The 5 best and 5 worst movie adaptations of hit Broadway musicals (including cats), according to Rotten Tomatoes
With the recent disaster of Tom Hooper’s release, Cats, it is important to remember that Cats is just one film in a long history of musicals translated from stage to screen. A lot of times a story is told on stage, in the theater, because that’s the kind of story that makes the most sense there. Sometimes directors and film producers forget this and think they can translate the success of a show on The Great White Way into theaters across the country.
Sometimes they can, but almost as often, sometimes they can’t. The sound of music works wonders on screen but Rock of ages, not really. Here are some examples of the best Broadway translations for the big screen, and some of the worst.
ten Best: The sound of music – 84%
Julie Andrews’ musical epic was released in 1965 and has been a classic ever since. It was the highest grossing film of that year and ultimately of all time (a record it held for five years thereafter).
Based on the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway production of the same name from 1959, The sound of music has continued to enchant audiences at concerts and in homes around the world. Once available on two-cassette VHS, the length of the film never turned off fans or viewers.
9 Worse: A choir line – 40%
The 1985 film version of the 1975 hit Broadway musical, A choir line was unable to translate the magic of the original to the screen for audiences. This shouldn’t be surprising since the whole story actually takes place on a theater stage.
Part of the magic of the Broadway show was the realistic feeling of auditioning that he was able to portray to his audience. It was always going to be impossible on camera and not enough changes were made to turn the story into something that works on the big screen.
8 Best: Little Shop of Horrors – 90%
The musical was technically Off-Broadway and it was technically based on a movie, but this original Little shop of horrors the film was not a musical.
Thus, this 1986 film was based on the 1982 musical of the same name. Starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, the cast was certainly in place to make the film a success, and it certainly was. The film was then nominated for two academic awards, including best visual effects.
7 Worse: New – 39%
Nine should have been a success. The film, based on the 1982 Broadway musical, was released in 2009 with a star cast including: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson and Dame Judi Dench.
The film was directed by Rob Marshall (who is also a hit on this list with his film version of Chicago). But this director’s release fell flat and impressed neither critics nor audiences.
6 Best: Funny Girl – 93%
Funny girl opened on Broadway in 1964 and in theaters across the country in 1968. Part of its success? The producers kept Broadway star Barbara Streisand in the lead role she created on stage.
Although Streisand did not win the Tony Award for her role on stage, she did win the Oscar for Best Actress for her work as Fanny Brice on screen. The film is now part of the National Film Registry.
5 Worse: The Phantom of the Opera – 33%
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical arrived on the New York scene in 1988 and hasn’t been absent since. It is quite a heritage to maintain when translating from theater to cinema.
In 2005, Joel Schumacher decided to take his chances and, despite a talented cast including Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson, was unable to translate the same magic of The Phantom. Watching a chandelier fall will also be more dazzling and breathtaking in the live theater, it seems.
4 Best: West Side Story – 93%
West Side Story, an updated tale of Romeo and Juliet premiered on the Broadway stage in 1957. It made its way onto the big screen four years later in 1961. It was a success from the start.
Natalie Wood and Rita Monro as Maria and Anita respectively stood out among a superbly talented cast who were ready to sing and dance on movie screens. The film has been a musical favorite since its release and it’s very courageous of Steven Spielberg to attempt a remake this coming year.
3 Worse: Cats – 20%
Cats the hit Broadway musical in 1982 after an incredibly successful tour of London. As The Phantom of the Opera Andrew Lloyd Webber was in charge of the now classic score for the musical. But as The Phantom of the Opera this musical also lacked the magic to make it work on film the same way it did on stage.
From the criticism of the hybrid cat / human characters to the problematic plot, there was very little (other than the epic cast list) to encourage viewers to appreciate and appreciate the monstrous translation of this once popular work.
2 Best: My beautiful lady – 95%
Audrey Hepburn’s 1964 film, based on the 1956 Broadway show, was a hit from the start. It won the award for Best Musical at the Tonys and also won the award for Best Picture at the Oscars. Audrey Hepburn, however, was only cast for the role of Eliza Doolittle for the film version, alongside Rex Harrison.
The original Eliza, Julie Andrews, was not invited to star. This gave Andrews the chance to work on Mary poppins and claim the Oscar for Best Actress instead of Hepburn. Hepburn doesn’t actually sing in the blockbuster movie. Instead, her vocals are dubbed by Marni Nixon.
1 Worse: The King and I (1999) – 13%
Yes, there is a musical film with worse reviews than Cats. While the 1956 live-action film is still highly regarded, in 1999 it was considered a good idea to translate the stage musical into a cartoon.
While the cartoon includes classic songs from the original Broadway show, it also includes a monkey sidekick. Not all cartoons are Aladdin, and not all cartoon characters need a monkey sidekick. The king and me certainly not.
NEXT: Cats: 10 More Musicals That Shouldn’t Be Made For Cinema
8 best monsters from Disney movies
About the Author