Six Movies Begging to be Adapted into Musicals

by: Phil Siegel

Like everything else from the ‘90s nowadays, Bring It On is making a comeback…on stage. Bring It On: The Musical is coming to Chicago, with its sights set on the Great White Way. I love this movie. For a week during my junior year of high school, I watched the movie every day after school. I would never peg Bring It On for a musical adaptation, but it kind of makes perfect sense. The movie appeals to Broadway’s core audience of young women and gay men, it has a simple plot that foreigners and tourists can understand, and there are dance sequences already built in. In the wake of Legally Blonde’s success (not to mention Wicked), more female-friendly films are making their way on stage. Adaptations of Romy & Michelle and Flashdance are in development.

Since mining films from my adolescence for Broadway is becoming a thing now, here are six sexy, cute, and popular to boot films to consider:

The Obvious

1) Mean Girls

What’s it about? Formerly homeschooled jungle freak Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) finds herself getting sucked into the glamorous, popular world of The Plastics, simultaneously plotting against and idolizing its leader Regina George (Rachel McAdams).

Girl love (on a scale of 1 to 10): 9 – This movie is the reason people still root for Lohan.

Gay love (on a scale of 1 to 10): 10 – Not knowing a Mean Girls quote may result in getting your gay card revoked.

Could it work for Broadway? Possibly. It has a fairly straightforward plot and a larger-that-life character in Regina George. I would love to watch Karen Smith belt out a showstopper about her, um, weather trick. However, the multiple cutaways and narrow high school focus may prove too challenging to bring to the stage. The key would be getting Tina Fey to write the book.

2) Save the Last Dance

What’s it about? After her mother dies, white ballerina Julia Stiles moves to Chicago’s South Side with her father, where she falls in love with black classmate and rediscovers her love of dancing.

Girl love: 6

Gay love: 4

Could it work for Broadway? Yes. It has dance in the title! The movie mixed ballet moves with hip-hop, and the theatrical choreography would be just as thrilling to watch. More importantly, the movie has romance, which translates in any language. The main roadblock may be the interracial relationship, though that didn’t pose a problem for Hairspray or Miss Saigon.

3) Freaky Friday

What’s it about? Uptight mom Tess Coleman (Jamie Leigh Curtis) and her “punk” rocker daughter Anna (Lohan) switch bodies and gain a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s lives.

Girl love: 7 – It’s a perfect mother-daughter film, and along with Mean Girls, it made Lindsay Lohan a star among young women.

Gay love: 5

Could it work for Broadway? Definitely! The movie is a crowdpleaser that appeals to women of all ages and includes killer roles for actresses of multiple generations, just like Mamma Mia. Plus LiLo’s character is the singer in a band, so the musical connection is there. Disney does have a strong track record turning their films into hit musicals, though that’s only with animation.

The Not-So-Obvious ( bear with me)

4) Empire Records

What’s it about? A day in the life of record store employees and their no-nonsense boss where they mend friendships, kindle romances, and save the Empire from an evil corporate takeover.

Girl love: 7 – Despite bombing in theaters, Empire Records blossomed into a cult classic among twentysomethings.

Gay love: 3 – Gays and grunge don’t mesh so well.

Could it work for Broadway? Actually, yes! This could be the jukebox musical for mid-90s rock. Think of it as a much sunnier version of Rent. You have a young, idealistic ensemble, low concept story, romantic subplot, and some anti-1% sentiment. While grunge may not be the ideal choice for a musical, shows like Spring Awakening and American Idiot proved that rock can work. And lest you think only hit movies can spawn hit plays, remember that Hairspray was originally a little-seen cult film.

5) Never Been Kissed

What’s it about? Chicago Sun-Times copy editor, and former high school megaloser, Josie Gellar (Drew Barrymore) is sent undercover to a suburban high school where she gets a second chance at being cool.

Girl love: 8 – Thirteen years later, ABC Family still reruns it.

Gay love: 6 – Mostly thanks to Barrymore, a staunch gay activist.

Could it work for Broadway? It would be totally rufus! If Legally Blonde can make its way onstage, then so can NBK. The concept is universal: everyone knows how it feels to be an outsider wanting to be cool. And while there is no musical connection, the songs would write themselves. (“I’m Not Josie Grossie Anymore!”)

6) My Best Friend’s Wedding

What’s it about? Food critic Julianne (Julia Roberts) goes to her best friend Michael’s grandiose wedding with the hopes of stealing him away from his uber-perky, chocolate-covered fiancée Kimmy (Cameron Diaz).

Girl love: 9Wedding reestablished Roberts as the romcom queen. I’d argue Julianne is her second-most iconic role over Erin Brockovich.

Gay love: 9 – Two words: Rupert Everett. He stole the movie and got the girl in the end. His friendship with Roberts set the standard for modern-day straight girl/gay guy relationships, paving the way for Will & Grace a year later.

Could it work on Broadway? Potentially. Music is an important part of the film: Characters sing old school tunes throughout the movie. (“I Say a Little Prayer,” “The Way You Look Tonight”) The film’s quirks and off-kilter side characters could play well in theater. And not all Broadway heroines have to be good girls, e.g. Chicago. Now, if Idina Menzel played Julianne and Kristin Chenowith played Kimmy, this would be a done deal.

Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, just down the block from a veritable Real Housewife. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC page. Phil likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he works at a major Chicago advertising agency by day while he writes novels at night and during his commute sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El. His plays have been performed on stage and radio, and he has published articles about gay line dancing bars and the French box office, among other fundamental topics. Read his blog at philipsiegelwrites.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter at @FillupSeagull.

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