From the stage to the silver screen

T he stage and the screen have always been two separate entities in entertainment. The stage has always been a place where the actors are live and performing for the audiences’ viewing pleasure. The screen is differentiated from the stage by showing the audience a previously recorded and edited feature film. Although these have always been separate venues of entertainment, nowadays the stage is coming to the big screen. For a number of years, Broadway plays have made their debut onto the silver screen. But just what plays have been transformed to the screen?

Grease was the first major musical to become a movie in 1978. Starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, Grease managed to become one of the most successful adaptations of all time. This was simply the beginning of a number of Hollywood stage-to-screen productions. In 1998, Les Miserable was released on the big screen, yet this movie did not surpass the exceptional record of the musical itself. In more recent years, popular Broadway musicals such as Chicago, The Producers, Phantom of the Opera, and Rent have all made their way to the big screen and have become more popular in the process.

When Chicago debuted on the silver screen in 2002, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Renee Zellweger, many wondered if it could possibly even be compared to the Broadway musical. It could be compared, and became extremely popular in the box office. Fans of Catherine Zeta Jones and Renee Zellweger were surprised that they could sing and dance the way that they performed in the movie. The film ended up winning six Academy Awards at the 2003 Oscars, including best supporting actress for Catherine Zeta Jones’ performance. The success of Chicago alone began to make Hollywood realize that maybe stage to screen adaptation was not such a bad idea.

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera followed Chicago, making its movie debut in 2004. The remake of the popular Broadway musical starred Gerard Butler and Emma Rossum and got exceptional reviews, yet no Oscar nominations. Although it was only opened in 1,515 theaters across the U.S., it grossed over $51 million according to Although there are mixed reviews about whether the movie was better than the musical, many fans of the Broadway production felt the performances of the actors in the screen adaptation were phenomenal.

One of the latest stage to screen adaptations was the hit musical Rent, starring everyone from the original Broadway production excluding Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs. Fans of the Broadway show enjoyed the movie, but felt the musical is a better representation of the plot. Following Rent the movie, the screen adaptation of the popular and hilarious Mel Brooks musical The Producers came into movie theaters across the country. This revision starred Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman. For now, it is the last of the Broadway-to-screen adaptations.

It is hard to say if Hollywood will continue to turn popular Broadway plays into motion pictures in the future. Although that seems to be the trend right now, you never know how the audience will react when they are true fans of the theater. Time will tell whether stage to screen adaptations will continue to be successful endeavors.