movie’s screenwriter Danny Rubin took to the task and partnered with Tim Minchin (Matilda the Musical) for the stage adaptation.
Groundhog Day opened in London before coming to Broadway in 2017. The show ran for about six months, featured a seemingly magical revolving stage, and starred Karl (Legally Blonde and Rocky musicals) as Phil.
The Philadelphia Story / High Society
Listen to this: In 1940 Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart star in The Philadelphia Story, a love triangle of all love triangles tale that was an instant classic. Then in 1955, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly star in a movie-musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story called High Society. Beautiful people dancing and singing whilst in a love triangle ensues.
Forty years after that High Society makes its way to the Broadway stage with a bunch of talented actors and we’re sorry to skip over all their names but we have to get to the part where Anna Kendrick is in the musical as a 12-year-old and she gets nominated for a Tony Award. The stage adaptation has since been revived twice in London, sans 12-year-old Anna Kendrick.
Honeymoon in Vegas
The 1992 movie stars James Caan, Nicolas Cage, and Sarah Jessica Parker in the most 1990s of costumes ever you will think they are a parody until you remember, no, that’s how we really dressed back then. It’s a total romantic romp which means it made for a perfectly campy Broadway adaptation. Honeymoon in Vegas was written by the movie’s screenwriter Andrew Bergman with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade).
The show premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey then opened on Broadway in 2015 with Tony Danza (Taxi), Rob McClure (look out for him later on this list in Mrs. Doubtfire), and Brynn O’Malley (Wicked, Hairspray) in the leading roles. While critics loved the show, it only stayed open for about four months; if anything, Honeymoon in Vegas gave us Andrew Barth Feldman singing this song.
What, like starring on Broadway is hard? When the movie Legally Blonde came out in 2001, it basically imprinted itself into the brains and hearts of every single person who saw it, right? It’s just a classic! The quotes, the pink, the most fun we’ve ever had watching a court scene ever. The schoolgirl and schoolboy crush! We love it all. And we really love Legally Blonde when it’s a musical.
The stage version opened on Broadway in 2007 and if we’re talking in LSAT scores it’s a total 180/180. The musical originally starred Laura Bell Bundy as Elle and Christian Borle as Emmett (Orfeh, Andy Karl, and Annaleigh Ashford were also a part of the cast, too). Before the show closed on Broadway in 2008 — productions have since opened around the world — there was a reality show competition on MTV called The Search for the Next Elle Woods that you can watch on YouTube right now and what are you doing still reading go watch this show it’s a chaotic escape from reality in the best possible way.
The first time we got to sit with other fans of the movie Mean Girls and watch the musical Mean Girls was pretty darn fetch. The movie — written by Tina Fey — came out in 2004 with Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amy Poehler, Amanda Seyfried, and more. It quickly became the most popular movie of the era. Lucky for all of us Tina Fey is married to Jeff Richmond, the brains behind your fave musical sketches on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and more.
Why is that lucky? Because the duo partnered together to transfer North Shore High to Broadway in 2018 with Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Ashley Park, and more. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 Mean Girls won’t be opening back up on Broadway, but there’s some gossip going around that a movie version of the musical is in the works.
A very good spoiler alert: The dance-and-clean scene made its way to the Broadway adaptation. The magic of Robin Williams first introduced us to Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993. Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, and Matilda herself Mara Wilson rounded out the classic’s cast. After that but years before Mrs. Doubtfire made her Broadway bow, Fierstein and Alan Menken collaborated on a potential stage version.
Unfortunately that script and those songs never saw the spotlight, but in 2018 a new all-star creative team took the Hillard’s under their wing, with Tony Award winner Rob McClure (Chaplin, Beetlejuice) in Robin Williams’s role. The show had a quick run in Seattle and was supposed to open in NYC April 5, 2020. Due to COVID-19 that first dance-and-clean scene has been postponed but we can’t wait to hang out with the Hillards when it’s safe.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
There she is, Julia Roberts, the Queen of Romantic Comedies. Not to spoil a movie that came out in 1997 but My Best Friend’s Wedding is not your typical I-know-what’s-going-to-happen-within-the-first-five-minutes movie and that’s what makes it great. That, and Dermot Mulroney’s face and also everything Cameron Diaz does ever.
Like many real weddings this past year, the musical adaptation of My Best Friend’s Wedding was planning to open in the U.K. in 2020 but due to COVID-19 has been postponed to September 2021. The show will star Alexandra Burke as Julianne Potter and will feature the songs of writing duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David — including the movie’s iconic number “I Say a Little Prayer.”
You can never have too much Julia Roberts on a list or on your screen, right? The 1990 film stars the picture perfect pair that is Roberts and Richard Gere in their first onscreen romance. (Their second? This writer’s favorite rom-com of all time Runaway Bride which if ever turned into a musical should be written by The Chicks, exclusively.)
