‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, ‘Jerry Springer’ and ‘Spider-Man’: 10 musical hits and misses that went from screen to stage
As hit Netflix show ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ gets set to be turned into a stage musical, we take a look at the winners and losers when shows transitioned from TV and film to the theatre
What might have been a gambit on the chessboard turned out to be not so much of a risk for Netflix after their hit chess-based TV show The Queen’s Gambit starring Anya-Taylor Joy, became the streamer’s most watched scripted limited series ever.
Where success goes, money follows, and the news that the show was to be turned into a musical by the production company behind the Jagged Little Pill stage show, which was based on the music of Alanis Morissette, was met with delight by fans amid the news there won’t be a sequel to the TV show.
While some musicals based on films and TV shows go on to be huge successes on Broadway, The West End and beyond, others fizzle on their first night.
Here are five hits and five misses that went Broadway ... or bust.
The 2007 sleeper-hit indie movie starring Felicity’s Keri Russell was turned into a stage show and opened in August 2015. With music from American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, the show, which was adapted from the film – which began life as a book – focused on waitress Jenna Hunterson, a young woman trapped in a dead-end job in a small town, and in an abusive marriage.
Moving to Broadway in March 2016, the show was a huge hit, and was nominated for Tony and Grammy awards. It also made history on Broadway as the first show in which the four top creative spots were filled by women.
The controversial American talk show hosted by the eponymous Jerry Springer crossed the pond to be given the British satirical treatment when it was turned into Jerry Springer: The Opera back in 2003. Featuring a tap dancing troupe of Ku Klux Klan members, the London stage show proved as provocative as the talk show, and scooped four Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. Its premiere on BBC2 on UK television resulted in 55,000 complaints.
‘School of Rock’
British theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the man behind Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes teamed up to bring the family favourite film starring Jack Black to the stage.
As with the film, the musical follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a school, and goes on to form a group with his students to win a Battle of the Bands contest. Nominated for four Tony Awards in the US, it won a Laurence Olivier Award in the UK.
The stage show also achieved financial success in Theatreland, recouping its original costs, with Forbes noting: “It's no mean feat for the brand. Profits are rare on Broadway, and even for someone with the pedigree of composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, nothing is guaranteed.”
It was the film that really put Reese Witherspoon on the map as far as Hollywood was concerned, with The Hollywood Reporter praising her “magnetic presence”. And the 2007 musical adaptation started life in the theatres of San Francisco, before moving to Broadway.
Receiving seven Tony Award nominations in the US, the show then moved to the UK in 2010, winning three Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. The stage show also spawned a reality TV show in which contestants battled it out to play Elle Woods on Broadway.
‘The Addams Family’
With theatre legend Nathan Lane taking on the role of family patriarch Gomez Addams, the stage adaptation of the favourite US TV show and films proved a huge success. Starting life as a 1964 TV show, subsequent small screen outings followed in 1973 and 1992, with two films starring Anjelica Houston and Christina Ricci in 1991 and 1993. The family was also updated for the 2000s in 2019.
The stage show production featured Lane alongside Cheers actress Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. Reaching 722 performances, the show grossed more than $62 million and won Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards.
‘Leap of Faith’
The 1992 film about a con man who poses as an evangelical healer showcased US comedy legend Steve Martin at his finest. However, when it came to transitioning the movie to the stage, no one ended up laughing. Despite featuring music by Alan Menken – the EGOT-winning (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards) talent behind the musical scores for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, among others – the 2012 musical ran for only 20 shows, with Playbill reporting that backers lost $14 million.
Stephen King’s seminal 1974 horror novel about a young girl, Carrie White who uses her telekinetic abilities to seek revenge on her bullying classmates, has so far been adapted into four films and sequels. The 1976 movie, starring Sissy Spacek and John Travolta was Oscar-nominated, and Pulp Fiction director, Quentin Tarantino ranked it at No 8 in a list of his all-time favourite films.
The 1988 stage musical however did not get the same amount of love, despite song lyrics courtesy of Tony nominee Dean Pitchford. Carrie closed after just three days on Broadway, and in a 2012 retrospective, The New Yorker posed the question to theatre writers: "Is Carrie the worst musical of all time?"
'Breakfast at Tiffany’s'
While Audrey Hepburn’s onscreen portrayal of Holly Golightly in the beloved 1961 adaptation of Truman Capote’s celebrated novella consistently makes the top 10 in “Favourite cinematic characters of all time” lists, its charm didn’t extend to the musical.
Attempts to transition the film to the stage have achieved notoriety over the years, with the 1966 Broadway show, starring Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain closing after just four previews. The second attempt in 2013, starring Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke as Golightly closed after 38 performances.
From a polarising book to an equally divisive film, American Psycho brought Christian Bale’s acting skills to the attention of cinema-goers. Based on US author Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel about a yuppy sociopath who is maybe murdering people in 1980s New York, despite the lyrical skills of Grammy-nominated and Tony-winning songwriter Duncan Sheik, the show ran for just 54 performances, shuttering at a cost of $8.8 million, according to The New York Times.
With music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, and Julie Taymor, the visionary behind the wildly successful The Lion King musical directing, and promises of cutting-edge aerial acrobats, how did Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark fail so miserably?
Described by The New York Times as "the most technically complex show ever on Broadway, with 27 aerial sequences of characters flying", the original Broadway show featured Reeve Carney as Peter Parker / Spider-Man.
Plagued by on-set injures and production delays, the show might have run for three years on Broadway, but it failed to make back its $75 million production cost, the largest in Broadway history, and investors reportedly lost more than $60 million.
Updated: March 18, 2021 02:04 PM