Pretty Woman — like lots of other movies on this list — was an instant fan fave and entered the 1990s zeitgeist immediately. The story stayed on the screen for years before opening on Broadway in 2019 with Samantha Barks (Les Misérables) and Andy Karl (Groundhog Day, Legally Blonde) as the leading couple. While the Broadway show closed in 2019, a West End production opened right before COVID-19 unfortunately shutdown theatres in 2020.
Audrey Hepurn and Gregory Peck riding around Italy and falling in love? We love a Roman Holiday. It’s not a stretch to say the 1953 hit created the foundation for future rom-coms; it’s funny and charming and features two of the prettiest people you’ve ever set your eyes on (Notting Hill is basically Roman Holiday, after all). So it’s no wonder that the story was brought to the stage — using the songs of Cole Porter, no less.
While the musical has yet to be on Broadway, there was a run in San Francisco in 2017 starring Stephanie Styles (Kiss Me, Kate) and Drew Gehling (Waitress) as the unexpected couple riding in tandem through Rome. We don’t mean to be pushy but when Broadway returns this could be the exact escapism we’ve been craving.
Now this is romance. Not to go all Millennial but Shrek and Fiona are #couplegoals. Look at those frog and snake balloons! Absolutely nothing cuter. The 2001 movie was obviously the best thing to ever happen to Earth ever. An ogre falls in love with a princess who’s also secretly an ogre? This is some Shakespearean magic we’re talking about which means of course Shrek had to become a Broadway musical.
Shrek deserves nothing but the spotlight and that’s exactly what he got when the show opened in NYC in 2010. Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) wrote the music, Brian d’Arcy James (Hamilton, The Ferryman) was Shrek, and Sutton Foster (Broadway royalty, Thoroughly Modern Millie) turned into Fiona before our eyes. Also, Christopher Sieber (The Prom, Company) was Lord Farquaad and he did the entire show on his knees and you just need to go to Netflix right now to watch the Broadway production and see it for yourself.
Sleepless in Seattle
It’s about time you showed up, Tom Hanks. Sleepless in Seattle came out in 1993 and one of the main plot points features a radio talk show which makes this movie an honest to God period piece. Hanks stars alongside Meg Ryan and child actors that you actually want to watch and contrary to the title it ends at the top of the Empire State Building with a teddy bear in tow and it’s all super mushy gushy cutesy and adorable. In 2009 the musical version of Sleepless in Seattle began development and after years of writing and rewriting and new creative teams, it opened for a short, socially distanced run in London in 2020.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Julie Andrews side-by-side Sutton Foster is such a powerful image we honestly need to take a quick break. Okay we’re back. Andrews first brought Millie to life in 1967 — alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing and what do you know we have to take another break this star power is just too much. Okay we’re back.
Thoroughly Modern Millie was a musical from the start and a Broadway adaptation was essentially a given. In 2002 Sutton Foster’s Millie danced her way into our hearts forever and the show itself won six Tony Awards. A West End production followed in 2004 and the show has become a popular fave amongst high school theaters.
We’re sensing a pattern with this list: When Tootsie came out in theaters, it was one of the biggest movies of the year. Dustin Hoffman brought Michael Dorsey to the screen in 1982, alongside Jessica Lange, who would eventually win an Oscar for her performance in the film. In 2019 the show-within-the-show became a musical and Tootsie opened on Broadway.
Santino Fontana (Cinderella, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) won a Tony Award for his version of Dorsey and Lilli Cooper (Spring Awakening, SpongeBob SquarePants) was nominated for her performance in the role Lange originated. Also Sarah Stiles sang a song faster than anyone has sang a song on a Broadway stage and it was a 10/10. Tootsie was on Broadway for a little less than a year but multiple productions around the world are in the works.
When Waitress first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 it was the little movie that could, just like Jenna Hunterson herself! Now that coincidence is sweet as pie (pun absolutely intended). Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion star as Hunterson and her hot doctor respectively, and the movie itself is a total emotional rollercoaster. So naturally — Sara Bareilles was brought on to make us cry with her lyrics in the musical adaptation.
In 2016 Waitress opened on Broadway with original music from Bareilles and an all-female creative team. Jessie Mueller (Beautiful) and Drew Gehling (remember him earlier in Italy?) starred as the original secret lovers who made us feel all the feels. Waitress closed after a well-deserved four-year run on Broadway but the endless “She Used to Be Mine” covers live forever in our hearts and our YouTube search history.
The Wedding Singer
That there was ever a main Broadway character inspired by an Adam Sandler character is what dreams are made of. The Wedding Singer came out in 1998 with Drew Barrymore and Sandler doing what the do best: falling in love onscreen in unrealistic settings (we’re talking to you, 50 First Dates).
At first glance you might not picture the movie as a musical but then you find out Laura Benanti (Gypsy, Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) was Barrymore’s character and it kind of makes sense, no? The Wedding Singer was on Broadway in 2006 and now musical adaptations of Adam Sandler’s character can be seen in high schools around the country which is a better ending to this story than we could’ve ever imagined.